Vientiane is the capital of Laos, but don’t expect a crazy, bustling metropolis that’ll send you bonkers – this place is one of the most chilled cities in Southeast Asia. But don’t confuse chilled with boring, because this town will keep you very happy and very busy.
Start your Vientiane journey with a visit to the Lao National Museum, where you’ll find everything from royal gems to prison torture devices. Cool and freaky! If you’re after a religious awakening, why not pay a visit to one of the oldest Vientiane temples, Wat Si Saket? It’s pretty and may even amp up your spiritual and enlightenment status. But if that doesn’t appeal, hit up Talatsao Mall for absolute shopping heaven. There really is something for everyone…
Vientiane’s Top 10
10. National Ethnic Cultural Park Where else can you find a zoo, swimming pool, museum, bars and restaurants in the one place?
5. Talatsao Mall This mammoth shopping centre will make you very happy (and slightly poor).
9. Haw Phra Kaew This breathtaking 16th Century temple houses a museum and was once home to the ‘Emerald Buddha’.
4. Buddha Park A slightly bizarre yet awesome park filled with sculptures of animals, demons and, of course, Buddha.
8. Presidential Palace You may not be able to go inside but you can admire this regal, French-colonial style building from the outside. Just as much fun, really.
3. Patuxai This war monument is an intricate architectural masterpiece. Head up to the observation deck for a look-see at the gorgeous city view.
7. Saoban Watch local women weave silks scarves and create bamboo homewares. You can buy stuff, too!
2. Lao National Museum The whopping number of exhibits will leave you speechless (in a good way).
6. Wat Si Saket Has over 10,000 images of Buddha in every nook. Playing ‘Spot the Buddha’ has never been easier.
1. Pha That Luang This amazing, gold-covered stupa is surrounded by lush gardens and is the icon of Laos.
- Pha That Luang - A Buddhist stupa, it is one of the Laos’ most popular tourist destinations.
- Wat Si Muang - Built in 1563, the spirit of a young girl guards this famous temple.
- Buddha Park - Just outside of Vientiane, this park has a large collection Buddhist sculptures.
- Patuxai - This memorial monument was inspired by French architecture.
- Ho Pra Keo - This is one of the highlights of Vientiane for those interested in religious artefacts.
Vientiane Art & Culture
- Lao National Museum - Learn about the history of Laos at this popular Vientiane museum.
- Sisaket Temple - The oldest temple in the city, making it a popular attraction with tourists.
- Hor Phrakeo - This temple is now a museum with a collection of Buddhist sculptures and artefacts.
- Xieng Khouang Buddha Park - A Buddhist statue park that was built in the 1950s.
- Vientiane Trade Fair - Held in November, this fair is a showcase of products and crafts made in Vientiane.
- Talat Sao - Found in Vientiane, this is a traditional morning market for local products and food.
- Panggkam Street - This is one of the best spots in Vientiane to find arts, crafts and antiques.
- Ban Nong Buathong - The weaving district of Vientiane, a great location to see traditional weavers.
- Talat Thong Khan Kham - One of the largest markets in Vientiane and sells just about everything.
- Samsenthai Street - This is the main shopping street of Vientiane where everyone shops.
Gay & Lesbian Vientiane
- Lak Song - Popular spot with the young gay crowd and one of the trendiest spots in town.
- River Garden - A restaurant and guesthouse that caters to gay and lesbian travellers.
- Don Tan Palace - A large disco popular with the gay and lesbian community.
- Soradith - This Vientiane disco and hotel caters largely to the gay and lesbian community.
- GQ - Open until midnight, this has become a popular spot for gays and lesbians in Vientiane.
- Mekong Riverfront - The river is a perfect spot for a stroll or a Beer Lao in Vientiane.
- Mulberries Organic Silk Farm - Here you can see how silk is produced.
- Nong Chanh Water Park - Home of huge water slides and a great place to cool off.
- Hin Khana waterfalls - A nice place for peace and quiet near Vientiane.
- Lang Xang swimming pool - Located in the Lang Xang hotel in Vientiane.
- Hit some balls in the centre of Vientiane at the golf driving range.
- Play a round at KM 6 Golf course, a favourite among expat golfers.
- Watch a football match Laos National Stadium, Vientiane's largest sporting venue.
- Play a round next to one of Asia's largest lakes at Dansavanh Nam Ngum Golf Resort.
- Knock down some pins in Vientiane at the Lao Bowling Centre.
Chinese New Year is celebrated in style every January/February. Think: dragons, parades, dragons, music, dragons and probably more dragons.
May’s Boun Bang Fai (aka the Rocket Festival) fills the sky with cool, homemade rockets and the streets with colourful parades.
Mid-October sees Boun Ok Pansa (Boat Racing Festival), which celebrates the end of Buddhist Lent. Candlelit processions, parades and boat racing excite locals and visitors alike.
Pha That Luang is flooded with activity for the That Luang Festival in November. Fun ’n’ fireworks abound.
Hmong New Year in December is a wild one. Take a gander at locals in traditional garb and try your hand at cotton-ball throwing. Yep, cotton-ball throwing. Fun.
When To Go
Vientiane has pretty mild weather all year round, so there’s little chance of encountering extreme temperatures.
May to September sees a lot of rain, so make sure to waterproof everything if you’re visiting around then.
Wanna get your tan on? Naughty little sun-worshippers should visit from late December to March when the sun is at its brightest.
Tuk-tuks and jumbos are a must. They’re fun, they’re kooky and only a tad dangerous. Negotiate the fare before you hop on for a ride.
Buses are cheap, but they’re not exactly modern or well equipped.
Traffic is pretty chilled in Vientiane, so if you want to rent a car you won’t be having many traffic jam nightmares.
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