While it may be South East Asia’s smallest capital, Vientiane lacks nothing in terms of character and atmosphere. Sporting an obvious French influence and a smattering of later Soviet style buildings, the city is organized in a simple grid pattern and all its attractions are easily reached on foot or by bicycle. Nearby Phou Khao Khouay National Park offers a reprieve from the big city for the more nature-focused travelers.
The majority of the city’s sights are located in the dense city centre, and almost everything else is easily reachable with a quick bike ride or walk. Perhaps the most stunning monument in the city is Patuxai, Vientiane’s very own Arc De Triomphe. Officially named the “Victory Monument” it celebrates those that lost their lives in the pre-revolutionary wars. Constructed in 1969, it looks a little out of place amongst the more traditional monuments, but is a spectacular structure nonetheless.
Like everywhere in Laos, there are also many temples to visit. Wat Si Saket has the distinction of being the oldest in Vientiane, while Haw Pha Kaeo once served as the original resting place of the famous Emerald Buddha. The most visited temple is Wat Si Muang, which is home to the “city pillar” said to be where the guardian spirit of Vientiane resides, as well as a copy of the Emerald Buddha and an older Bronze Buddha that the locals believe can grant wishes. Finally, you visit Wat Ong Tey Mahawihan, situated on a site used for religious ceremonies since at least the 200’s AD, it was sadly destroyed during the Indochina wars, but has since been rebuilt to its former glory.
As the capital of Laos, Vientiane has plenty to offer in terms of culture and arts. The Centre Culturel et de Cooperation Linguistique hosts dance and art exhibitions, discussions on literature, live music and even French cult films. In the Lao National Opera Theatre, you can see classical operas, or traditional Lao plays and performances, and so on. Should you fancy a night out, you might consider giving the Lao Bowling Centre a visit. This bowling alley is one of the few establishments that are allowed to stay open late into the night, and is the traditional way for young Laotians to spend a night out on the town. Play some bowling, drink beer Lao, and hang out with the locals for a truly memorable night out in Vientiane.