Free from of hustle and bustle that typifies most Southeast Asian capitals, Vientiane has a relaxed, small town atmosphere. Here’s our guide to soaking in some of the essential sights and sounds the city has to offer.
Embellished in 500 kg of gold leaf, Pha That Luang stands proud as a symbol of Laotian nationalism. Reconstructed after World War II, this three-storey monument was built to symbolize the Buddhist ascent from the ground to the skies.
Not to be missed too is Wat Si Saket, an old monastery that was built in 1818 and still retains its original form. Be sure to take in the courtside walls that are decorated with 6,000 images of Buddha
Once a royal temple, Haw Phra Kaew is now a gallery for ancient Buddhists artifacts, having once served as the throne for the Emerald Buddha.
On a more somber note, a COPE Visitor Centre is a must-visit to fully understand the atrocities committed in Laos during the Vietnam War as the fighting spilled over the borders. Admission is free and all donations made support the rehabilitation of survivors from the war.
Those seeking a unique selection of souvenirs should stop by T’sop Lai Gallery or Lao Textiles. Each has their own specialty – T’sop Lai deals in artisan soaps, shower gels and handcrafted jewelry, whilst Lao Textiles houses a selection of some of the finest silk products in Laos, with production kept in-house to keep quality high.
Looking for an adventure to take you out of Vientaine? Those willing to roll up their sleeves and break a sweat should look up the people behind Green Discovery Laos - home to a host of active half-day and day trips. Go orchid spotting in the forests, cycle through paddy fields and even kayak down the murky waters of the Mekong river.
An institution in Vientiane dining, be sure to have Kualao on your checklist of places to eat. Located in a European-style villa, the restaurant was once a dining spot for the city’s French elite and now hosts traditional cultural performances every evening. They even have a Pa Kao (Set Menu) for guests, featuring a mixed platter of Laotian dishes.
Those seeking more familiar cuisine should consider Scandavian Bakery Shop, nested in the city centre. With fresh coffee and pastries churned out every day, this bakery has been serving both locals and tourists since the 1990’s and might just be one of the most unlikely places in Asia to grab a Semla, a classic Swedish delight.
Looking for a riverside outlook with cold beer on tap? Arrive early to avoid crowds and take in the views from the Highland Bar.
You can also leave the beer focused bars that line the river and escape to Jazzy Brick - a vintage styled bar with an extensive (and unique) cocktail menu.
Feeling weary after a long day on foot? Head to the Tangerine Garden Spa for a body massage and sauna treatment and loosen up for a restful night’s sleep.
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