Vientiane is the capital city of Laos but is often over looked by travellers. Everyone seems under the impression there isn’t much to do there and it is underwhelming.
I gave it 24 hours – I like to judge for myself! I didn’t have high expectations and I wasn’t sure what to expect but I certainly didn’t have a bad time. Cities are never my favourite spots while travelling but I think it’s worth giving it a day of your trip.
As capital cities go Vientiane isn’t very big. It carries the laid back vibe that Laos is known for so you won’t feel the hustle and bustle of other places.
Here are the hot spots to tick off your list in a day!
It’s a little out the way but well worth a visit. Hop in a tuk tuk and go straight there. It’s a pretty crazy place, full of various religious sculpture. Built by a monk who studied both Buddhism and Hinduism there are a variety of statues influenced by each religion.
The most dramatic sculptures are a 40 metre high reclining buddha and a three story pumpkin which you can climb to the top of. Entry is through a demon’s mouth (obviously), and you climb the small stone steps inside. It’s a great view from the top but there isn’t much in the way of fencing at the top, so if you’re a bit wobbly with heights maybe don’t go up!
The Patuxai Arch
‘The Victory Gate’ is absolutely random. But very pretty. It is often compared to the Arc De Triomphe in Paris. It was built using funds from the Americans which were intended to go towards an airport. I can confirm that has not happened. So it’s just an archway plonked in the centre of Vientiane but it’s pretty and you can climb a whole load of steps to the top if you fancy. I didn’t fancy, because I’m not convinced the view is much to shout about.
COPE Visitor Centre
This was such a sad but eye opening place for me. It is located in the same place as the hospital for amputees and is aiming to raise awareness of the problems in Laos since the war. The war being the Vietnam war, where Laos got completely screwed over in the cross fire. When the war ended it is estimated there were approximately 75 million unexploded bombs across the country.
While efforts are being made to find these bombs and safely remove them, it is still not uncommon for these bombs to go off. Injuring so many innocent people in the explosions.
The visitors centre is free to enter but all donations go towards helping run the place and aiding the amputees to move on with their lives.
From the COPE visitors centre I walked back towards the centre ready for sunset and saw all sorts of pretty gardens and statues, well worth the stroll!
Join the Outdoor Exercise Class
Just before the sun drops along the riverside you’ll find a crazy open air exercise class kicking off. I had no idea it was coming and accidentally sat right in front of it. One minute I was peacefully listening to a bit of Jack Johnson on Spotify and the next thing J Lo almost blasted my head off!
It was quite a funny sight, people of all ages, shapes and sizes getting their groove on. Sweatbands and waist trainers all over the show! So if you’re feeling energetic then get involved!
Catch the Sunset
Head down to the riverfront and you’ll get a beautiful view of the sunset over the river Mekong. I was there in the dry season so there were huge sandbanks where the river would usually be full. It was such a nice laid back vibe, people alone, in couples, families, groups of friends, all sitting quietly watching the sun go down.
Once the sun has set you can check out the night market – its enormous! Just turn away from the river and you can’t miss it. If you need trainers, clothes, jewellery, sunglasses, speakers – you name it they’re selling it!
What about the food?
During the day you’ll of course need to eat! Laos is heavily influenced by the French which is a real treat. It means croissants and baguettes are available all over the show! The most popular being Le Banneton, which also has a branch in Luang Prabang. A cheaper but still delicious alternative is the Scandinavian Bakery.
There are also a good amount of vegan and vegetarian restaurants to check out. I ate lunch in Coco & Co and had the most delicious veggie quiche and salad – my mouth is watering thinking of it now! I highly recommend it!
So while Vientiane isn’t going to blow your mind, I think there is enough to keep you occupied for a day!
While you’re here, why not have a read of some other posts I have published: