Tuesday, 15th July 2014
The world's sleepiest capital: Vientiane
While many of the world's capitals can justifiably be called bustling, Vientiane is not one of them. In fact, much of the atmosphere around the top city in Laos is more like what you would expect from a small town, which makes for a much more relaxing trip.
Wandering down by the river and taking in the faded grandeur of crumbling French colonial architecture are wonderful ways to pass the time. But just because Vientiane exudes a relaxed vibe, do not assume there isn't plenty to see and do in this sleepy haven in South East Asia.
The Great Stupa or That Luang is not only the most sacred monument in Laos, it is one of the must-see sights in the whole of the region. Built on the site of a 13thcentury Khmer ruin in 1566, the complex consists of two temples, with the main stupa stretching into to the sky at a height of 148 feet tall.
For a relaxed yet rewarding day, take a tuk tuk for the four kilometres out of the city to admire this remarkable example of Laotian architecture. Completed in the Buddhist style, fine gilding, red-lacquered doors, pointed lesser stupas, Buddha images and intricate flower and animal images can all be seen.
A leisurely stroll along the promenade by the River Melong after sunset will bring you to Vientiane's night market, where all manner of items can be purchased. Just come to browse or pick up some souvenirs and grab a bite to eat from the numerous food stalls that also pop up at this time of day.
Lao National Museum
Before you even step inside this museum, take a moment to appreciate the fine colonial building it is housed within. Once inside, delve into the varied history of the country and discover more about the influences that have helped it evolve into what it is today.
The artefacts, photographs and exhibits are fascinating, although it can sometimes be confusing as they are not laid out in a particularly comprehensive manner. Despite this, everything from prehistoric dinosaur bones to remnants from the Vietnam War are on show.
When it comes to temples you will not be short of options in Vientiane, although for a chilled out trip it's best not to try and see them all. Wat Ho Phra Keo is conveniently located near the centre of the city and is set within beautiful grounds.
The yellow pillars and red roofs of Wat Si Saket make it instantly recognisable, but most people visit to see the impressive collection of Buddha statues within its cloister. There are some 5,000 in all, with many different styles and sizes represented.
To really let the stresses of modern life eke away, opt for a massage at one of the many spas in Vientiane. All sorts of traditional techniques are used, from herbal steam saunas to sensuous oils, which will slowly transform you into a being as relaxed as the locals.
Related news stories:
See the returned Buddha statues where they belong in Laos (18th May 2015)
Your guide to Pha That Luang - the golden stupa in Vientiane (20th July 2016)
4 extraordinary monuments to visit in Vientiane (11th February 2016)
Top 5 things to do in Vientiane (24th September 2015)