Thursday, 24th September 2015
Top 5 things to do in Vientiane
Considering Vientiane is the capital of Laos it is amazing how many places bypass it in favour of other destinations, such as Lunag Prabang. Those who do miss out on a wealth of French colonial architecture, Buddhist temples, bakeries and cafes, which together make up the wonderfully laidback city. If you are planning a trip to Laos, here are some highlights to enjoy in Vientiane.
Visit Pha That Luang
Probably the most instantly recognisable and definitely the most important landmark in Laos, Pha That Luang has a special place in the country's heart. Beautifully proportioned and covered in gold leaf, this main stupa containing the breast bone of Buddha and its surrounding 30 smaller stupas are quite the sight to behold.
As always with religious locations, it is important to be dressed appropriately and women can borrow skirts from tents surrounding the monument. Pha That Luang has been reconstructed many times over the years, but can trace its origins back to the 3rd century.
Browse the Lao National Museum
Finding out a little bit more about the history of a country is imperative to understand what it's like today and the Lao National Museum is a great place to do so. Spread over two floors and housed within a fine colonial mansion, exhibits showcase everything from the archaeology, ancient culture and geology of Laos to its fight for independence.
Among the standout exhibits is a throne once used by a Laotian king to ride atop an elephant. Explanations in English are a little few and far between, but it is fairly self explanatory to piece the displays together and work out their relevance to the country.
Take in the hustle and bustle of the Vientiane Morning Market
Everyday life is best seen at the market, where locals come to purchase everything from fresh vegetables to clothes. Whether you want to buy anything or just soak up the atmosphere, it is an interesting place to visit. Open from early morning, it continues trading for much of the day and lunchtime snacks can be easily procured here.
Get a massage
All that sightseeing deserves some rest and recuperation and one day to achieve this is by having a massage. The Laotian practice is much more gentle than some of the equivalents in neighbouring countries and involves plenty of stretching to release any aches and pains in the muscles. As massage parlours are fairly ubiquitous around Vientiane and the prices far from prohibitive, it would be a shame not to give your body a treat.
Climb Patu Xai
For great views across the city, climb Vientiane's answer to the Arc de Triomphe. This highly decorated arched monument means Victory Gate and was built between the 1950s and 60s to honour the so-called martyrs of the Laotian army. As well as looking at the arch from the outside it is well worth the short climb to get your bearings on the capital.
Related news stories:
The world's sleepiest capital: Vientiane (15th July 2014)
4 extraordinary monuments to visit in Vientiane (11th February 2016)
Top tips for taking the Reunification Express (19th February 2015)
Pass an afternoon exploring Vientiane's Buddha Park (26th February 2015)