Vientiane – Laos

Welcome to Vientiane, Laos, Travel Guide, Hotels, Things to do, Places to Visit for your Holidays!!!

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Vientiane, located in the country of Laos this is rapidly becoming a fantastic place for people to go to, where they can enjoy a peaceful vacation stay, while also not feeling inundated or overwhelmed by the massive amount of traffic, people, and general noise that comes along with being in such a congested area.

This is a truly remarkable city, with a great history that affords tourists the opportunity to look back to the past of Southeast Asia. Laos’ history has not always been a pleasant one, but has been one inundated with influences from many different cultures. This makes Vientiane such a unique and spectacular place to visit, because so many different kinds of cultures have bore influence over the area.

Yet, there is also the great benefit of the traditional people and religion of the region and their cultural influence over Vientiane. You can see this in the architecture, temples, and art of the area. It will truly capture your heart and make you glad that you chose to visit this spectacular tropical destination.

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Demographics and Geography of Vientiane

Vientiane spans an area of about 1500 square miles, with an elevation of a little less than 200 yards above sea level. The city is located in the interior peninsula of Southeast Asia, but unlike most tourist destinations that you would find in this region. This city is not actually located on either the Gulf of Thailand or the South China Sea. In fact, it is not located near a large body of water at all.

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Vientiane is located near the Mekong River, which is the border between Laos and Thailand. The Mekong River is the 12th longest river in the world, and the seventh longest in all of Asia. Its length is over 2700 miles and travels through six different countries. This is a gigantic river that adds to the majesty and fun of Vientiane, and is one of the reasons why this is become such a great tourist place to visit.

The population in the city is about 200,000, with the surrounding areas included reaching as high as 785,000. This means that there are only about 520 people per square mile making this an average density filled area perfect for tourism.

There are two primary seasons to the area: monsoon season and dry season. The dry season spans from about November through March. During this time it does rain in the area but the precipitation is negligible in comparison to the monsoon season. During monsoon season, which last from April through October, there are many periods of extensive rainfall. Because of the elevation of the area rarely does this result in any extensive flooding, even along the banks of the Mekong River.

For most of the year it is quite hot and humid in Vientiane. However, it is a bit cooler in the city during the dry season, more so than it is during the wet season. For example, the average high temperature in December is about 92°F with a low of 62. However, in April the average temperature is about 106°F with a low of just 75. Rainfall in December is typically less than 1/10 of an inch while in months like June, August, and September the area can reach 11 inches or more on average. For tourists, you need to plan accordingly depending upon which climate is most suitable to your desires.

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A Little History About Vientiane

Before getting into the many aspects of why this is such a great city to visit, it is important to understand the history of Vientiane first. This will help you to understand why this is such a spectacular area to visit, and why so many different cultures have played a part in the maturity and growth of the country of Laos.

The history behind the city of Vientiane the history behind the city of is one steeped in mythology. According to the Laotian epic tale Phra Lak Phra Lam, Prince Thattaradtha founded the city that later became known as the Lao kingdom of Muong Inthaptha Maha Nakhone. He founded this area because according to the legend he was denied the throne in favor of his younger brother. As a result, he went across to the Western banks of the Mekong River where he founded Udon Thani, which became present-day Thailand.

According to the legend, Thattaradtha was then told to found the city on the eastern bank which became known as Maha Thani Si Phan Phao. Over time this became the present day Vientiane.

Whether there is any basis in fact to the legend no one is sure. The earliest recognized civilization in the area dates back to the 11th century when the Khmer Empire ruled the area and built a Hindu temple at the location. It is believed that a short time later, Lao and Thai people entered into Southeast Asia from southern China and they either killed or ran off the Khmer people that lived in the area. This is how Lao people first entered into the region.

In 1354, the kingdom of Lan Xang was founded as the administrative city to the capital of the reigning king. That city later became Vientiane and was later made the capital of the Lan Xang in 1563.

In 1707, that empire fell apart, creating an independent kingdom of Vientiane. The kingdom would only remain sovereign for 72 years, when it was finally captured by the Siamese general Phraya Chakri who made this a protectorate of Siam.

For over 50 years attempts were made to rebel against the Siamese rulers and make the land independent again. In 1827, the Siamese government had had enough of this and invaded the area, obliterating the city and its people. The city was burned to the ground and every artifact was looted from the area, including all of the Buddha statues. The people were either forced into slavery or fled for their lives.

This led to nearly 70 years of virtual decay within the city. With no one caring for it, the city fell into disrepair and began to be engrossed by the forest area that surrounded it.

vientiane laos french 1893This changed in 1893 when the French took control of this area. They made Laos a protectorate of the French government and move their capital city to Vientiane. The French had the city repaired and rebuilt, rebuilt temples such as the Pha That Luang and Haw Phra Kaew, and also added many French colonial buildings to the city. It was a grand renovation that saw Vientiane rise to a prominence it hadn’t held for over 300 years.

During World War II, the city fell under the control of the Japanese forces. France could do little to try to defend the nation of Laos during this time, but in 1945 French paratroopers arrived and we took back the city in April of that year.

The French rule ended the Japanese occupation, however it also inspired a new feeling of nationalism within the region. The French control of the city ended in 1960 with the Laotian Civil War. In August of that year, Kong Le captured the capital and named his own prime minister, Souvanna Phouma. He would only rule till December when he was overthrown, and a new prime minister was put in place.

For 15 years the country battled through difficulty trying to establish a stable regime within the nation. The Vietnam War only added to the instability, but when Americans fled the area in August 1975 it allowed the Communist Party to rise up, overthrow the kingdom of Laos, and rename it as Lao People’s Democratic Republic. This was the official ending of the Laotian Civil War.

Today, Laos remains as one of the worlds for remaining socialist states, which openly recognizes communism as its political system. In 1992, elections were held for a new national assembly. The assembly was expanded to 99 members in 1997, and 215 nine years later. Currently there are 132 members as of 2011. The government has helped to ensure that peace has remained in the area and provided stability to its citizens for over 40 years now.

Arriving in Vientiane —> BOOK FLIGHT

To get to Vientiane, there are quite a few options available to you. The Wattay Airport is located just 2 ½ miles west of the city and services international flights from all over the region, including from Bangkok, Cambodia, Thailand, China, Singapore, and South Korea.

Visas can be obtained once a person arrives in the airport. The cost is between $25 and $42, which must be paid in cash in US dollars. For those who are flying through Thailand or Bangkok, you can obtain a visa prior to entry into the country by visiting the Laos embassy in those countries.

Many also choose the option of flying into Udon Thani, Thailand, where they then crossed the border by bus into the city of Vientiane. This can actually be a significantly cheaper option, as flights to Thailand are usually far less pricey than those of flying to Laos directly. Buses travel across the border daily ensuring that visitors have the capability to access the city of Vientiane once they have arrived in Thailand. Choosing this option also affords the ability to visit both countries at a reduced cost.

As a note: visitors should be aware that when crossing the bridge heading into Vientiane that all persons are subject to search, including a review through their personal items. Any item that is found to be of hazardous or legal classification may find that those items are seized. To find out more information about this, contact the Laos embassy in your country to ensure what items would be prohibited from entering their nation.

For those who have entered Laos through other cities within the country, there are three separate airlines that provide inner-national flights to Vientiane. These flights usually cost anywhere between $7 to $49, depending on the distance and time of day.

Once you arrive at the airport you can either take a taxi to the downtown area or ride the tuk-tuk system. Taxis cost seven dollars from the airport while using the tuk-tuk costs just three dollars. For those who were not averse to walking a little bit; the distance from the airport to the bus line system is about a quarter of a mile, and allows for free access to ride the central bus line to downtown.

Buses Also Available from Other Countries

Thailand is not the only nation that provides a bus system that will transport you to Vientiane. Because of its close proximity you can also catch daily buses from Vietnam and Cambodia. The cost for a bus ride from Vietnam is about $20 and takes about 20 hours to go from Hanoi to Vientiane. The cost from Cambodia is $50 and provides a bad during the night portion of the trip. You should be aware that the beds are rather small, but are created to accommodate two people at once. This may mean that you are sharing a bed with a random passenger of the same sex that you do not know.

Things to do in Vientiane

There are many things that you will find to do in Vientiane. It is a beautiful city with a long history that not only provides a great culture, but a lot of beautiful and interesting sites for you to see. You will find that there are many great traditional places for you to be able to visit, like museums, but there are also such places as temples and incredible parks that have been around for centuries.

Museums

Lao National MuseumLao National Museum – There are actually several quality museums that you will find in the city of Vientiane. The Lao National Museum, or Revolutionary Museum, has many great historical exhibits and artifacts, some dating back for centuries. One of the most interesting exhibits there focuses on the 18 century Laotian kingdoms, including their customs and artifacts. As you travel through the museum you will see the patriotic spirit that is on display for the socialist government. There are displays that decry the imperialistic intentions of the Siamese, French, and American governments. One of the fun exhibits that people like to spend their time at is the guestbook. This is where you will find that many Western visitors have added their arguments about communism. It surely is an interesting read. The cost is just a couple of dollars to get in and is well worth your time.

Patuxai is the Laotian version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. This incredible display of French architecture is created with four gates, surpassing the French version by two, and is an incredibly impressive display even from a faraway distance. The concrete to this monument was donated by the United States and is lined by palm trees. The musical fountain near the arch is a great attraction for visitors. There is a beautiful park that surrounds the Patuxai and there are cameramen who are roving about the area happy to take your picture.

COPE Visitor CentreCOPE Visitor Centre – During the Vietnam War, a secret war was going on within the Laotian borders is over 500,000 bombing missions dropped over 2 million tons bomb ordinance on the country of Laos. This visitor center is dedicated to help those who are tourist to the site to understand the impact of these bombing raids on the area, which still even exist today. This is a great exhibit for all the visit and is free.

lao-people-s-army-museum (1)Lao People’ Army History Museum – This museum is dedicated to the brave soldiers of the country who fought to create the stabilize government of today. For just a few dollars you can learn much about the history of Laos over the last 40 years, as told to the government’s point of view.

Temples

Wat SisaketWat Si Saket – This is the oldest standing temple in the city of Vientiane and is one that you will truly come to appreciate primarily because of its simplicity. Built in 1818, this features the Bangkok style of architecture and surprisingly remained untouched during the Siamese invasion of 1828. It is believed that because it invoked this style of architecture that the Siamese Army decided to leave it in place without destroying it as they did much of the rest of the city. Inside the temple walls you will find hundreds of small niches where statues and other images of Buddha are carved in wood, stone, bronze, and silver within the walls of the structure. In the courtyard you will find a five tiered roof housing even more of these Buddha niches plus murals of Buddha. Many of these murals are beginning to fade over time and so a visit here shown is a really good idea.

Wat Ho Phra KaewHo phra kaew Museum – This building was the former Royal temple for King Setthathirat. This house the magical Emerald Buddha that had been seized from the Siamese, but was later taken back in 1779. In 1828 the Siamese raised a good portion of this temple as a sign of angst and revenge for the original taking of the Buddha. An attempt was made in 1942 to reconstruct the temple but did not reach its original grandeur. Today, the temple is no longer used other than as a museum. There are still Buddha images housed in the structure which can be seen by visitors.

That Dam (black stupa)Black Stupa – This was the mythical home of the seven headed dragon that protected the city of Vientiane. This tale dates back to the epic tale we learned earlier. This was renovated in 1995 to include the removal of the vegetation that was overrunning the temple area. Keeping the luscious green vegetation out is quite an undertaking and still remains a battle today.

Important note to visitors: You should be made aware that there have been dog attacks near the temple or nighttime. It is best to visit this during the day.

that luangPha That Luang – This is the most important religious monument of Laos. This is a three layered gilded stupa that was built in 1566 and has remained in place despite being ransacked on numerous occasions. There have been many renovations of the structure over time that have enabled it to stay as one of Laos’ most beautiful national treasures.

You will find that Vientiane most important festival, known as Bun That Luang, is held here at this spot every night that there is a full moon during the month of November. This makes this a can’t miss opportunity for any person wanting to learn more about the incredible culture and history of this area.

It should also be noted that there are two other temples located right next to the Pha That Luang: the Wat That Luang Neua and the Wat That Luang Tai. Both of these are under renovation which are likely to be completed sometime in the year 2017.

Wat Si MuangWat Si Muang – While many of the attractions of Vientiane hold onto the traditional values and culture of the ancient civilizations, there is one that has a much more gaudy appearance to it. This is not temple. To look at it one would not think that this is a religious temple, especially considering that it is one of the smaller sized temples that you will encounter. However, this is quite possibly the most active temple in all of Laos, and for sure is the most active in the area of Vientiane. Many believe that lifting the small Buddha statue three times means that your prayers or questions have been answered, making this one of the high-priority spots for many persons of the faith to visit.

Wats Onteu, Inpeng, Mixay, Haisok – These four temples are located right in the town center. This makes it the most visited spot by tourists because of the easy access and reaching it.

Parks

Buddha Park vientianeBuddha Park – This is the most heavily visited Park within the city of Vientiane for many reasons. One of the primary reasons why so many come to visit this place is that it is an interesting collection of sculptures dedicated to both Buddhist and Hindu deities, as well as to real and imagined beasts from ancient times past. The statue of the reclining Buddha is one of the most impressive features of this park, it was built in 1958 by a famous Buddhist mystic known as Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, who fled the country immediately after the communist takeover. He later built a similar statue in a park located in Thailand.

If you do not wish to walk the park, which can be quite an extensive track to take, you should be aware that there are many tuk-tuks that are available to transport you around and show you the park and all its grandeur. This cost no more than a few dollars to rent, and can save a little wear and tear on your feet.

National Ethnic Cultural Park vientianeNational Ethnic Cultural Park – This is a park dedicated to the different ethnic and cultural groups that have lived in Vientiane during its history. You will find typical houses on display that are used by these groups, as well as items and artwork from their times. There is also a rather small zoo within the park, but is nothing to be overwhelmingly excited about.

What to Do in Vientiane

Monk Chat vientianeMonk Chat – If you are looking for a great activity to do in this city, one that is very highly recommended is the Monk Chat. Once a month local monks gather at Sangha College and answer questions that visitors and tourists may have. You can learn a great deal about the culture and beliefs of Buddhists, as well as their practices. Contact the college to find out when this event will be held.

Green Discovery LaosGreen Discovery Laos – If you are looking to learn more about the incredible plant and animal life of this area, this is the tour for you. These trips are dedicated to providing an environmentally friendly to her as well as a socially responsible one. All tours are provided in such a way as to ensure that no one reaps a profit off of the natural beauty of Laos. The programs and activities are a great deal of fun, you will get to see the incredible landmarks of the area, including temples and museums, while also being able to enjoy the fantastic natural beauty of this great nation. For those who are interested, there were kayaking or motorbike that you are welcome to take, and there are also cave expeditions that you can take part in.

Zip-Line Adventure vientianeZip-Line Adventure –This new attraction was added to Green Discovery in 2010 and has been one of the most highly sought after activities for those visiting Vientiane. Using the zip-lines gives you the ability to swing from tree to tree along steel cables that are about 40 yards above the ground below. Each cable is about 200 yards long, and provides you with an exciting, yet terrifying adventure all in one. This is an adventure that is great for the entire family, and will leave you with memories to talk about for years.

Lao-French InstituteCentre Culturel et de Cooperatoin Linguistique – Harkening back to the French colonial days of Laos, this small theater is also home to the French library in Vientiane. Here you will be able to watch plays and films, as well as view photo exhibitions featuring the culture and people of Laos. It is truly a quaint place to go to find a very enjoyable day.

Things for Your Body and Mind

Because of the long-standing practices of Buddha, Vientiane has many locations where you can find activities intended to promote your overall health. The Buddhist meditation center has a daily schedule of activities intended to improve a person’s meditation practices. All persons are welcome to attend this, especially those who are visiting the beautiful city.

vientiane-yoga-studioIf yoga is more to your liking, you will find that the Vientiane Yoga Studio is the place for you. There are several different yoga and dance classes offer daily and, once again, tourists are more than welcome to join in the activities for a great day.

Two of the more well-known spas in the city are Adina and Champa. In either location you will find full-service spa treatments as well as massage therapy. A few hours here and you will feel like a new person, ready to enjoy the beautiful city to its fullest.

One of the national sports of Laos is kickboxing, making Muay Lao a great place to visit. This Jim is the perfect location to learn your own set of skills in this martial art, or to watch up-and-coming competitors as they train and paddle out with one another.

Accommodations in Vientiane —> BOOK HOTEL

There are many places to stay in Vientiane. It is totally dependent upon the accommodations that you desire and the price that you are willing to spend. Many places are reasonably priced in the $30-$60 range per night, but you can find more exclusive style hotels and resorts that will range between $100 and $200 per night.

There are several guesthouses in the city for example Mixay and RD. all three of these offer great accommodations, with breakfast and Wi-Fi available. Bathrooms are usually shared between two rooms but the accommodations are truly quaint and a fun place to stay.

For those who are looking to rough it a bit while they are traveling, there are a couple of great hostels where you can choose to stay. The Backpackers Garden Hostel is one that many like to opt to stay in, as  in a very inexpensive price.

The New Lao Paris Hotel offers spacious rooms, a French restaurant on the premises, and is right near the National Museum. The Settha Palace Hotel, Don Chan Palace, and Salana Boutique Hotel are three examples of hotels people opt to when they wish to splurge on their vacations. All of these offer spectacular accommodations, still at very reasonable prices. The Settha Palace is the most expensive of these ($170 per night), while the Don Chan costs just $68 per night.

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You should be aware that some hotels do not allow Lao nationals to enter your room. This means if you meet someone within the area and invite them to your hotel they may not be eligible to enter your room.

Food

VIENTIANE FOODYou will find plenty of incredible places to dine at while visiting Vientiane. There are a wide variety of restaurants and cafés to fit the pallet of virtually any person on earth, and many of them are priced at less than $10 per person. For those who are looking for more fast food style places to eat there are several places available to you like the Stay Hungry Burger, Ray’s Grille, and Noodle Shops. You will find in various locations like these such things as hot, noodle-based dishes, and hamburgers. The perfect thing to get while you’re on the go.

If you are looking to sample some of the more elegant cuisines of the city there are plenty of opportunities for you to enjoy such dishes. There are several great Indian restaurants including the Taj Mahal Restaurant and Nazim Indian Restaurant. For those wishing to stick to a vegan or vegetarian diet there are four great locations in the city, one of them located in the Talot Sao food court. These include Happy Golden Age, Nirvana, Vegan Restaurant and Vegan Food Stall.

There are also nobles who are looking to get a real fine dining experience at an incredibly reasonable cost. The Balkan House offers great Mediterranean style dishes with prices ranging from five dollars to $15. La Scala Italian Restaurant offers the very best in Italian cuisine and is a great romantic setting, built in a historic colonial home that is been well maintained. Again, the costs here are quite reasonable, where main dishes start at about eight dollars.

There are also several great Chinese food restaurants you will find in the area. Since Laos has a great cultural heritage enriched by Chinese culture, you will find some spectacular places to enjoy authentic Chinese food within the city of Vientiane. This includes such incredible places as Fu Man Lou, Dihao Hunan Restaurant, Jiu-Jiu Restaurant and Restaurant Chendu.

Of course, for those who are looking to enjoy the food experience in a little bit different way, there are great cooking classes and food tours that you can take part in as well. The Lao cooking class is in a secret location just 15 minutes from the town center, where you will learn to create incredible Lao dishes that you can enjoy while you’re there or once you get home.

There is also the Fresh Market Tour & Taste, which is at the biggest market in the city. Here you will get to visit incredibly cute family cafés in the area, not only getting to sample the fantastic dishes that are served but also getting to meet and talk with the great chefs behind these fabulous dishes.

Shopping

Modern Shopping centers vientiane

You will enjoy the incredible shopping you can do in Vientiane. First of all, there are many great hand craft shops where you can get a wide variety of spectacular gifts and items to take home with you. The Mixay Boutic offers a great many hand designed fabrics, where you can actually watch these being created before your very eyes. Here you will find such things as shirts, skirts, cushion covers, scarves and many other items made of textiles. The Art of Silk offers silk and cotton weaving materials, both made from traditional designs as well as modern ones. Lao Textiles is a great place to find modern and traditional weavings as well. This is a very interesting place to visit because entry is only allowed by clinging the bell that his request to be allowed access.

There is a large mall in the city, the Talat Sao Mall, which was the first building in the city to actually have three stories. One of the most interesting aspects of the small are the escalators which one magazine described as “Electricity Ladders.” You will find many shops and cafés, a Thai style food court, and a wide variety of activities in and around the mall.

Safety and Health

For anyone who is visiting Laos, you should remember that there are a large number of mosquito borne diseases that you will find here. You want to ensure that you have all vaccinations and shots before coming here.

There are two other areas you want to be aware of. There is a large number of people that have their bags stolen while touring the city, even while they are walking. If your bag is taken immediately start yelling. Most of the criminals count on tourists being silent. However, they become startled and will normally drop bags out of concern of being caught by the police.

You also want to be on guard for missing sewer covers on pavement streets. You can easily find yourself falling into one of the stings and getting hurt, especially at night.

We like to travel!

For many tourists, one of the things that they are looking for is a great place to take a vacation where they don’t have to feel like they need martial arts skills to get around the area. They find that many of the most common destinations they would go to are so crowded with people that it is virtually impossible to enjoy a moment’s peace. It can turn a dream vacation into a real nightmare.

This is often the case in the most common destination spots in Southeast Asia. Places, like Beijing, Hong Kong, and Singapore have become so popular that literally millions of people flock to these areas each and every year. It used to be the places like Thailand and China had great vacation spots because they are sort of a mystery to the vast majority of the world. This is no longer the case as they attract people from all over the world, sometimes excessively, to the point where getting around, finding accommodations, and trying to find a peaceful moment within the country becomes a challenge too much to bear. There has to be a better solution for a person looking for a dream vacation that also affords them a little peace and quiet.

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