Vientiane is the capital city of Laos. Like other countries in the Greater French Indochina region in mainland Southeast Asia, it used to be a French colony. It is now a popular travel destination, hence, a lot of people now visit Vientiane Laos and there are now so many things to do in Laos. You will see a lot of evidence of the French colonial period in its architecture and way of life. A visit to Vientiane Laos is definitely different than other Southeast Asian destinations because the list of things to do in Laos is getting longer.
Laos may not be a popular direct travel destination to most of us, but a lot of tourists and backpackers considered to visit Vientiane Laos (and other destinations like Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, among others) as part of their Indochina vacation. Today, Vientiane capital is home to museums, temples, markets, and lots of green spaces. Moreover, you will see French bakeries there which serve yummy bread! The bread lover in me was happy to be in this place.
Vientiane is a small town, and anyone who will visit Vientiane Laos can take up to 1-2 days, but of course, it still depends on your purpose. I went to visit Vientiane Laos only as a side trip when I went to Bangkok for an academic conference. I was able to score an airline promotion with their flag carrier, Lao Airlines, where I was able to book in a short notice. Vientiane is only an hour flight from Bangkok.
#SherlynInLaos and My Experience Flying with Lao Airlines
My avid readers (if I have some haha!) would know that I travel very frequently both for business and pleasure. This year was a record-breaker for me in terms of travel. I’ve flown to Bandar Seri Begawan, Bali, Singapore, Macau, Bangkok, and Vientiane, and I still have cities in the pipeline! I kinda got used to staying in different types of accommodations, and therefore I know how to judge an accommodation very well.
I went to Bangkok for a conference, and since Vientiane is only an hour away from Bangkok and I had some time to spare after the conference, I decided to buy a ticket and fly to visit Vientiane Laos. Also, it is my goal this year to visit Vientiane Laos because will complete my ASEAN travel bucket list! I got torn between choosing to fly in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and I ended up choosing the former. I could always go back to see the rest of Laos, right?
I booked a flight to Vientiane via Lao Airlines and it was really hard to choose between Vientiane and Luang Prabang because I can only go to one place given my limited time.
Can I just say that I love the tickets of Lao Airlines? The quality of the printed boarding pass is really good! The Lao Airlines Counter at Suvarnabhumi Airport is at the faaaaar right, but there is a bookstore nearby and the counter for travel tax refund is also right there.
Look at the aircraft design of Lao Airlines! It was really, really beautiful! Can I get the Pantone of this kind of blue? Dok Champa, the national flower of Laos, is at the logo of the Lao Airlines aircraft. The female cabin crews of Lao Airlines also wear dok champa on their hairbuns. Elegant!
I was also excited when I found out that Lao Airlines has complimentary The Vientiane Times newspapers (I love collecting newspapers from my travels abroad!)
Oh, btw, aside from Lao Airlines, AirAsia also flies directly from Bangkok to Vientiane.
THINGS TO DO IN LAOS (VIENTIANE): LAOS TOURIST SPOTS
This mini travel guide walks you through the top things to do in Laos, specifically at the Vientiane capital. You should you have a day or two to travel and go around this quaint little Southeast Asian capital. Now without further ado, here is the list of spots you could visit in Vientiane, Laos:
Definitely not the Palace of Versailles, but you will see a lot of French architecture elements to this building. It is not open to the public but you can just admire the building from the outside and take photos. In my photo you will see a flag of Laos and Hungary because when I went here, the President of Hungary was in an official visit to Laos. The place houses the President of Laos who also acts as the General Secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party. This landmark is featured in 50000 Kip banknote.
Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan)
A park with almost 200 giant Buddha statues? This is the place. However this is not located in Vientiane proper (25 kilometers away to be exact), but I recommend you consider visiting this place. Because of its outdoor nature, it is technically not a temple, but the presence of all these giant Buddha statues makes it like a temple.
My guide told me a lot of interesting trivia about Buddhism and the origins of the Songkran Festival when we are strolling around the park. To be honest, all the varying images of Buddha are overwhelming, but there is so much background information and story behind all of them. I saw that the park is being extended and improved to serve more parkgoers. Xieng Khuan means ‘Spirit City.
On our way to Buddha Park, I had a view of Laos countryside and our guide shared a lot of information about Lao politics, development, the influx of Chinese investments, and how Laos ended up under the hands of the communists and stayed as a communist country. It was a very interesting conversation, and damn it, I did not take down notes! 🙁
Pha That Luang
Located at the center of Vientiane, this stunning gold-covered Buddhist stupa is a must-visit in this place. It was believed to be built around 3rd century but has undergone a lot of restorations since then. I love it how they were able to preserve its beauty. And also, it does not look like the other Buddhist stupas I visited in the past. Its name also means ‘Great Stupa’. It shines really magnificently especially in the middle of the day.
Patuxai is a victory monument in Vientiane which was built to honor the people who fought for the independence of Laos from France. They say the architecture of this structure is Laotian, but it resembles the Arc de Triomphe in France, which makes Patuxai the taller Lao counterpart of the said French landmark.
They usually open the fountains in front of this structure, but sadly when I went there the fountains are not functioning or was turned off. I was also able to climb the stairs at the top of the building (I’m talking about a legit cardio exercise here, guys!) and there is a stunning view of Vientiane capital at the top. Souvenir shops are also located at the top.
Wat Si Saket
One of my favorite parts of Southeast Asian history which I always passionately tell my students is the part when the Emerald Buddha currently housed in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok was formerly housed in this very temple in the name of Wat Si Saket in Vientiane.
Rumor has it (and some academic sources, btw) that it was ‘stolen’ by Thailand from Laos during the Siamese occupation, and my guide LOLed at me when I tried asking him if it was true. Of course, I never meant anything negative about it, and history also has so many versions. Wat Si Saket is considered as Vientiane’s oldest surviving wat. Some parts of it are being painted with nice colors but it’s gonna take a long time before it gets done.
Wat Phra Kaew
Originally built in 1565 to house the Emerald Buddha, this former temple has been rebuilt several times and you can see how they were able to keep its original beauty. It now serves a museum housing a lot of religious arts. It is called the Temple of the Emerald Buddha by the locals. Parts of it are being restored and they were very beautiful.
Wat Si Muang (Simuong)
This particular temple is apparently a Khmer temple situated in Vientiane. This is actually busiest wat I have visited in Vientiane. There are so many people praying and there is a monk inside which blesses the goers. I was told a lot of trivia by my guide that monks are actually not allowed to touch women, so when the monks are putting the strings (a bracelet-like) in women’s wrists, they have to be really careful.
COPE Visitor Center
Probably the best and the most emotional place I’ve visited in Vientiane was the COPE Visitor Center. COPE means Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise, and this place is meant to serve as an informative place to people about the efforts of the organization into helping the victims of the unexploded bombs (UXOs) which the US has dropped in Laos during the Vietnam War (the US, in fact, dropped 2 million of them).
COPE Visitor Center will orient you with the horrors of the Vietnam War but will end in a positive light where victims could go on with their lives with the help of the organization and other donors. They have several films about the Vietnam War and Laos’ Secret War. I wish I could stay here longer to learn more about Laos’ history, but I have limited time that day. Well, I could always go back. 😉
Hey, I have found Filipinos’ ‘soul people’ in terms of their love (I’m a Filipina but I hate malls) for going to shopping malls, the Laotians! Apparently, Laotians also looooove going to the malls to spend time with their family and friends.
When my guide took me to Vientiane Center, the place was just full of people and it resembles a typical mall in the Philippines. The mall hater in me wanted to get out of that place as soon as possible, but my guide of course meant well when he wanted me to show his people’s favorite hangout places. This is also where I got to find out that Miniso is not a Japanese brand, but a Chinese brand. Haha! I still love Miniso, though.
This is a simple and giant stupa in Vientiane that was believe to have protected Vientiane from the invasion of the Siamese army in the 1800s. That Dam literally means Black Stupa. Once covered in gold like any other stupas, people in Vientiane believe that this stupa still serves as their guardian. Right now it’s covered in weeds but situated in an area where a a lot of buildings could be found, including embassies.
Le Cattitude Cafe
The introvert and cat lover in me was able to discover a cat cafe when I was browsing through the in-flight magazine of Lao Airlines. I made it a point not to leave Vientiane without visiting this place. I was really happy and relaxed while bonding with cats and I was able to eat some Thai food when I was there. I believe this place is so underrated, so please, I encourage you to visit here! 🙂
Vientiane Night Market and Mekong Riverside
I have been dreaming of seeing the Mekong River all my life because I’ve been reading and teaching about it. Also, I know how important this is in the history and development of the entire mainland Southeast Asia. I took a walk and followed the online map leading to the riverside, but apparently Vientiane does not have a literal riverside where I could sit and watch the sunset.
However, I stumbled upon Vientiane Night Market (which was of course not yet open in the afternoon), but it has a lot of stalls offering local food. I was also able to walk by the riverside with al fresco restaurants. (a riverside nightlife is one for the books for someone who will visit Vientiane Laos!). I wish I could dine in there alone but I was scared of walking back to my hotel by myself because there are just very few people in the streets, actually. But overall it was a nice sunset stroll! Next time I will stay in a hotel near the riverside so that I could have a food trip in this avenue.
Please visit Vientiane Laos, you guys!
There you have it! These are basically the things to do in Laos, specifically on a very random decision to visit Vientiane Laos as my side travel from Bangkok. I love how simple life is here. It was deemed as one of the poorest countries in the world by the United Nations, but I don’t sense any element of ‘poverty’ in here because everyone seemed happy.
I might be concluding a lot given my limited visit there, but I believe it’s best to go back and learn more. I want to implement ‘slow travel’ next time and learn deeper about a certain place. Hence I will definitely visit Vientiane Laos again, including other places in Laos such as Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. So, I’ll wait for you to share your own “things to do in Laos” lists when you visit Vientiane Laos? Safe travels and enjoy!
If you’re wondering where I recommend you to stay if you visit Vientiane Laos, click at the box below:
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