Vientiane is not among the favorite places in Laos that could be pinned to a visitors mind when they compare it with other adventurous places the country has to offer, but it is quite likely to be one of the smallest capital cities you’ll visit in Asia and while it won’t have the glow of Bangkok or Hanoi, but it does have its own charms and yields surprises to travelers like me. Personally, it was not so interesting to me and used as a gateway towards up country.

My hotel was very close to the Mekong river and in the center of all action, so early morning it was easy to hire a Tuk Tuk for the day and start exploring the city. I was more interested to visit a few historical places, try some authentic food, meet locals during the process and take some pictures. 

Places I have visited in Vientiane:

Ho Phra Keo Temple (originally built 16th century, rebuilt 1936-42)

Once the royal temple of the Lao monarchy, Ho Phra Keo now contains a museum with some of the finest Buddhist sculptures in the country. This is one of Vientiane’s most impressive and oldest temples, built in 1565 to house the Emerald Buddha, which was stolen by King Setthathirat from Chang Mai in Thailand.

The original temple was destroyed during the Siamese invasion of 1828 and rebuilt between 1936 and 1942. The main hall is impressive in size and contains excellent examples of Lao Buddhist sculpture.

Ho Phra Know Temple, once served as Royale Temple of the Lao monarchs
Ho Phra Know Temple once served as Royale Temple of the Lao monarchs

 Patuxai Monument (Victory Gate)

The Patuxai, The Arch or Gate of Triumph, it resembles the Arc de Triomphe of Paris and with a single arch with an observation deck on top. It was built to commemorate Lao who had died in battle serving their country before the revolutionary wars. It was begun in 1960 a completed with concrete donated by the United States for the construction of the airport.

Great place for a photo op and don’t forget to climb up to the observation deck for a great view of the City. I had the opportunity to meet few Monks visiting from other parts of the country. A great place to visit. 

Monk and I in front of Patuxai Monument.
Monk and I in front of Patuxai Monument.

Pha That Luang 

Pha That Luang (The Great Stupa or Sacred Reliquary) is the most significant Laotian religious and national monument. It is situated on a hill about three miles northeast of the center of Vientiane.

This was originally a Hindu temple in the 3rd century BC and Asokan missionaries who erected a shrine here to enclose a breastbone of the Buddha. In the mid-16th century, King Setthathirat moved his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and ordered the construction of That Luang. Work began in 1566. Covered in gold leaf, it repeatedly was ransacked by Burmese, Siamese, and Chinese. A Siamese invasion of 1828 led to massive destruction of the capital and virtual abandonment of That Luang.

The present structure is a French-directed reconstruction from the 1930s–made to replace an earlier botched French reconstruction of 1900– and is based on the detailed drawings from the late 1860s by the talented French architect and explorer Louis Delaporte.

Such a long history and beautiful structure that represents the national symbol of Laos is definitely worth visiting.

Great Sacred Stupa (Pha That Luang), National symbol of Laos.
Great Sacred Stupa (Pha That Luang), National symbol of Laos.

Authentic Lunch at a Traditional Restaurant:

For lunch, I got myself a delicious, satisfying bowl, too bad can’t remember the name of the dish but won’t forget the red colored wild rice I had.

It taste much delicious than it looks
It tastes much delicious than it looks

Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan) in Vientiane

Buddha Park is a famous Sculpture park with more than 200 religious statues including a massive 40 meters long reclining Buddha image. The giant Pumpkin structure was interesting. You could climb unto the top for a great photo opportunity.

It was built in 1958 by a monk who studied both Buddhism and Hinduism. This is why the park is full of Buddha’s images along with Hindu Gods as well as demons and animals from both beliefs.

It is located 25 km southeast of Vientiane by the Mekong River. The best way to get there is renting a motorbike or hiring a tuk-tuk. There is a restaurant along the river bank, a great place to relax, have some drink, enjoy the Mekong River view while sitting under the tree on a hot summer day.

I am trying my best to hold it open.
I am trying my best to hold it open.

That dam (Black Stupa)

That Dam or the lack Stupa is located on a quiet roundabout not far from Talat Sao the morning market and the American Embassy.

It worth to visit if you are in town.

Wat Mixay

Vat Mixay is one of the many Buddhist temples along Setthathilath Road in Vientiane, Laos. A nice and peaceful temple with typical Laotian architecture and roof style. Colorful and well maintained, it is a working temple and there is a school here as well. Was originally built in the 16th century by King Setthathirat, the builder of Pha That Luang. Like the Great Stupa, it was destroyed in the Siamese invasion of 1828 and was later rebuilt in the 19th century.

Wat Si Muang 

Wat Si Muang is one of Vientiane’s most popular sites of worship and offers a fascinating insight into how old animist beliefs have blended seamlessly with Theravada Buddhism.

List of Hotels where I stayed in Vientiane:

Leuxay Hotel, 189/19 Ban Hongkhatay, Vientiane, Laos

Orchid Guesthouse, 33 Fa Ngum Road, Vientiane, Laos

Pictures that tells the story of my trip:


 

Hasan Mahmud

Traveler, Blogger, and Travel Photographer!

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