Things to do in Vientiane, Laos
The city of Vientiane is the capital of Laos, which boasts a population estimate that barely even merits mentioning when compared to other South East Asian Capital cities. Its laid-back ambience provides a welcoming atmosphere for tourists from all over the world.
Vientiane boasts a plethora of eateries and watering holes, along with guesthouses and markets galore. This cosmopolitan city is ideal for lounging; its riverside setting provides stunning views of the surroundings, enabling you to relax after an extended journey from Bangkok or take in some much-needed rest following a jaunt through Vang Vieng – either way on the Laos backpacker trail.
So what is there to see and do in Vientiane?
This is the Victory Gate, a smaller replica of India Gate. A palm-lined road leads up to it and water spouts dot its surroundings so that visitors can quench their thirst along the way. Visitors can climb into one of the interior staircases within the gate building for an unparalleled view of Vientiane and purchase souvenirs from inside! The entrance fee is quite high compared to night markets in Vientyne; ranging from 3000kip per person depending on when you visit!
Established in 2009, the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) is a self-funded facility that endeavours to educate visitors on issues such as disabilities, survivors of conflict, and rehabilitation from bomb attacks for example. Visitors can peruse narratives about individual survival; view footage clips; and indulge themselves in souvenir shops and cafés before departing.
The museum in Vientiane is an invaluable resource that provides an insightful glimpse into the daily life of inhabitants from centuries ago. Gaining access to its notable exhibits such as a Jar from the Plain of Jars and garments reveal aspects of Laos' colonial history including its multiple invasions by foreign powers – notably Thailand, America and France. At 10,000 kip per person, visitors should be prepared to part with some money if they wish to gain access; however, it is definitely worth exploring this fascinating collection!
Vientiane is rich in temples, offering a plethora of choices for sightseeing opportunities. For those seeking adventure, tours by bicycle are available through various tour companies that provide a comprehensive look at the city's hidden gems as well as glimpses into Laos' agricultural and economic sectors.
In addition to these offerings, there are also general town tours by bicycle that can be taken during leisurely afternoons if you choose – getting an intuitive sense of the architecture and ambience outside of the tourist-oriented area along River Road!
If you are avid about exploring temples, then let me introduce to you a group of must-see attractions! Sisaket Museum and Black Stupa in particular offer visitors an immersive experience that will not disappoint. Additionally, those with an interest in ecclesiastical architecture should make Hophakaew Museum a priority as well.
Trips from Vientiane
Be enlightened at Xieng Khuan Buddha Park, located in the rural outskirts of Vientiane and reachable via a 50 kilometer round-trip by tuk-tuk. Pack plenty of food and beverages to enjoy along your journey – this is an invigorating excursion!
The Buddha Park is a remarkable assemblage of Buddhist and Hindu edifices situated amidst an intricate structure with a reclining Buddha. The collection of sculptures and detritus spans back to 1958, providing opportunities for reflection on what they may symbolize and why they were built – not only aesthetically appealing but also yielding captivating photographs.
For an exquisitely serene and novel experience in Laos, travelers can visit Nam Ngum Lake for lunch amid the scenic beauty. Locals patronize these floating restaurants to procure their meal, which consists of a lot of fish as well as vegetarian options. There are cruises available at this picturesque locale to explore all its islands or simply laze on its tranquil foreshore and enjoy freshly prepared meals from local vendors – with nothing but idyllic tranquillity providing accompaniment!
This excursion can be organized as a package from any of the travel agencies or in-house guesthouse services in Vientiane. It is essential to consider that Nam Ngum Lake is approximately 90 kilometres distant from Vientiane.
Food and Accommodation
Regardless of your predilections for cuisine, dining establishments, cafes or bars; whether you prefer Thai cooking with its aromatic curries and exquisite cuisine from central Thailand; Indian flavours from coastal India; crisp Chinese fare inspired by the ancient culinary traditions of Hunan province in Southern China; French-influenced artisanal bread and pastries as well as al fresco Italian feasts featuring robustly flavoured delicacies such as red pasta sauces or succulent cuts of meat like steaks – there's something suited to every palate.
Additionally, if budget accommodations are what you seek then consider visiting a hostel where dormitory beds may be laid out on top of sleeping bags while those seeking more luxury should consider staying at one of the mid-range hotels providing larger rooms with all mod cons such as air-con units plus additional amenities found within their upscale hotel chains.
For those who desire greater comforts yet still maintain a somewhat moderate cost then opting for a self-contained accommodation unit might prove an ideal choice whilst others craving something extraordinary could opt for staying at one of the large hotels catering to visitors desiring grandiose extravagances that offer opulence beyond compare – but remember this does not mean that these places are always necessarily posh!
Vientiane is undoubtedly the destination of choice for travellers, boasting a plethora of options for accommodation and amenities that cater to any preference or need. If you're seeking a dorm room, it will likely start at around 30,000 kip per night – an accommodating range!
Ensure that you are conscious when in Vientiane – it is highly likely that the locals will offer you illicit substances or prostitutes (either males or females), often from tuk-tuk drivers, youngsters, and street venders. Be sure to bear in mind that this may be a part of Laos' criminal justice system; punishment for such activities can range from incarceration to capital punishment!
It is essential to acknowledge that illicit intercourse with Laotians, wherever you are from, is a violation of the law. Accordingly, if such an offense were discovered there would be penalties in place – along with potential fines – for perpetrators.
Eat, Drink. And be merry. Cycle around. Temple Hop. Meet the locals. Learn something new.
How to get to Vientiane
Train to/from Thailand
Vientiane, Laos' capital city is easily accessed via the Friendship Bridge, which connects Thailand via train from Bangkok. The trip can also be made by tuk-tuk or bus from other towns in interior Laos such as Vang Vieng situated a mere 4 hours north of the capital – a journey that could certainly prove worthwhile!
If travelling between Bangkok and Vientiane by train, it is advisable to pack your own provisions – the training meal served on board is not appetizing or reasonably priced. You can bring along your favourite alcoholic beverages if you want them; visas upon arrival in Laos are issued at one of the bridges when entering into Thailand. Once departing Lao capital city, a stamp will be affixed for admission into Thailand once you arrive back home again!
Situated in central Vientiane, the International Airport offers a convenient gateway for travelers seeking access to nearby cities such as Bangkok (90 minutes away), Hanoi (two hours) and Ho Chi Minh City (three hours). To reach this location, passengers can opt to take an airplane at US$75 or tuck into a bargain-priced tuk-tuk from US$3.
Buses to Vientiane
It is possible to reach Vientiane from Hanoi of North Vietnam via an arduous journey taking approximately 20 hours; or, traveling by bus from Hue (central north coast of Vietnam) only takes about 18 hours and the cost is pegged at US$20.
If travelling from Phnom Penh in Cambodia, it is possible to travel by bus to Vientiane, although this involves overnight travel, swapping buses multiple times and it will cost you about US$50. It is also important to note that the border crossing is slow and you will need to carry your bags over the crossing about 600 metres.
Bus and mini bus services between all towns and cities in Laos are quite inexpensive, running frequently, and relatively reliable. Whether you heading north from Vientiane towards Vang Vieng or exploring the Southern region of Laos, you will be able to book fairly priced transport at many of the travel agents in Vientiane. Just remember to shop around and get the best price and best company if possible.