Top Things to Do in Vientiane, Laos
A lot of travellers call Vientiane boring. That you shouldn’t invest more of your time there than a short stop over on the way to your next destination. However I would disagree with this. After spending 3 days exploring the Lao capital and I think it has plenty on offer for travellers to explore and discover. So if you’re unsure how long you want to spend in the city or are planning your time there, these are some of the top things to do in Vientiane to help you decide.
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Patuxai Victory Monument
This replica of the Arc De Triumph in Paris is certainly one of the top things to see in Vientiane. The story goes that this monument was built using concrete donated by the US which was actually meant for a new airport runway. This lead to the monument being dubbed ‘the vertical runway’. Names aside, this famous landmark is to commemorate all those who lost their lives fighting for their independence from France. Although as a whole, the Patuxai Victory Monument looks a lot grander further away than close up, the ceiling detailing under the arch is still rather spectacular. You can also climb to the top for a small fee for a great view of the city from above.
COPE Visitor Centre
Don’t miss a trip to the COPE Visitor Centre when you’re in Vientiane. Similar to the UXO Visitor Centre in Luang Prabang, the centre educates you about the Laos’ part in the Vietnam War and the lasting effects of the war on the country today. You can also learn about the work of COPE (Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise) and their outreach programs to the remote areas of Lao PDR to help victims of UXO accidents as well as people with other disabilities. An interesting and informative hour where you can support an extremely worthwhile cause.
Sunset at the riverfront
It sunsets in most of Laos are pretty spectacular and Vientiane is no exception. Head down to the riverfront around an hour before, perch yourself at one of the bars or find a spot on the promenade and watch the sun disappear into water. Make sure to look out for the groups of locals doing zumba classes at the riverfront around this time too. You can even join in if that’s your thing.
The Night Market
I really enjoyed the night market in Vientiane in comparison to the one in Luang Prabang. It’s not just full of tourists and stalls selling things catered towards them. You can buy everyday things here too, like clothes, shoes and electronics, making it an ideal place to pick up travel essentials. Plenty of locals shop here too, so prices are pretty reasonable. Plus there’s plenty of street food there too, so you can shop and snack at the same time!
I was pleasantly surprised by this temple. It’s architectural features are similar to temples of Thailand. The courtyard walls are with hundreds of wall alcoves each holding their own little Buddha statue. However the most beautiful part is within the recently restored main temple. The walls are filled with amazing murals depicting ancient Buddhist stories. You can’t take photos in this area, so you will just have to go and see them for yourself. one of the top things to do in Vientiane. Entry is just 10,000 Kip.
Buddha Park – an alternative thing to do
Buddha Park was the highlight of my time in the city and is one of the top things to do in Vientiane a little more off the beaten path. The park was created by a priest-shaman called Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat who integrated both Buddhism and Hinduism. It holds a collection of rather bizarre sculptures that represent both religions mythologies, including one large enough to actually climb inside. Buddha Park lies 25km southeast of the city with the journey taking around 1 hour, so make sure to give yourself a whole morning or afternoon to visit.
Top tip – Rather than getting an expensive tuk tuk to Buddha Park, you can get the local bus instead for only 8000 Kip per person. Buses leave from near the bus station next to the Talat Sao shopping centre and have Buddha Park written on them.
Haw Phra Kaew
Haw Phra Kaew or Ho Pra Keo was once the temple for the royals of Vientiane and used to house the famous Emerald Buddha. Today however it’s a museum that showcases a collection of Buddha statues and ancient relics. Although it’s history is interesting, it’s probably not worth a visit on its own. But as it’s just round the corner from Wat Sisaket, you should combine it with a visit there. Entry is just 10,000 Kip.
Pha That Luang
The golden stuppa of Pha That Luang is a symbol of Lao nationalism, identity and culture, making it one of the top things to do in Vientiane. Despite this, we didn’t actually make it to this temple thanks to illness, but heard it was pretty spectacular from friends who visited!
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