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Ancient and cultural, Vientiane is the laidback capital of Laos. The largest city in Laos, the pace is slow, the nights are peaceful, and traffic is virtually nonexistent - making it the perfect spot to relax with history at your feet.
Laos’ quiet capital is set on the banks of the shimmering Mekong River – its natural border with Thailand. Walk through the town and admire the unique contrast of Buddhist temples amid the French colonial architecture. Pha That Luang, also known as the Great Stupa in Lao, is the most significant Buddhist monument in Laos. Built in the 16th century, the rising terraces of the stupa represent the different stages of Buddhist enlightenment, with the lowest level representing the material world and the highest point showing the world of nothingness.
There are many ornate Buddhist temples scattered throughout Laos. The temple of Wat Si Saket is thought to be Vientiane’s oldest surviving wat. Once home to the Emerald Buddha, the 19th century temple is famous for housing thousands of images of Buddha and Buddhist art. Travellers can also spend the afternoon in Buddha Park and marvel at the amazing collection of over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues, including a 40 metre high statue of a sleeping Buddha. To see the best in French architecture be sure to visit the Patuxai, the Laotian people’s answer to the Arc de Triomphe.
There are a number of museums and galleries in Vientiane offering an insight into the city’s history and its peaceful future. Try using traditional methods to weave and dye your own silk scarf at the Houey Hong Vocational Training Centre for Women, or visit the COPE Visitor Centre to learn about Laos’ war history. The most bombed country in history, many of the bombs were left unactivated and still cause pain to the citizens of Vientiane today.
Spend your evening taking a stroll along the Vientiane Riverfront and check out the food, clothing and handmade crafts on offer at vibrant night markets, or relax with a Beerlao and watch the sunset over the Mekong.
Vientiane is smaller and quieter than most other Southeast Asian cities, so it’s easy to get around in the city centre on foot. There is a lot less traffic and rental cars are used very rarely. Act like a local and rent a bike. Cycling is the cheapest and easiest mode of transport to use in the city and most of the traffic on the road is from bicycles. Tuk Tuks are also available for short distances, but be aware of vendors trying to overcharge you. If you want to travel a little further out of town, the city’s buses are well-maintained and can get you to most places.
The best time to visit Vientiane is from November to February when the weather is cooler and drier. Vientiane has a tropical climate made up of a wet season and a dry season. Average temperatures for this time of year range between 29 and 38 degrees. Temperatures rise higher throughout March, April and May. May sees the beginning of the monsoon season, bringing humidity with it. The rain continues to fall until the end of October.
Wattay International Airport
Located around eight kilometres from the the centre of Vientiane, Wattay International Airport in one of the main airports in Laos. Flights travel to Wattay International Airport from a number of destinations, including Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, Bangkok and Hanoi. There are no direct flights available from Australia.