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Nestled on the banks of the Mekong River, Vientiane is an exquisite city that has, so far at least, avoided the multi-story development that is reshaping the skylines of many Southeast Asian cities. The result is a charming, low-rise cityscape that features many examples of traditional Lao and French architecture, making it an absolute delight to explore. While Vientiane has not completely escaped Asia’s 21st Century development boom, the city retains a classical beauty and laid back ambience that makes it arguably the region’s most charming capital city. Wide tree-lined avenues reflect the former French influence, while golden temples and Buddhist statues add to the city’s serene atmosphere. Together, these classical and colonial influences shape Vientiane and create an enchanting destination for visitors. Book now at Best Western Vientiane Hotel and discover all this captivating city has to offer.
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Wat Si Saket
Guests seeking the spiritual heart of Vientiane should head to Wat Si Saket, which contains a breath-taking collection of Buddhist sculptures and statues. Constructed in the early 1800s on the orders of King Anouvong, Wat Si Saket is located opposite the Presidential Palace on Lan Xang Avenue, the wide central street that stretches to the Patuxai Arch. The temple is most famous for its cloister wall, which houses thousands of statues of Buddha made from various materials, including silver, to create a beautiful and highly spiritual effect. Guests can also take a serene stroll around the temple’s grounds, which are full of fruit trees, admire the ancient architecture and visit the on-site museum.
Pha That Luang
A national monument and symbol of Laos, Pha That Luang (also known as the "Great Stupa") is a large, golden Buddhist stupa in the centre of Vientiane. While it is reputed to date back to the 3rd Century, the current structure was built in the 16th Century by King Setthathirat. It features three levels and rises 44 meters from the ground, with many Lao and Buddhist carvings, artworks and statues. Pha That Luang has recently undergone a major restoration to mark the 450th anniversary of its construction, which included placing 9kg of gold leaf atop the main stupa. The annual That Luang Festival takes place every November, featuring for three days of parades, performances and ceremonies.
Vientiane's most recognizable landmark, Patuxai Arch is located in the heart of the city and provides a useful focal point for visitors still getting their bearings. Many assume that the arch was designed by the French, as its appearance is similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In fact, Patuxai (or "Victory Gate") was actually created to celebrate and commemorate those who fought for the country's independence. The arch is topped with traditional Lao designs and visitors can climb to the summit for panoramic views of Vientiane. The arch is surrounded by Patuxai Park, which is a pleasant place to stroll.
Lao National Museum
Guests can learn all about the history of Laos at the country's National Museum, which is situated in the center of Vientiane. Set in the former French governor's residence on Samsenthai road, the Lao National Museum houses an excellent collection of artifacts that takes visitors back through history, all the way from prehistoric times to the Lao revolution. Dinosaur bones and pieces of ancient pottery can be found on the ground floor, while the upper level is dedicated to the country's tumultuous recent past, including the various invasions and wars the land has suffered through the years and focusing on the struggle for independence.
COPE Visitor Centre
Hardly an "attraction" in the traditional sense, but a trip to the COPE Visitor Centre should be on the agenda of every guest in Vientiane. The Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) produces artificial limbs and provides financial support to the victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO), which sadly litters the countryside. During the Vietnam War, more than two million tons of ordnance was dropped on Laos and unexploded devices still kill or maim thousands of Lao people each year. This informative center showcases the work of COPE and allows visitors to donate to this highly worthwhile organization, either directly or via purchases of Lao coffee, homemade crafts and other items.
Vientiane Night Market is the perfect place for visitors to find a memento of their trip and gifts for friends and family back home. Set on the banks of the Mekong, the market comprises a series of stalls selling tourist titbits, like sunglasses and t-shirts, along with more desirable souvenirs such as handicrafts and artworks. No food is sold in the Vientiane Night Market, but when you've finished shopping you can take a short ride to Ban Anou Night Market, which lies on another stretch of the Mekong and features a variety of exotic and aromatic food stalls. This is also a great spot to enjoy a cold Beerlao – the excellent national beer.
Visitors seeking a break from the city should take a trip to Buddha Park, an incredible public park that features more than 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues. Created in the 1950s on a site next to the Mekong River, approximately 25km from Vientiane, Buddha Park is a fantastic place for photography or a simple stroll around the many impressive statues, which include a 40-meter-long reclining Buddha. Guests can combine Buddha Park with a stroll along the banks of the Mekong, overlooking Thailand on the opposite bank. A café is located nearby, which is the perfect place to stop and enjoy a cold drink.
Things to do in Vientiane