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The Best Things To Do In Vientiane


by Carmelia Cuevas


Exploring the Iconic Pha That Luang Temple

One of the most iconic landmarks in Laos, Pha That Luang is a magnificent golden temple located in the capital city of Vientiane. Also known as the “Great Stupa,” it is considered the most sacred site in the country and a symbol of Lao Buddhism.


The temple complex is surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens and features a striking central stupa, which is covered in gold leaf and stands at an impressive 45 meters tall. The gleaming spire is crowned by a unique lotus bud, a symbol of purity and enlightenment.


Visitors to Pha That Luang can explore the tranquil grounds and learn about the history and significance of the temple. The compound includes several smaller temples and shrines, each adorned with intricate carvings and colorful murals depicting Buddhist legends.


One of the highlights of a visit to Pha That Luang is the opportunity to offer prayers and make merit. Devotees and visitors alike can be seen lighting incense sticks and placing offerings at the temple’s shrines. This is a deeply spiritual and meaningful experience, providing a glimpse into the devotion of the Lao people.


For those interested in history and culture, the temple also houses a museum that showcases ancient artifacts and religious relics. Visitors can learn about the architectural significance of the stupa and gain insight into the importance of Buddhism in Lao society.


In addition to its cultural and religious significance, Pha That Luang is also a symbol of national pride for the Lao people. The temple is featured on the national emblem of Laos and acts as a focal point for important national events and festivals.


Whether you are a history enthusiast, a spiritual seeker, or simply someone looking to explore the beauty of Laos, a visit to Pha That Luang is a must-do. Its grandeur and spiritual aura make it a truly captivating destination, offering a unique glimpse into the heart and soul of Laos.


Discovering the Rich History at the Lao National Museum

The Lao National Museum, located in Vientiane, is a treasure trove of history and culture, offering visitors a fascinating insight into the heritage of Laos. Housed in a beautiful French colonial building, the museum is a must-visit destination for history buffs and those interested in learning about the country’s past.


Step into the museum, and you will be greeted by a wide range of exhibits that take you on a journey through Laos’s ancient civilizations, colonial era, and modern development. The displays include archaeological artifacts, religious artworks, traditional costumes, and photographs that showcase the diverse cultural heritage of the country.


One of the highlights of the museum is the exhibit on the ancient Kingdom of Lan Xang, which was responsible for the establishment of Laos as a unified nation. Discover the stories behind this powerful kingdom and admire the intricate sculptures and artifacts that have survived through the centuries.


The museum also sheds light on Laos’s struggle for independence from French colonization. Explore the exhibits that document this pivotal period in the country’s history, including photographs, documents, and personal accounts of those who fought for freedom and sovereignty.


For those interested in the more recent history of Laos, the museum offers a glimpse into the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War and its political and social changes in the post-war era. Learn about the impact of these events on the Lao people and the country as a whole.


Visiting the Lao National Museum is not only a journey through time but also an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities and nuances of Lao culture. The museum provides valuable insights into the traditions, customs, and beliefs that shape the identity of the Lao people.


As you explore the exhibits, take your time to read the informative descriptions and immerse yourself in the fascinating stories behind each artifact. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a cultural explorer, or simply curious about the world, a visit to the Lao National Museum is a captivating experience that should not be missed.


Admiring the Intricate Architecture of Wat Sisaket

Wat Sisaket, located in Vientiane, is one of the most revered Buddhist temples in Laos and a prime example of the country’s rich architectural heritage. Renowned for its stunning beauty and intricate design, this temple is a must-visit destination for those interested in art and culture.


One of the unique features of Wat Sisaket is its preservation of thousands of Buddha statues. The temple houses over 6,800 small Buddha images, each individually crafted and arranged in niches along the walls of the main hall. The exquisite statues are made from various materials, including wood, bronze, and stone, showcasing different artistic styles and the craftsmanship of Lao artisans over the centuries.


Stepping inside the temple, visitors are immediately struck by the calming atmosphere and the ornate details of the architecture. The walls are adorned with beautiful murals depicting scenes from Buddhist scripture, while the ceilings are embellished with intricate hand-painted designs. The careful craftsmanship and attention to detail make Wat Sisaket a visual feast for the eyes.


Another highlight of Wat Sisaket is the sim (ordination hall), which features a stunning multi-tiered roof, ornate doors, and intricate carvings. The sim is a place of worship and meditation, and visitors can witness locals and monks paying their respects and engaging in spiritual practices.


In addition to its architectural beauty, Wat Sisaket also holds historical significance. It is one of the few temples in Vientiane that survived the destruction caused during the Siamese invasion in the 19th century. As a result, the temple stands as a testament to the resilience of the Lao people and their commitment to preserving their cultural heritage.


Exploring Wat Sisaket is not only an opportunity to admire the stunning architecture but also a chance to gain a deeper understanding of Buddhism and its influence on Lao society. Visitors can observe the daily rituals and practices of the monks and learn about the important role that temples play in the spiritual and social fabric of Laos.


Whether you are an art enthusiast, a history buff, or simply someone looking to be awed by architectural grandeur, a visit to Wat Sisaket is an absolute must. Prepare to be captivated by the intricate details and peaceful atmosphere, and leave with a deeper appreciation for Laos’s cultural heritage.


Strolling through the Bustling Morning Market

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Vientiane is to take a leisurely stroll through the bustling Morning Market, also known as Talat Sao. This open-air market, located in the heart of the city, is a vibrant hub of activity where locals and tourists alike come to browse, shop, and experience the lively spirit of Laos.


As the name suggests, the Morning Market comes alive early in the day, with vendors setting up their stalls and displaying an array of products. From fresh produce, herbs, and spices to traditional textiles, handicrafts, and souvenirs, the market offers a wide array of items to suit every taste and budget.


One of the highlights of the Morning Market is the opportunity to shop for authentic Lao silk and textiles. Admire the intricate patterns and vibrant colors of the fabrics and choose from a wide selection of scarves, clothing, and home decor items. The market is a haven for textile enthusiasts and offers a chance to bring home a unique piece of Lao craftsmanship.


Aside from textiles, the Morning Market is also a food-lover’s paradise. Indulge in the aromatic flavors of Lao cuisine as you wander through the food stalls, where vendors sell a variety of local snacks and street food. From steaming bowls of noodle soup to delicious grilled meats and refreshing fruit shakes, there’s something to satisfy every craving.


Beyond the sensory experience of the market, taking a stroll through the Morning Market provides a glimpse into the daily life of the Lao people. Observe the interactions between vendors and customers, soak in the lively chatter and laughter, and witness the friendly nature of the local people. It’s an authentic and unfiltered glimpse into the vibrant culture of Laos.


Remember to bring your bargaining skills when visiting the Morning Market. Haggling is a common practice, and you can score some great deals by negotiating with the vendors. However, always be respectful and polite during your interactions, as haggling should be done in a friendly and good-natured manner.


Whether you’re looking for unique souvenirs, a taste of local cuisine, or simply want to soak in the lively atmosphere, strolling through the bustling Morning Market is a memorable and enjoyable experience. Embrace the energy, the sights, and the sounds, and take home a piece of Laos with you.


Relaxing at the Tranquil Buddha Park

If you’re seeking serenity and spiritual rejuvenation, a visit to the tranquil Buddha Park, also known as Xieng Khuan, is a must when traveling to Vientiane. Situated on the banks of the Mekong River, this unique and captivating park is a peaceful oasis that beautifully blends art, religion, and natural surroundings.


As you enter the Buddha Park, you will immediately be greeted by an impressive collection of over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues, each with its own distinct style and symbolism. The park is a testament to the vision and creativity of its creator, artist and sculptor Bunleua Sulilat, who crafted the statues to depict various deities, demons, and mythological creatures.


Take your time as you explore the park, letting the serene atmosphere wash over you. Find a quiet spot to sit and reflect, surrounded by the meditative presence of the statues. The combination of lush greenery, the gentle flow of the nearby Mekong River, and the spiritual ambiance of the park creates a truly tranquil environment that is perfect for finding inner peace.


One of the park’s most iconic structures is the giant reclining Buddha image, which stretches an impressive 40 meters in length. This colossal masterpiece is not only an awe-inspiring sight but also a symbol of tranquility and enlightenment. Visitors can climb up to the top of the statue to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area.


The Buddha Park is also a popular spot for locals and tourists to participate in traditional Buddhist rituals and practices. You may witness locals making offerings, lighting incense sticks, or engaging in quiet meditation. This provides a unique cultural experience, allowing you to observe and appreciate the religious traditions of the Lao people.


When visiting the Buddha Park, make sure to explore the intricate details and symbolism of the statues. Many of them depict scenes from Buddhist and Hindu mythology, offering insights into the rich cultural and religious heritage of Laos. Take your time to appreciate the craftsmanship and artistry that went into creating these remarkable sculptures.


Whether you’re searching for inner peace, seeking spiritual enlightenment, or simply wish to immerse yourself in the beauty of Lao art and culture, a visit to the tranquil Buddha Park is a must. Relax, rejuvenate, and let the peaceful ambiance of the park envelop you as you discover the harmonious connection between nature, spirituality, and artistic expression.


Enjoying a Scenic Sunset at the Mekong Riverfront

When the day slowly draws to a close in Vientiane, there’s no better place to witness the breathtaking beauty of nature than at the Mekong Riverfront. Located along the banks of the mighty Mekong River, this picturesque spot offers a stunning backdrop for enjoying a mesmerizing sunset in the capital city of Laos.


As the sun begins its descent, casting a warm golden glow across the water, find a comfortable spot along the riverfront. Whether you choose to sit on the steps, relax on a park bench, or even participate in a river cruise, the Mekong Riverfront provides unobstructed views of the mesmerizing sunset.


Take a moment to soak in the tranquility of the scene. As the amber hues intensify and dance across the water’s surface, the peaceful atmosphere envelops you, providing a serene escape from the bustling city. Marvel at how the reflection of the sun sets the Mekong River ablaze with vibrant colors.


As the sun sinks lower, casting long shadows and creating a captivating interplay of light and shadow, the Mekong Riverfront comes alive with activity. Join locals and tourists alike in capturing the magic of the moment with your camera, or simply sit back and appreciate the ethereal beauty of nature’s spectacle.


The Mekong River holds great significance in Lao culture, and the riverfront is an important gathering place for the local community. You may witness families and friends coming together to enjoy the sunset, engage in leisurely conversations, or even participate in traditional dance performances that celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Laos.


As the sky transforms into a canvas of orange, pink, and purple hues, the sunset provides a tranquil and romantic setting. Couples can take a romantic stroll hand-in-hand along the riverfront, relishing in the beauty of the moment and creating lasting memories.


For those seeking a truly unforgettable experience, consider taking a boat ride along the Mekong River during the sunset hours. Drift along the calm waters as the sky transforms into a masterpiece of colors, immersing yourself in the natural splendor that surrounds you.


Whether you are a lover of nature, a photographer in search of the perfect shot, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of sunsets, the Mekong Riverfront offers a spellbinding display that will leave you in awe. Prepare to be captivated by the enchanting scenery, creating memories that will last a lifetime.


Trying Local Delicacies at the Talat Sao Night Market

When the sun sets and darkness falls over Vientiane, the Talat Sao Night Market comes alive with a vibrant atmosphere and a tantalizing array of local delicacies. Located near the city center, this bustling evening market is a food lover’s paradise, offering a culinary adventure that will delight your taste buds and introduce you to the authentic flavors of Laos.


As you wander through the market, you’ll be greeted by a symphony of enticing aromas wafting through the air. The stalls are filled with an abundance of mouthwatering dishes, each prepared by skilled local vendors who take pride in their culinary creations.


One of the must-try dishes at the Talat Sao Night Market is Khao Piak Sen, a traditional Lao noodle soup. Made with flat rice noodles, tender chicken or pork, fresh herbs, and a flavorful broth, this comforting dish embodies the essence of Lao cuisine.


For those with a more adventurous palate, be sure to sample the local delicacy known as larb. This traditional Lao salad features minced meat, typically chicken or beef, mixed with aromatic herbs, lime juice, and fish sauce. The combination of flavors creates a harmonious balance of spicy, savory, and tangy notes.


Satay lovers will rejoice at the sight of grilled meat skewers, known as ping gai. Whether you opt for the succulent chicken or marinated pork, these smoky and juicy skewers are often served with a side of sticky rice and a chili dipping sauce, adding an extra kick of spice to your culinary experience.


Don’t forget to explore the tantalizing array of street snacks and finger foods available at the night market. From crispy fried spring rolls and savory meat-filled dumplings to grilled sausages and sticky rice snacks, there’s an abundance of options to tantalize your taste buds and indulge in the local street food culture.


As you savor the flavors of the local delicacies, don’t forget to wash it all down with a refreshing beverage. Cool off with a freshly squeezed fruit juice, like watermelon or pineapple, or try a traditional Lao iced coffee for a burst of caffeine and sweetness.


The Talat Sao Night Market isn’t just about the food, though. It’s also an opportunity to soak in the bustling atmosphere, witness the colorful displays of handicrafts, and engage with local vendors. Take the time to chat with the friendly locals and learn more about their culinary traditions and stories behind the dishes they serve.


Whether you’re a food enthusiast, an adventurous eater, or simply someone looking to immerse yourself in the local culture, a visit to the Talat Sao Night Market is a journey of flavors and an unforgettable experience for your taste buds.


Visiting the Unique COPE Visitor Center

When exploring Vientiane, a visit to the COPE Visitor Center is an opportunity to gain insight into an important aspect of Laos’s recent history and the resilience of its people. COPE, which stands for Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing mobility aids to people affected by unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos.


At the COPE Visitor Center, you’ll learn about the devastating legacy of the Secret War, a little-known chapter in Laos’s history. During the Vietnam War, the country became the most heavily bombed nation per capita in the world, with a staggering amount of ordnance dropped on its soil. The center provides valuable information about the ongoing efforts to clear UXO and support those affected by it.


Through educational displays, interactive exhibits, and documentaries, the COPE Visitor Center sheds light on the challenges and impact of UXO in Laos. Gain a deeper understanding of the long-lasting consequences on the livelihoods and well-being of local communities, as well as the efforts made by COPE and other organizations to provide rehabilitation and support to those affected.


One of the highlights of the center is its in-depth display on the manufacture and fitting of prosthetic limbs and orthotic devices. Witness firsthand the dedication and skill of the local artisans and technicians who create these life-changing mobility aids. You’ll gain a profound appreciation for the resilience and strength of the individuals who receive these prosthetics.


Visiting the COPE Visitor Center is not only educational but also a chance to support a worthy cause. The center features a shop where you can purchase handicrafts made by local artisans with disabilities, with the proceeds going back into the program and helping to provide vital services to those in need.


As you explore the center, you’ll also have the opportunity to engage with the friendly staff and volunteers who are passionate about their work and eager to share their knowledge. Take advantage of this opportunity to ask questions and further your understanding of the impact of UXO, as well as the progress being made to address the issue.


Visiting the COPE Visitor Center is a humbling experience that offers a glimpse into the resilience of the Lao people and their commitment to rebuilding their lives after the war. It is a reminder of the importance of recognizing and addressing the consequences of conflicts long after they end. By supporting COPE’s efforts, you contribute to a brighter future for individuals affected by UXO in Laos.


Taking a Cultural Tour of the Patuxai Victory Monument

As you explore the vibrant city of Vientiane, a cultural tour of the iconic Patuxai Victory Monument is a must-do for history enthusiasts and those interested in Lao culture. Also known as the “Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane,” this grand structure is a symbol of national pride and an important historical landmark in Laos.


The Patuxai Victory Monument, located in the heart of the city, was built to commemorate the country’s struggle for independence from French colonization. The monument, which means “Gate of Triumph,” stands as a symbol of the Lao people’s resilience and their determination to preserve their sovereignty and cultural heritage.


As you approach the monument, you’ll be captivated by its remarkable architecture and intricate design. The monument is adorned with beautiful carvings and sculptures that depict scenes from Lao mythology and historical events. Take your time to appreciate the attention to detail and the craftsmanship that went into creating this magnificent structure.


Climbing to the top of the monument offers a rewarding experience and panoramic views of Vientiane. Ascend the stairs and enjoy the breathtaking vistas of the city skyline, the Mekong River, and the surrounding lush landscapes. It’s an ideal spot to capture memorable photographs or simply to reflect on the historical significance of the monument.


While exploring the monument, you’ll also have the opportunity to visit the small museum located inside. The museum showcases artifacts and exhibits that provide insights into the history and significance of the Patuxai Victory Monument. Delve deeper into the story behind the monument and gain a greater understanding of its importance in Lao culture.


Surrounding the monument, you’ll find beautifully manicured gardens and pathways, offering a serene atmosphere for leisurely walks or a moment of relaxation. Take a stroll and appreciate the well-maintained greenery and the statues scattered throughout the grounds that add to the cultural ambiance of the area.


Visiting the Patuxai Victory Monument is not only an opportunity to appreciate its historical and architectural value but is also a chance to immerse yourself in Lao culture. The monument plays a significant role in national events and festivals, and sometimes serves as a venue for cultural performances and celebrations.


Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply someone looking to delve into the cultural heritage of Laos, a visit to the Patuxai Victory Monument is a must. Learn about the country’s past, marvel at the impressive architecture, and gain a deeper appreciation for the resilience and pride of the Lao people.


Exploring the Quirky Buddha Park at Xieng Khuan

A visit to the quirky Buddha Park, also known as Xieng Khuan, is an extraordinary experience that will leave you in awe of the unique and whimsical sculptures that fill the park. Located just outside of Vientiane, this enchanting park showcases a collection of over 200 statues depicting various deities, demons, and mythological creatures.


As you explore the park, you’ll be greeted by the sight of towering sculptures that defy expectations and challenge traditional notions of Buddhist art. The sculptures, created by artist and mystic Bunleua Sulilat, blend Buddhist and Hindu philosophies, resulting in a truly one-of-a-kind display of religious symbolism.


One of the park’s most striking sculptures is the giant reclining Buddha, which stretches an impressive 40 meters in length. This massive sculpture is not only a sight to behold but also a symbol of serenity and enlightenment. Climb up to the top of the statue to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area.


As you wander through the park, keep an eye out for other notable sculptures, such as the towering pumpkin-shaped structure with multiple entry points. Venture inside and explore the maze-like corridors that lead to hidden chambers, each housing unique sculptures and religious symbols.


Many of the sculptures in the Buddha Park are adorned with intricate carvings and ornate details, showcasing the skill and craftsmanship of Lao artisans. The images and motifs represented in the statues offer insights into Buddhist and Hindu mythology, adding to the intrigue and cultural richness of the park.


Spend some time sitting amidst the sculptures, allowing the serene atmosphere to envelop you. The park’s tranquil surroundings, with lush greenery and the gentle flow of the nearby Mekong River, create a sense of peace and introspection. It’s an ideal spot for meditation or quiet contemplation.


Visiting the Buddha Park provides not only an opportunity to admire the unusual and captivating sculptures but also a chance to learn about the fusion of religious beliefs and the esoteric philosophy that inspired their creation. Engage with local guides who can share the stories behind the sculptures and deepen your understanding of their cultural and spiritual significance.


Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a lover of mythology, or simply someone seeking a unique and offbeat experience, exploring the Buddha Park at Xieng Khuan is a treat for the senses. Marvel at the eccentric sculptures, embrace the serene ambiance, and let the park’s whimsical charm transport you into a world that is unlike anything you’ve seen before.