With its slow pace of life and laid-back atmosphere, Vientiane is quite unlike any other major Asian hub you will visit. Sat on the opposite bank of the mighty Mekong River to oh-so developed Thailand, the pace of life in the Laotian capital remains stoically slow. There may not be a huge amount to do when it comes to any conventional sightseeing, but the reason to linger in Vientiane is to soak up its peaceful charm and tranquility. Whilst one can sense a pervasive Chinese influence coming to bear over recent years, this is a city that has not as yet sold its soul.
Vientiane actually means ‘Sandalwood City’, easily appreciated as you stroll through grand tree-lined boulevards, often back-dropped by classic French colonial villas. The Lao National Museum glorifies victory over colonial imperialists of old, but their Gallic influence still abounds in this quietly appealing and somewhat idiosyncratic capital city.
Unlike any other capital city we can think of, you can see almost the entire city on foot in a day. The principal landmarks include several impressive temple complexes, one of which doubles as a museum of religious art, and the incongruous Patuxai Monument – a Laotian building resembling Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. Known to many as “Victory Monument” it honours those who lost their lives at war and was built in 1969 with US donated cement allegedly to be used for the construction of a new airport.. You are able to climb to the top and whilst the crude structural design is unlikely to seize your attention, the panorama at the summit undoubtedly will – grand views in all directions.