Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. The city’s central river port location in a country relying heavily on its rivers for transportation and its surrounding hinterland of intensive rice cultivation have made Vientiane the major economic centre of Laos.
Vientiane is known for its laidback atmosphere and it is true that life moves slowly here, attracting those who enjoy a peaceful, relaxed vibe. Vientiane is the perfect place to view ornate Buddhist temples, trek through beautiful forests and try some delicious Laotian meat dishes.
Resembling Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, Patuxai or Victory Gate was erected on Lang Xang Avenue opposite the presidential palace. Surrounded by a park, construction finished in 1968 and now visitors can pay a nominal entry fee and climb to the top for a first-rate view of Vientiane.
The Night Market opens daily along the riverfront as the sun goes down over the Mekong and stays open until 9:30pm. Merchants sell all manner of souvenirs and food from carts and red-roofed tents. Construction has begun on a more permanent market down at water level that is scheduled to open in 2018.
Pha That Luang is a national symbol of Laos both of Buddhism and national sovereignty. Legend has it that part of Buddha’s breastbone is buried here. Originally dating back to 300 CE, the most recent restoration was completed in the 1930s. In November visitors can take part in the three-day Boun That Luang Festival, one of the biggest in Vientiane.
Ho Phra Keo is a former temple turned into a museum to house Buddhist relics. It was originally built in the 1560s to house the Emerald Buddha where it stayed for over 200 years. The Buddha was taken to Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok when the Siamese sacked Vientiane in 1779, but Ho Phra Keo still stands.
Located on Kouvieng Road just down from the morning market, the COPE Visitor Center shows the dark history of the Lao Civil War and the 260 million bombs that were dropped on Laos from 1964-1973. COPE provides artificial limbs and rehabilitation for people, many of them children, who have lost limbs due to UXOs, or unexploded ordinances.
The city has a tropical monsoon climate, every month having an average daytime temperature above 80 °F (27 °C) and more than 80 percent of Vientiane’s annual precipitation on the average falling in the five months May–September.