Vientiane and Surrounds Travel Guide
As the capital of Laos, Vientiane is the main arrival point for most visitors to the country. With no high rise buildings or four-lane highways, Vientiane is a big step away from Bangkok or Singapore, and many locals want to keep it that way. Visitors will find a different mindset here than in neighboring Thailand. The pace is slower and people are genuinely friendly.
The main gateway into Vientiane is Wattay International Airport, with direct flights from Kunming (China), Hanoi (Vietnam) and Bangkok (Thailand). For visitors who are already in Thailand, it is also possible to take a domestic flight to Udon Thani and then drive 45 minutes to the border crossing into Vientiane. The bridge crossing is only a 30-minute drive from downtown Vientiane.
Nestled along the Mekong River, Vientiane is a capital city that is easily explored on foot or bicycle. The main attractions are its numerous temples and glimpses of the former colonial splendor of the city. No visit to Vientiane would be complete without stopping along the river to eat some sticky rice and spicy papaya salad, sip a Beer Lao and watch the sunset.
The khao chi, is the Lao baguette, testament to the French colonial background of Laos. Baguettes have become part of Lao culture and you will find plenty of stalls serving khao chi with a range of condiments: pate, shredded pork, cut papaya, cucumber, butter, mayonnaise and hot sauce. Get them all or choose what you want.
Vientiane has great and reasonably priced French and European food. Restaurants are scattered throughout the city, but many are within the city center, such as La Terrace or Central. For shopping, try all the side streets that lead up to the Mekong River. Here you will find wonderful handicrafts and woven items.
To the north is the glittering That Luang temple, almost too bright to look at in the sunlight. Another must visit is Buddha Park, which lies about a 15-minute drive from Vientiane’s city center. This collection of enormous concrete Buddhas, Hindu deities and mythical beasts is a marvel.
Getting around town is easy. If it isn’t too hot, then walking is an easy option. Walk or bicycle up the Vientiane ‘Champs Elysee’, a four-lane road that leads up to Vientiane’s equivalent of the Arc de Triomphe, the Patuxai (Victory Gate). There are plenty of bicycle rentals in town and reasonably priced taxis. Just make sure you negotiate the price first.