Things to do in Vientiane
Many people who include Laos in their tour of Southeast Asia (since they hardly ever visit just one country) usually skip Vientiane. Under the idea that Vientiane is a languid, calm city, with no big things to do. But that is not 100% true. Vientiane has its charms, its magic, being able to captivate the hearts of those who spend a few days there and get to know the city. The capital of Laos has several temples and sacred places to visit on your trip to Vientiane, some of which are truly unmissable. Also, legacies of French colonization are still present. Both in architecture and in the flavors of typical of Vientiane, as you are about to discover. Let’s find the things to do in Vientiane as below.
Also known as Xieng Khuan, Buddha Park is located on the banks of the Mekong River, 15.5mi (25km) south of the capital city and just 1.5mi (3km) from Friendship Bridge on the Laos-Thai border.
Buddha Park is a sculpture garden housing a collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures in a park. The park has over 200 sculptures made from concrete in varying sizes from small to very large. The sculptures of the Buddha, several Hindu Gods, demons and mythological creatures like a three headed elephant are pretty weathered, giving them an impression of being old.
Among the statues present in the park stands out a reclining Buddha about 40 meters high. Another imposing figure is that of the god Indra. Considered the king of the gods in Hinduism, on top of a three-headed elephant. The park was designed and built-in 1958 by a monk named Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat. This monk had to flee Laos in 1975 when the Communist Party took over the government of the country.
PATUXAY MONUMENT – VICTORY ARCH OF LAOS
Patuxay monument was built in the center of Vientiane, Laos, at the end of Lan Xang Avenue on the Northeast. This is a famous architectural structure of art and sculpture, which is considered as the symbol of Vientiane capital. It honors those who fought for Laos independence from France.
The monument was designed to look like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris but followed the Laotian design with five towers representing the five principles of peaceful coexistence as well as the five Buddhist principles “thoughtful amiability, flexibility, honesty, honor, and prosperity”. It has gateways on four sides oriented towards four main directions with a pond in front of each gate meaning the reverence of Laotians to the brave warriors. Patuxai has seven main floors and two extras with 55 meters high and climbs up there by a spiral staircase. Standing on to the seventh floor, you can have a fantastic view of the whole Vientiane city and other architectural works around. With the ponds and park around the area, Patuxay is laid on a spacious and airy space nearby the headquarters of many important office buildings of Laos.
PHA THAT LUANG
Another place not to be missed in Vientiane is Pha That Luang. The main building is located in the center of the 4 km long complex.
The Pha That Luang, meaning “Great Sacred Stupa”, is the most sacred monument of Laos and the national symbol. You find it on the national seal, Lao currency and countless other places.
With a total height of 147.6 feet, the splendid structure was constructed on three levels with a soaring stupa surrounded by 30small stupas, all covered by gold leaf to demonstrate the grandeur and splendor of the kingdom. Legend has it that the temple was built as a Hindu temple in the 3rd century to hold the breastbone of Lord Buddha but was remade in the 13th century as a Khmer temple which fell into ruin. However, during the Siamese invasion, the stupa was destroyed again and was reconstructed in the 1930s based on the drawings of the original. Thus, the stupa gives a breath-taking insight into the history and culture of Laos. Illuminated at night, it’s even more splendid.
Wat Si Saket is located on Lan Xang Road, northwest of Haw Phra Kaew. It is the only temple in Laos that survived the Siamese occupation, which destroyed much of the capital in 1828. It features over 10,000 Buddha sculptures of varying sizes and styles. The temple also has beautiful architecture and layout, with a history that dates back to 1818.
Must-sees include its ornate 5-tiered roof, a drum tower, a small library with a Burmese-style roof, and the floral ceiling of the sim (ordination hall). The hall holds 7,000 images made from wood, stone and bronze.
WAT HO PRAKEO
Another Buddhist temple to visit in Vientiane is Wat Ho Phra Keo. Built-in 1565, it is one of the most impressive and imposing temple of the city.
Its first construction in 1565 served the function of a royal family’s personal chapel as well as a place for the Emerald Buddha. Time has gone by and Wat Ho Phra Keo is not used as a religious place, but it is today a museum.
A visit to the museum, you will have a great chance to marvel at carved wooden features, lacquered door, Hindu carvings and Buddha statues of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Especially, temple stairs represent a dragon with its head facing the ground.
Legendary river in Laos and all-over Southeast Asia, there is no trip to Vientiane that does not include a passage, albeit brief, to visit the Mekong River.
There is a park by the river where you can rent a bicycle and cycle along the bike path along the river.
Or you can go on foot or simply stop to rest and watch the pace of the city, the people who pass by and, who knows, even participate in one of the aerobics sessions.
But the best thing is to enjoy the sunset, one of the most beautiful in all of Laos.
Another beautiful legendary place to visit when you go to Vientiane is That Dam.
Also known as the Black Stupa, it was built in the middle of the 16th century. It is one of the only remaining structures in Laos from this historical period. Nowadays, with the blackened Stupa and with an apparent fading appearance, it is said that centuries ago, That Dam was covered entirely with gold. What made him shine and shine in an imposing way, inviting everyone who saw him contemplate.
Another legend that revolves around this monument is that it houses a seven-headed snake, also known as Naga. It was believed that this snake would occupy That Dam to protect the Stupa.
Vientiane also has something to do at night, and the Night Market is an excellent example of this, still being a beautiful tradition from almost all of Southeast Asia.
Located along the Vientiane waterfront, the Night Market, also called the Chinese Market, opens daily and is open until 9:30PM. There is an excellent place to eat something at night, as well as to buy the most varied pieces of handicrafts, textiles, clothes, accessories, and other souvenirs. Another striking feature of the Vientiane Night Market is the fact that the stalls are colored red as a pattern.
Indeed, this is a place that cannot be left out during your visit to Vientiane.