Laos is a country I had thought of visiting many times over the last couple of years but one which I never really seemed to have enough time to.
But because of the unforeseen coronavirus epidemic from early 2020, I was unable (nor was it recommended) to go back to China. So after spending a few weeks in South Korea, I successfully applied for a Laos visa and booked my flight to Vientiane.
Even though I had been looking forward to visiting Laos for a while, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The truth is that Laos is not a country you hear about very often from travellers as they often choose to skip it for more popular countries like Thailand or Vietnam.
ARRIVING TO VIENTIANE
My flight landed in Vientiane at about 10:30 PM, and within 20 minutes I had already passed through immigration and I was out of the airport. I took a taxi from the airport into town which only cost $7 USD. There is a shuttle bus that runs from the airport to the city, but service had stopped at 9:00 PM.
The ride from the airport into the city took only about 15 minutes.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE CITY
If I had to pick one thing that surprised me the most about Vientiane, it has to be the fact that it is so slow paced, especially for a capital.
If you’ve been to other big cities in Southeast Asia, like Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh, you know that capital cities in this part of the world are extremely chaotic and polluted.
Even though Vientiane is the capital city of Laos, it barely feels like it. The atmosphere around Vientiane is quite relaxed and it has a very small town feel to it. There is no traffic, I managed to walk to many of the sights within the city. Transport, food and entrance fees to many of the sights is quite inexpensive when compared to other cities, like in Luang Prabang where everything costs twice more than it should.
Vientiane’s buildings display a French colonial architecture style, which only adds on to its charm. Plus, even though many western comfort foods can be found all over the city, no brand names like McDonald’s or Starbucks can be found anywhere in the city.
Its proximity to Thailand may also have something to do with its relaxed vibe. Indeed, many travellers choose Vientiane as a departing point to cross the Laos-Thai border, easily reachable by bus from the city center.
It’s true. Vientiane is not packed with sights or things to do, at all. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any worth a few days of exploring either.
In fact, the lack of sights made it so that I spent more time enjoying the city for what it was, rather than for what it had to offer.
But if sights are what you’re after, here are a few that made Vientiane an enjoyable city to enjoy and look around.
Looking quite similar to the Arch de Triomphe in France, the Patuxay monument sits smack in the city centre to commemorate the liberation of Laos in 1975.
Its location is halfway from the hotel area and Vientiane’s other main monument: Pha That Luang. Each located within 30 minutes of one another.
PHA THAT LUANG TEMPLE
While far from being the most impressive Stupa you’ve ever seen (unless it’s your first one), the Pha That Luang temple is definitely worth a visit if you come to Vientiane.
On a sunny day, this temple packs with locals and tourists alike. In the back of it there is an interesting mini-market, while some restaurants can be found all around the nearby area.
I’m not a crazy fan of markets anymore. I’ve come to find the haggling too tedious to really care about buying things.
So it’s a good thing that most things at the Night Market are cheaply priced and ready to go.
Located by the Mekhong River, the Vientiane Night Market is a huge affair, with hundreds and hundreds of kiosks all selling different and the same things, all at a very cheap price.
One of the oddest and most interesting attractions in Vientiane, and definitely my favorite.
Over one hundred Buddha statues are found in this not-so-big park a few kilometers outside the city. It is a curious site and one that should definitely be visited.
Bus #14 departs from the bus station every 20-30 minutes for a cost of 8,000 KIP.
MY OVERALL IMPRESSION OF VIENTIANE
While Vientiane will not become one of my favorite cities in the world, I am still glad that I came and that I gave this city its fair opportunity and got to know it.
Most travellers use Vientiane simply as an entry point into Laos but do not spend too much time. However, if you have the chance to visit Laos, you should definitely spend some time in beautiful Vientiane.
What do you think of Vientiane?