Vientiane of Laos not just a stopover destination

ome first-time visitors to Vientiane may think the capital is just a stopover destination because it is an arrival point for people from around the globe. But visitors should at least take the time to learn about some of the exciting activities on offer in this rapidly developing city.

Before travelling north or south, Vientiane should be your first option for a couple of days of relaxation. It has a wide range of choices that should encourage overseas visitors to spend a few more days in the capital after the long journey from their home country.

Vientiane is a city rich in historical and cultural sites. It has several ancient temples, something that most people are surely eager to see more of.

If you’ve already read through your guidebook, you will realise that there is a plethora of places to visit, good food to eat, and festivals to attend.

Vientiane is not only the centre of administration, economy, culture, communication and business in Laos but is also home to some of the country’s most important religious monuments and Buddhist icons. If this doesn’t get you excited, consult a doctor to make sure you still have a pulse!

The main banks, factories, schools and import-export companies are located in the centre of Vientiane, though most of these will not let you in without a valid reason.

As a long term resident myself, let me give you a few ideas about what to see during your short stay here. It is initially recommended that visitors wander around the only ancient temple remaining intact after the destruction of Vientiane by Siamese troops in 1827-1828, Vat Sisaket.

The temple itself was built in 1551 and restored in 1818 by King Anouvong, the last monarch of Vientiane in the Lane Xang Kingdom. It is located at the corner of Lane Xang Avenue and Setthathirath Road.

The main building houses hundreds of little niches and shelves containing more than 6,840 Buddha images.

Provided they survive this initiation, travellers can explore more interesting places in the city by themselves.

A diversity of food is available at hotels and restaurants, including local dishes, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Western food. It is suggested visitors eat well and heartily if they plan to spend some time in Vientiane.

The Buddha Park is another attraction, though it is 28km south of the city centre in Hadxaifong district. It is packed with a collection of large Buddhist and Hindu sculptures, scattered throughout the gardens. The park is located at the edge of the Mekong River and is open every day from 8am-4pm.

Visitors can get there by taxi, tuk-tuk , a bicycle or a motorbike. Charges are reasonable but you should carefully negotiate with the driver to avoid being overcharged. Usually this is only possible if you are Lao.

Though more and more shopping centres are being built in Vientiane, the Talat Sao Mall will be your favourite because it has a variety of places to buy Lao textiles and silk fabrics.

These traditional woven products have probably originated from Huaphan, Xieng Khuang, Savannakhet or Champassak provinces. There are also many stores selling other items.

In addition, local produce can be found at other privately-owned stores in the city centre or on the outskirts of Vientiane.

This time of year is supposed to be the most pleasant time for foreign visitors who have problems with weather adjustment, because in general it’s neither too hot nor too cold. However, most visitors will find it somewhat on the warm side.

Like many other agencies, the Vientiane Tourism Department ran a booth at the recent That Luang Festival to promote the potential of tourism sites, accommodation and facilities on offer in Vientiane.

According to the department, during the first six months of 2012 a total of 363,199 people visited Vientiane. Just thought you’d like to know.

The staff of Vientiane Times wish you a Happy New Year and hope you enjoy your holiday in Laos. We also hope you take home some good stories to share with family and friends so that they too may be inspired to visit Laos at some point in the future.