The Quiet Capital Vientiane

May 29, 2012 Laos Write a Comment 15,406 Views

Vientiane: The Quiet Capital In Southeast Asia.

Only tow days short of the New Year 2012 we arrived in Vientiane with an AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur. Some people had already told us that Vientiane (and pretty much all of Laos) was very peaceful, slow and quiet … and so it was: No rush at the airport, no noise, efficient formalities, at the exit of the airport there was no line of taxis waiting and honking, no tourist guides eagerly waiting for customers.

The Quiet Capital.

We stepped out into Vientiane and were totally amazed that the airport was almost deserted. Finally after changing some money we caught a taxi to our pre-booked hotel. The airport was not far from the city, so we were there in less than ten minutes. Our hotel was an old renovated building at the river front with huge rooms and a lovely pool – so it was a nice spot to spend New Years at. After settling in, we started exploring the city and immediately noticed that this capital was different than other capitals in Southeast Asia: not a lot of traffic, only few tuk-tuks, some motorbikes and cars which all drove very orderly & slow. Nothing compared to busy and bustling cities like Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City … The Mekong river is flowing languidly along the board walk, which is almost finished with the refurbishment (to give the city a flashier look). Some buildings along the river front are still in pretty bad shape though.

The inner part of Vientiane is a bit more lively. The area around the bus station is probably the busiest place in town. Vientiane is also not as large as other cities and therefore everything can be reached by foot, though travellers tend to rent bicycles or motorbikes, to get around faster. “PVO Motorcycle Rental” on Norkeokumman Road has good bikes to rent and allows driving anywhere in Laos as well (this is where we rented our motorbikes). You have to leave your passport but that’s no problem because no one is going to want to see it (unlike for example in India) when travelling through Laos.

As Laos was once French territory, it’s easy to find shops selling wine and champagne (which was lovely for New Years). You’ll find a lot of different restaurants serving all kind of food in down town Vientiane. We opted for local cuisine – why eat Sushi in Laos? – and found an extraordinary little restaurant called “Lao Kitchen” in Rue Hengboun close to Lao National Culture Hall. This place serves authentic Lao food and has a very very pleasant ambience – highly to recommend!

Street Markets Ahoy.

The market behind the American Embassy sell a lot of curiosities: antiques, animal parts like rhino horns or  tiger claws. We were a bit suspicious if these were fakes but who knows … if there is a demand, it could be. In that case, poor animals! At the wet market in Vientiane you’ll find different kinds of strange food like bush meat , toads, frogs and snakes. You can also buy them the “take-away version”. There’s definitely plenty to explore here.

With our rented motorbikes we drove to the Buddha Park, which is a sculpture array about 25 km Southeast of Vientiane. The statues are made of concrete and often have a religious theme … some are really bizarre with a labyrinth inside the structure which you can follow until you find your way to the highest outlook.

In the evening a night market opens along the riverbank and on the street side lots of food stalls open their kitchen, offering all sorts of yummy food. Some places even have mattresses where you can lay down and eat your meal while lying – this was not ours though …

And one more thing that should be mentioned … all through our days in Vientiane, we hardly saw any beggars or homeless people. Of course there are some but a very educated Lao man told us that unless you are very very lazy, nobody in Laos needs to starve. There is enough for everyone and if you are bright and clever you can live a very good life in Laos. So maybe that’s why almost everybody has a smile on their face :)

If you want to read more about our motorbike adventure through Laos, please check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our trip.

Well known: Pha That Luang Temple in Vientiane.
A must visit monument in Vientiane: Pha That Luang Temple aka “The Golden Temple”.
Communist Laos has around 5 million Buddhists, who form roughly 70% of its population.
Communist Laos has around 5 million Buddhists, who form roughly 70% of its population.
Early in the morning you will see several monks walking along the river bank of the Mekong river.
Early in the morning you will see several monks walking along the river bank of the Mekong river.
As slow as the Mekong river runs through Vientiane, life along its banks is.
As slow as the Mekong river runs through Vientiane, life along its banks is.
When the Mekong runs low in Vientiane, the river banks are used as walkways.
When the Mekong runs low in Vientiane, the river banks are used as walkways.
Motorbiking through Laos was one of the best adventures ever. And as you can see, we had heaps of fun.
Motorbiking through Laos was one of the best adventures ever. And as you can see, we had heaps of fun.
Goldsmiths can be found at the market in Vientiane just behind the American Embassy.
Goldsmiths can be found at the market in Vientiane just behind the American Embassy.
Selling goods at a market in Vientiane.
Selling goods at a market in Vientiane.
Finding grilled frogs at the markets in Vientiane is nothing uncommon.
Finding grilled frogs at the markets in Vientiane is nothing uncommon.
Grilled fresh fish at a food stall in Vientiane.
Grilled fresh fish at a food stall in Vientiane.
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