I started my day determined to see Vientiane for all I could in a day because I was already planning my onward trip to Vang Vieng.
Any good day has to start with a good breakfast and one thing I will say about Vientiane is that it is filled with so many lovely coffee shops, restaurants, bakeries – you can definitely feel the French influence on it.
I very quickly learned that the prices in Laos are a lot more expensive (particularly food) than Thailand. At first it didn’t make too much sense to me… Laos is one of the very poorest countries in the world. I soon had a few explanations though. Laos is landlocked and has to import most of its food, however their transport infrastructure is frankly awful.
Unlike Thailand that has nice roads, flourishing airports and good trade links, Laos has the worst roads I’ve ever seen (not so bad in Vientiane but everywhere else is another story…), a quite diverse landscape and very limited air links with other countries.
So here are some of the things I saw in Vientiane…
Wat Si Saket
The oldest surviving temple in Vientiane that was built between 1819-1824. It cost 5000 kip to enter (£0.50) and is a nice little temple to visit with thousands of Buddhas. Quite a lot of souvenir sellers here that detract from it a little but it was very quiet when I visited and seemed peaceful.
That Dam (Black Stupa)
Yes it’s really called ‘that dam’ but it’s not a dam…
I didn’t do much but observe this, but I liked the story behind it. The legend is supposedly that a ‘Naga’ – a seven headed water serpent lived here protecting the city… Now it’s here just protecting a roundabout!
Lao Presidential Palace
I took a few snaps of the palace in passing too…
Patuxai (Otherwise known as the Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane or the Vertical runway)
Patuxai is a monument dedicated to those that fought for independence from the French in 1949. The Americans gave money and cement to Laos in order to build an airport during the Vietnam war and instead the Laotians decided to build this gate that looks like the actual Arc de Triomphe.
You can enter it and climb up it and visit some of the gift shops inside selling tacky tourist goods.