Do you know what my ex-colleagues, partner and the majority of other travellers I met have in common?
They all advised me to get in and out of Vientiane, the capital of Laos, as fast as possible.
I decided to give Vientiane the benefit of the doubt however, and stayed for two nights. Unfortunately, I should’ve listened to the advice I was given as I ended up staying 24 hours longer than necessary. Whilst others may disagree, I found Vientiane to be pretty dull, with nothing really special to offer. Sure, there are temples to see, markets to browse through and the Mekong River to walk by, but like I said, it was nothing special.
Really, the one and only attraction for me was the wide availability of super cheap, grilled, fresh seafood by the Mekong River.
If you do find yourself in Vientiane for longer than a dinner session, here’s some suggestions on how to pass your time in the capital based on what I did during my time there.
I started by visiting two of the main temples in the centre of town – Vat Sisaket and Vat Ho Phra Keo.
Walking along the road from Vat Sisaket to the Victory Monument, I stopped by the morning market which is located along the way. Unfortunately, there’s not much to see here in this rather unremarkable market, but hey, it was all about stringing out my time. 😛
The Victory Monument, also known as Patuxai, is a war monument built in honour of those who fought in the war for independence from France. Knowing that, it is a little surprising that this monument is also called the Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane due to its resemblance to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Rather unusually, there is also an official sign next to the arch, acknowledging the fact that Laos knows that the arch doesn’t look all that amazing, especially in close proximity. Talk about being too honest.
There’s not much else to view further in, away from the riverside, so I double backed on myself and went for a walk by the newly refurbished riverfront. Again, there’s not much to see, though a night market does run from about 6pm, selling mostly clothes and cheap trinkets. This night market is not a patch on that of the night market of Luang Prabang, so hold out if you’re going to head north after Vientiane.
If you’ve got nothing planned in the evening after dinner, consider chilling out with drinks accompanied by live music at Nam Phu, also known as The Fountain. It is not a big fountain, nor is it particularly fancy, but it does serve as the central landmark in downtown Vientiane. Multicoloured lights illuminate the fountain at night, while singers and guitarists perform local and Western pop classics. It’s nothing spectacular, but does provide a nice atmosphere to while away the time (be sure to bring insect repellent though as I got bitten alive here).
OK, so as you can see, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Vientiane. Have you been there? What were your impressions?