The laid-back and quiet capital of Vientiane is a mix of French colonial architecture and Buddhist temples, as well as friendly locals and tasty cafes and restaurants.
While walking around the old quarters of the city, visitors will find French villas stylishly renovated into cute cafes, glittering Buddhist temples, interesting markets, wandering monks, and budget-friendly eats.
And although it’s Laos’ capital, sadly, there’s not really much to do in Vientiane… But I was determined to find out what I could do with my time here.
Check out these things to do in Vientiane:
COPE Visitor Centre
This place is difficult to visit but completely worth it. It’s a rehabilitation center focused on making walking aids, wheelchairs, and artificial limbs in Laos. Offering a myriad of information on the bombings, the COPE centre has a museum part discussing what happened in Laos.
From the year of 1964 to the year 1973, the US army dropped more than 2 million tons of artillery on the small country of Laos, making it the most heavily bombed country per capita. Of those 2 million tons, 80 million failed to detonate.
They’re still affecting the lives of the Lao people today; one person is either killed or injured by an unexploded bomb each day.
It was absolutely heartbreaking to learn about the bombings the United States unloaded on the peaceful country of Laos. To make matters worse, I didn’t even learn about our involvement with Laos in school. It was eye-opening to visit this solemn centre but 100% worth it.
Also known as Wat Xieng Khuan, the Buddha Park is a weird sculpture park filled with over 200 strange and odd-looking Buddha statues. According to some legend, the park was started by a rogue monk who was trying to reconsolidate Buddhism and Hinduism by depicting various scenes from both religions.
And although most of the sculptures look like they are centuries old, the park was only started in 1958. Unfortunately, many of the signs at the park explaining the statues and their meanings lack information in English but it’s still worth visiting! It was my favorite of all the things to do in Vientiane.
Laos National History Museum
Not going to lie, I wasn’t expecting much from this museum but it ended up being FILLED with cool information. The museum kind of walks you through the history of Laos; from the days when clay pots were used to bury children, to the history of the French invasion, to the way women helped influence how the country is today.
There are several rooms or “exhibits” showing off different things; the first floor contains various artifacts like ancient clay jars, dinosaur bones, pottery shards, and Khmer sculptures. The second floor depicts the turbulent history of Laos; going over the Siamese invasion and the French colonial period, to the American bombings and presence during the Vietnam war. There’s quite a bit to see here, it took me longer to walk through it than I previously imagined.
Patuxia Victory Monument
Built between 1957 and 1968, the Patuxia is a war monument located in the middle of Vientiane. It’s dedicated to those who fought in the struggle to gain independence from France. The design of the monument is inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, while the upper part and decoration is that of the typical Laos style.
All in all, I was really hoping that Vientiane would surpass my expectations and steal a piece of my heart… but, alas, it did nothing of the sorts. It’s pretty underwhelming; Vientiane fun to explore but only for a couple days.
Have you ever been to Vientiane? How did you like it? Let me know in the comments!
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