Let’s all admit it: when looking for a new place to travel, or things to do once you’re at your new destination—Google is our best friend. When searching for “top travel destinations”, Laos doesn’t necessarily show up at the top of the list, especially compared to its border countries Thailand and Vietnam. But as all countries in Southeast Asia have something special to offer, so does Laos—and exploring Vientiane was full of cultural surprises.
Vientiane is the capital city of Laos. Because it was colonized by France, the city has a unique blend of French-Laotian culture that is unlike any other. The architecture of the buildings replicate a French-Renaissance style; while the streets are lined with temples and outdoor markets—staying true to the Southeast Asian vibe. This polarity makes being in Vientiane feel like you are in a different country with every corner you turn.
Though I was only in Vientiane for a few days, not much time is needed to make your way through all the top spots in this city.
Here is a 2 day guide to Vientiane, Laos:
That Dam is a massive stupa made out of stone is quite the sight from afar, and even more immaculate up close.
Covered with green plants that creep up all the way to the top, Laotian people believe that a seven-headed nāga (snake deity) lives inside it.
Surrounded by a busy traffic circle lined with French and Laotian restaurants, this tourist spot is the perfect place to feel the two cultural vibes that Vientiane has to offer. It’s centrally located, making it easy to walk to as you make your way to the other “must-see” spots in the city.
Translated in English to mean “Victory Gate”, the Patuxai monument was built in dedication to those who fought to gain independence from France.
Originally, it was intended to be an airport, which is why there is a long runway that stretches out from it on either side. It is surrounded by palm trees and gorgeous fountains, and its cathedral-style architecture really adds to the European flavor that is so prevalent throughout the city.
For 30 baht ($0.99 USD), make your way up the spiral staircases and elegantly painted stone walls to the top for a panoramic view of Vientiane. After breathing it all in, grab some local souvenirs at the shops that line the exit.
Visiting Wat Si Saket in the early morning allows for a chance to beat the tourist crowds, and the heat!
With no entrance fee, you can walk all around the site venturing in and out of the temples, while spotting Monks going about their daily routines along the way. Search around to find the reclining Buddha, the large golden temple (Pha That Luang), and an open-style temple with hand-painted tiles covering the ceiling.
Whether you’re giving an offering, snapping some photos, or simply enjoying the space, Wat Si Saket is a magical location that will give you a true cultural feel of Laos.
Grab a Tuk Tuk and zoom through the bustling streets to the Riverside Night Bazaar.
This outdoor night market sits just beside the Mekong River, and is the perfect place to catch a beautiful Laotian sunset and spend a couple thousand LAK on clothes and souvenirs (the Laotian currency is 8,720 LAK per 1 USD. Having $150 USD literally makes you a millionaire—conversion rates are crazy!).
Join in on the nightly dance classes that take place in the large open amphitheater, grab a fresh coconut milk smoothie, or load up on handmade clothing as you make your way through this market.
Good price, perfect location, friendly staff!