VIENTIANE, the capital city of Laos, is just like any other capital city in the world that often gets the reputation of just being a transit place until you head to other ‘more interesting’ destinations within the country. Don’t get Vientiane wrong! This city is also worth exploring. I want to share with you a few things that you can do to enjoy Vientiane.
Checking out the tourist attractions
If you like to walk, then Vientiane is a great city to explore (most roads have large pavements). The only problem is the heat that is sometimes quite annoying, but you can walk in the shades or choose the timing to walk when the sun is lower in the sky. Alternatively, you can rent a city bicycle for 10,000 kip per day or rent a motorbike for 70,000 kip per day.
Ho Phra Keo and Vat Sisaket are located across the road from each other. Both sites are worth checking out! Ho Phra Keo is a museum, which was previously a temple and is located next to the presidential palace. It doesn’t have the biggest collection to see, but the architecture of the building is amazing.
Meanwhile, Vat Sisaket is the only vat in Vientiane that survived the looting of the city in 1827. This temple has an amazing collection of Buddha statues and mural paintings inside the temple. Altogether there are more than 10,000 Buddha statues in the Vat Sisaket complex.
That Luang is located around 4 km from the city center and is a nice complex to walk around and explore. I walked from the city center to That Luang and back. It was an OK walk (for me). It might better to be in That Luang during the day, so you’ll get the sun shining through the gold big stupa, which I think is going to be blink blink and goldy!
Do the culinary journey
Street food stall – I can’t recall the restaurant name (or they don’t actually have anything written as the restaurant name). This stall is located next to the Cafe Croissant d’Or on Rue Francois Ngin road. Do try their chicken soup, which has a very rich flavor!
Kua Lao – It’s a nice place to have a Laotian dinner with traditional Lao live music and dancing. Kua Lao is a very welcoming restaurant and the food is amazingly pretty (and tasty too!). I tried duck larb, stir long bean and sticky rice which was really tasty!
Lao Kitchen – I can say that this is the cheaper version of Kua Lao. So there is no fancy traditional Lao live music or dancing at the restaurant to accompany your meal. Lao kitchen serves tasty food just like Kua Lao!
Le Banneton – this is my favourite place to hang out and eat. Though they don’t have very comfortable seats or free wifi, this place is so lovely. The staff are really friendly, the place is reasonably quiet and the most important thing is that they do have fantastic food! You should try their club sandwich (it is with ham and bacon, but you can change it to chicken if you don’t eat pork).
Scandinavian Bakery – their bread is not as fantastic as Le Banneton, but the Scandinavian bakery does have good deals. For 30,000 kip you can get the Scandinavian set consisting of a tasty croissant sandwich, a coffee/tea and a fruit juice.
Chicken soup 30,000 kip ($3.7) – 1 portion enough for 2 people.
Duck larb, stir vegetables (long bean), sticky rice and one bottle of beer cost 120,000 kip ($15) in Kua Lao restaurant; meanwhile in Lao kitchen with same food and drinks cost 90,000 kip ($11).
Stroll around near the Mekong river in the evening
This is a hot spot to hang around in the evening time for locals. Be a local and try to join the exercise, jog around or just sit and do some people watching (plus enjoy the view) on the side of the river. Take a lot of holiday snapshots, locals do this too so don’t worry it won’t disturb them!
Other obvious thing that you can do include shopping at the Vientiane night market! Since the market is dedicated for local people as well, you’ll find a large variety of stuff in the market compared to the night market in Luang Prabang. I also found the price is cheaper here, for example: a touristy Lao flag t-shirt in Luang Prabang cost around 35,000 kip, while in Vientiane market the same shirt cost around 20,000 kip.
About the guest blogger:
Firsta is a proud Indonesian who loves the ocean and the beach as much as the forests and the mountains. She likes to explore new places, meet new people and improve her photography skills. She shares her experiences, pictures and thoughts at Discover Your Indonesia.