The state capital Vientiane has about 200,000 inhabitants, depending how far you include its scope. In the whole metropolitan area are approximately 700,000 inhabitants. The name Vientiane comes from the former colonial ruler France and is the common international city name. The Laotians call it Vieng Chan. 'Vieng' means city and 'Chan' means sandalwood or moon. Composed it means city of sandalwood or city of the moon. It is the political, cultural and economic center of the country.
The atmosphere in Vientiane very relaxed and it feels more like a small town. The Chanthabuli District is the center, home to most offices, hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs and discos. The wide Thanon Lane Xang Boulevard extends from the Presidential Palace over Patuxai (Victory Monument) to the most important religious site, the Pha That Luang temple. In addition to these attractions, there are countless fantastic temples, museums and markets. On the banks of the Mekong River you can unwind and relax over a drink and snack.
The area of Vientiane has been inhabited since the Stone Age and is located in the northwest. The city was founded in the 13th century by the Lan Chang / Lan Xang kingdom. At this time, however, Luang Prabang was the real capital. In 1563 Vientiane became officially the capital of Laos.
In 1575, the Burmese occupied the region for seven years. After that, two independent empires formed, with Luang Prabang and Vientiane as their capitals. King Nokeo Kumane united the two kingdoms again in 1591 and Vientiane became the sole capital. When the Burmese destroyed Ayutthaya, also parts of Laos fell again into their hands. Not too long after, the area came under the control of the resurgent Empire of Siam.
In 1887 Siam ceded the area of Vientiane to French Indochina. However, the French showed no great interest since they focused on Vietnam.
During the Second World War, Indochina came under Japanese rule. They still left the colonial administration to the French.
On 1st of September 1945, after the end of World War II, the Kingdom of Laos announced its independence. Finally, by the end of the Vietnam War in late 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao gained control over Vientiane without great bloodshed.
The state capital is located in a lush landscape and draws on the banks of the Mekong River for several kilometers. On the opposite side of the river is Thailand. 25 kilometers from Vientiane stands the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, linking the two countries.
The Wattay International Airport is just 4 kilometers away from Vientiane. It’s modern and contains two floors with an international and domestic terminal. The airport is served internationally only by the countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, southern China, Malaysia and Singapore.
At national level Luang Prabang and Pakse are connected daily, Xieng Khuang 6 times and Huay Xai and Oudomxay is served by Lao Airline 4 times a week. Lao Air operates 2 times a week flights to Phongsali , Samneua and Sayaboury .
To use an airport taxi to the city, a coupon must be purchased either in the national or international arrivals hall. The journey takes around 15 minutes.
From the city to the airport cheaper tuk tuks are available. Public buses do not go to the airport. The nearest bus stop is about 500 meters away on the main road.
Between the Thai border town of Nong Khai and the suburb of Vientiane, Tha Naleng, is a shuttle train. But the route to Vientiane itself must then be covered with a tuk tuk or taxi.
From Nong Khai are daily express-train services to/from Bangkok which take about 12 hours.
Buses are the most popular means of transport from Thailand to Laos. They drive through the border town of Nong Khai. Those who did not obtain in advance a Laos Visa have to get off at the border. The buses do not wait and those travellers must check for another transport to the 25 kilometer far away Vientiane. But there are plenty of tuk tuks and taxis.
From Phnom Penh in Cambodia are daily buses. The journey takes at least 27 hours and travellers must change buses between 2 and 4 times.
More or less direct buses connect as well with Vietnam. From Hanoi it takes about 20 hours and from Hue between 14 to 18 hours.
Two different bus terminals are used for journeys inside Laos. The south terminal is 10 kilometers from the center and for destinations such as Pakse. The northern terminal is just a bit outside the center on Asiane Road and for trips like Luang Prabang.
In the city there are the old public, non-air-conditioned buses. They are very cheap, but the routes are not labeled in English.
The easiest way is a taxi ride, but they are without taxi meters. There are also three different sizes of three-wheelers. The Jumbos are in contrast to the name the smallest. Then the universal tuk tuks come and the largest are the Sky Labs. Tuk tuks are best suited for tourists. The drivers have a card with the most popular destinations and their prices. However, one must negotiate the fare, and if it is too expensive, turn away. This helps often to reduce the price.
For these trips you should always have enough small money. Especially the drivers of the three-wheeled vehicles often have not enough change.
The center can be explored easily on foot. Since the traffic in the city moves slowly, a bicycle is very convenient. But you have to pay attention to the holes in the pavement.
The magnificent Wat Sisaket is probably the oldest temple in the city and offers an extremely harmonious atmosphere. It is home to more than 6,800 Buddha statues.
Opposite is the equally fantastic Hor Prakeo. It is the former royal temple, which housed the magical Emerald Buddha. This unique statue was captured by the Siamese army during their conquest and is now in the Wat Phra Keo Tempel in Bangkok. Nowadays, the Hor Prakeo is an art museum that exhibits a fascinating collection.
The Chedi is the home of the seven-headed dragon, the protector of Vientiane.
Pha That Luang
The temple with the gilded stupa is the national symbol of Laos. The complex contains as well the North- and the South temple.
Other temples in the city
The four remarkable temples of Onteu, Inpeng, Mixay and Haisok are situated in the city center and are worthwhile a visit.
This fantastic museum is a must for all museum lovers. The first floor is devoted to the early history, the second to the 18th century and the events of the revolutionary period.
A visit to the Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane, the Patuxai, is a must. The monument is seven stories high and a staircase leads to the viewing platform. The panoramic view of the city is spectacular. The adjacent, palm-lined park is an ideal place to relax.
The promenade along the Mekong River is just perfect for relaxing. There are several restaurants and pubs.
Markets and shopping centers
The morning market, called Talat Sao, is open throughout the day and the offered goods are extremely versatile. On the ground floor are mainly textiles, from the cheap t-shirt to gorgeous silk and cotton fabrics. In addition, many electronic items and watches are sold. However, most are cheap pirated copies. On the second floor clothes, gold and jewelery products are sold.
Adjacent to the market, there are delicious treats to buy like fried grasshoppers, worms and larvae.
The Talat Sao Shopping Mall is located in the same place. On weekends, many Laotians from the rural areas visit the shopping center. One of the main attractions are the escalators and who can master them, is celebrated as a hero.
24 km away from the city, direction to the Thai border, lays the Buddha Park. A visit should not be missed. There are more than 200 Buddhist and Hindu sculptures made of cement. Particularly impressive is the huge Buddha statue.
Nam Ngum Lake
A day trip to the shores of the Nam Ngum Lake adds to the variety. Many Laotians go there on weekends to relax. There are floating restaurants and boat trips to the island. You can book a tour through the hotel or travel agency.
Vientiane has a tropical climate and can be visited throughout the year. Most pleasant it is during the dry and cool season from November to February. The temperatures are between 16 and 30 ° C. In the remaining months it is 20 to 31 degrees, except from March to May, when it can be hot and up to 34 ° C. In May, the rainy season begins and lasts until October, with the most rain in August and September. During the months of May to July it usually rains in the late afternoon and at night, but only for a short time.