Vientiane Capital

Located on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand, peaceful Vientiane capital offers a relaxing riverside break


The first traces of Vientiane, the “city of the moon” or “walled city” according to the interpretations, date back to the twelfth century. It is only in the sixteenth century, during the reign of Ling Setthatirat, that Vientiane became the first capital.

With just over 900,000 inhabitants, yet it is the largest city of the country. Despite this status, Vientiane capital therefore remains a vital to human dimension, unlike neighboring capitals of the Southeast Asian countries of overcrowding, traffic jams and population. It is therefore easily visited on foot or by bike, which gives a very pleasant view of the city.

Besides many pagodas and some vestiges of French colonial architecture, the fact that the city is along the Mekong adds to the charm and relaxed atmosphere prevailing there. The river affects the orientation of the city. Overall, to identify the geographical organization of the city, simply distinguish the three main avenues in Vientiane starting with Lan Xang Avenue; the backbone of the city connecting the Presidential Palace to the Arc de Triomphe:

  • Thanon Setthathirath (street), which runs along the river west of the road from the airport to Wat Simuang
  • Thanon Samsenthai, axis parallel to Setthathirat, serving just over the heart of the city but the traffic in the opposite direction
  • Thanon Lane Xang, axis perpendicular to the previous two, which connects the Presidential Palace at Patuxai (Anousavari)

Tourist attractions

That Luang (That Luang Square)

This is the most famous monument of Laos. This That or Stupa is named for its yellow color (Luang). Built in 1566 by King Say Setthathirat, it would contain according to rumors a hair, sternum bone or genital part of Buddha. Originally, its real name was Pha Chedi Lokatchoulamani. This large reliquary is made of a perfect square base, dominated by three levels, each conveying a reflection of part of the Buddhist doctrine.

That Luang is the subject of the first restoration at the beginning of the century by the French School of the Far East, then renovated again in Laos in the 1930s.

Every year, That Luang is the center of great ceremonies that take place on the 15th day of the full moon of the 12th month, in mid-November.

Patuxai or Anousavary (After Thanon Lane Xang)

Monument erected in the sixties, it celebrates the memory of victims of pre-revolutionary wars, Patuxai (Victory Gate) is a replica of the Parisian Arc de Triomphe embelishing Lao motifs. This monument is also known as Anousavary (monument), originally the cement which shaped arch to serve the Americans to build new runway Vientiane airport, which gave it the nickname as Lao “vertical track”. While it is true that the Patuxai does not represent an exceptional architectural achievement, the fact remains that the panorama seen from the monument is appreciable.

Wat Sisaket (Angle Setthathirat/Lane Xang Road)

This is the oldest temple in Vientiane and indeed the only one to have been spared by the Sisamese during the invasion of 1827. The date seems to be building around 1818/1919, by King Chao Anou also called Anouvong. Originally, Wat Sisaket had a Pali name: Wat Sattasahatsa Vihararama. A cloister surrounding the sim houses 6,000 bronze Buddha images made from silver, wood and clay dating back from the XVI to the XIX century. The interior of the sim is decorated with paintings representing the previous lives of the Buddha.

Wat Ho Phra Keo (Thanon Setthathirat, facing Sisaket)

This Wat was originally a royal monastery, a place of worship where the exercise was not insured by monks but by the King himself. Built by King Setthatirat in 1565, it contained an emerald Buddha. In 1779, the Siamese captured this piece. The temple was later destroyed during the invasion of 1827. It was only in 1936 that began the restoration of Wat by the Lao and French authorities, the aim to create a museum of religious art. You can admire the original Khmer statues, a golden throne, stele and doors engraved inscription of the Mon.

That Dam (That Dam Square)

Built in the seventeenth century, it houses a seven-headed dragon, protector of the city. Legend has it that the dragon would have made his last appearance in 1828, during the destruction of the city by the Siamese to protect the inhabitants from the invader. It is named for its black color (dam).

Wat Ong Teu (Thanon Setthathirat)

Built in the 17th century, during the reign of King Setthatirat, it is considered one of the most important wats in Laos. “Ong Teu” means heavy Buddha; Indeed inside the sim of this wat contains the largest and heaviest Buddha in Laos. Like most temples in Vientiane, it was destroyed in 1828. Its reconstruction dates back about a century. During the monarchy, oaths of allegiance to the king had significant place in this temple. Wat Ong Teu is the residence of the Clergy and Vientiane Central Laotian Buddhist study reinforces the importance of this sanctuary.

Wat Si Muang (In the street of the same name)

Built in 1563 (or 1566 according to different sources) by King Setthatirat when transferring the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, this wat is the most popular in the city. It houses the City Pillar Lak Muang. Its phallic shape denotes the importance of the cult of fertility. Legend has it that the temple was built on a hole that would have sacrificed a pregnant woman and a statue of Buddha and surrounding the pillar would have powers benefit from childbirth.

Revolutionary Museum (Thanon Samsenthai)

Occupying the former residence of French governors, the Museum traces the history of the Lao Revolution in the spirit of socialist realism. The halls presenting the different stages of independence are very interesting there.

Talat Sao (Thanon Lane Xang)

This large covered market, known as “morning” market, offers all possible goods: fabrics, wood paneling, utensils of all kinds, jewelry, silverware, gold but also a wide selection of weaving pieces from different provinces of Laos.

Buddha Park or Xieng Khuan (25km from Vientiane)

This park along the Mekong meets a set of Hindu and Buddhist statues made by Luang Pu in 1950s. The works are made of reinforced concrete, some of which exceed the length (or height) of 10 meters.

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