One Day in Vientiane

Buddha Park, Laos, Outside of Vientiane

The guidebooks will tell you that Vientiane, Laos, has a “French feel” or retains its “placid charm.” My experience is that Vientiane is a collection of impossible to cross streets and sidewalks filled with parked cars. It is as French as French fries and as charming as Los Angeles during the riots. I kid. It’s really not that bad. And since it is the capital of Laos, travelers might find themselves passing through the city. If that’s the case, I would definitely stay in Vientiane for one full day.

Here are the best things to do in Vientiane

8:00 am–Stroll Settathirath

Flanked by two temples–sparkling Wat Inpeng and Wat Sisaket, where thousands of Buddhas sit in the pigeon holed walls–Settathirath Road is a lovely walk in Vientiane. It’s one of the city’s main streets and it’s packed with wats and coffee shops, and if you stop off at each you’ll be sure to acquire enlightenment and/or the jitters when you reach the end. Keep in mind, many of the attractions on this road charge fifty cents to one dollar to visit. Even though it’s pennies, how many Buddhas do you really need to see in Laos?

Buddhas at Wat Sisaket in Vientiane

11:00 am–Bus to Buddha Park

To answer my previous question: All of the Buddhas in Buddha Park. At Vientiane’s central station, hop on bus #14 to the Friendship Bridge and transfer to a smaller bus that will take you to Buddha Park. The park looks like an overcrowded cemetery, but instead of headstones, it’s crammed with Buddhas and Hindu sculptures. It’s an eerie place and it feels like the violent-posing statues come alive at night. Though it’s famous for its reclining Buddha, I found the most impressive sculpture to be this giant orb with a cement tree up top. Once you enter through the mouth of some creature, the orb’s interior has four levels. The first three consist of grisly execution scenes. The fourth story–the roof–is more tranquil, offering a great bird’s-eye-view of the small Buddha Park.

Buddha Park, Laos

3:00 pm–Archway Over Vientiane

Back in Vientiane, walk the main avenue down to the archway. It offers a spectacular panorama of the entire city.

A view of Vientiane, Laos

6:00 pm–The Riverside of Vientiane

If there’s one thing charming about Vientiane, Laos, it’s the riverfront. By day, it can be a scorcher, but once work lets out, all of Vientiane’s residents head for the Mekong. At the moment, huge banners surround a construction site that shows a future Vientiane with sparkling blue waters, beautiful condominiums, and state-of-the-art shopping malls. But that is a far too distant promise. At the moment, enjoy the humble views across the Mekong, sit beneath the enormous statues of dignitaries, walk the market on the eastern end, or go for a jog along the waterfront. I recommend joining one of two 100-person nightly Zumba classes. It’s mostly local women partaking in the exercise, but it didn’t deter me from Zumbaing. It was a great way to fit in with the locals of Vientiane. I blend in so well, I look like a Laotian woman.

Zumba on the Riverfront

What capital cities have you visited that left you saying Eh?

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Asia, Somewhere

2 Responses to One Day in Vientiane

  1. Nico from A Travellers Journey

    If it didn’t have a cement tree on top of it that statue might look a bit like something from Indiana Jones.

    • Noah Lederman

      They could definitely shoot a few awesome adventure films in that park.

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