Vientiane Itineraries: Waltzing Down Avenue Lane Xang (Northern Circuit)

Named after the Lao kingdom of Lan Xang which was one the largest empires in the Southeast Asian region for more than 350 years, Avenue Lane Xang is the most prominent boulevard cutting through the heart of Vientiane’s city centre with numerous tourist attractions on its two flanks. As a starter to explore this Laotian capital, I would recommend that you take a nice stroll down this path to admire some of Vientiane’s most popular tourist attractions.



Patuxai Victory Monument
Opening Hours: 0800h – 1630h (Mon – Fri), 0800h – 1700h (Sat, Sun)
Entrance Fee: LAK 3,000 (USD 0.35)

Embodying the epitome of the fusion of French colonial architecture with a tinge of traditional Lao art, the Patuxai Victory Monument is possibly the most prominent structure in the city centre of Vientiane. Inspired by the design of its lookalike in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe, this piece of architectural genius also depicts elements of Lao culture including Hindu deities like Vishnu and Buddhist mythological creatures such as the kinnari. 

The Patuxai Victory Monument behind a lovely water fountain

Coined the ‘vertical runway’, this structure was actually constructed using large amounts of cement and funds which had been donated by the United States government (who had intended for the resources to be used to construct a new airport in the country) in 1960. 

The monument towers above the entire city of Vientiane - that's a lot of cement right there!

Today, it serves to commemorate the valiant soldiers of the country who gave their lives to defend the country during the tumultuous eras of World War II and the independence war against the French colonialists in the 1940s. 

Skilfully carved Buddha structures have been infused into the architecture of the Patuxai's interior.

When travellers arrive at the Patuxai Victory Monument, they will have the opportunity to ascend the steep, spiral staircases to the peak of the structure.

While making your way up to the peak of the monument, take some time to admire the skilful carvings which make this structure so uniquely Laotian!

Here, visitors are treated to a spectacular vantage point to admire the picturesque bird’s eye view of the entire city of Vientiane from all directions.

Catch a glimpse as traffic starts to build up along Avenue Lane Xang!

It also overlooks the rest of the Patuxai Park with a massive water fountain and an abundance of greeneries, which offers a stark contrast against the busy boulevards of Avenue Lane Xang flanking the park. 

The views from the top of the monument are spectacular, especially when looking upon the magnificent Patuxai Park and the lovely water fountain.

There are numerous stalls on various storeys in the interior of the monument selling myriad souvenirs which tourists may be interested to purchase. 

Alert, shopaholics, feel free to check out the various souvenirs on sale here (I got a Lao DPR cap!)

Else, there are other scenic spots in the Patuxai Park including the World Peace Gong which is worth a visit to stop by and capture some shots. I would recommend visiting this attraction in the early morning when there are fewer tourists and you will be able to have the entire scenic view of Vientiane to yourself.

No need to fight with crowds to peek through windows with Buddha-shaped metal grilles either!

Alternatively, you may wish to enjoy a leisurely evening stroll in the Patuxai Park (which is free to visit) and admire the monument being illuminated brightly in the night.

Pha That Luang
Opening Hours: 8am – 12nn, 1pm – 4pm (Tue – Sun)
Entrance Fee: LAK 10,000 (USD 1.20)

Undeniably the most important national monument in the entire of Laos, Pha That Luang is considered the national symbol and is even depicted vividly in the country’s emblem. This structure is believed to have contained the Buddha’s breastbone which had been brought here from India by missionaries back in the 3rd century, thereby bearing great significance in this Buddhist-influenced country. Numerous locals also flock to this stupa to do their prayers and make their offerings to the deities today, reflecting their fervent beliefs in this religion which has shaped much of Laos’s culture.

My favourite shot of the Pha That Luang! You can imagine how hot it must have been.

This Buddhist stupa looks extremely impressive, especially under the scorching sun which accentuates its glimmering appearance, as it is actually coated with 500 kilograms of gold leaf. However, throughout the course of history, Pha That Luang suffered from numerous invasions and was plundered repeatedly by the enemies from neighbouring states like Burma, Siam and China which dealt serious damage to the structure. 

Pha That Luang glistens brightly in the light, offering an amazing photo opportunity!

Even though the monument had been destroyed and reconstructed multiple times since it was first built, the final efforts to rebuild Pha That Luang were completed after World War II, restoring That Luang to its former glory and allowing us to be able to admire its spectacular architectural design and comprehend its historical significance today.

Intricately carved dragon sculptures lining the stairs up to the altar in front of the stupa

Tourists will have the opportunity to check out the ancient Buddhist relics and miniature statues in the cloister which encloses the stupa. Some of these structures don the saffron cloth clad by monks, while others have offerings placed in front of them by devotees. 

Wooden artefacts and colourful structures can be found all over the cloister.

After admiring the stupa in all of its brilliance, the outer complex of the Pha That Luang offers opportunities to better appreciate the Buddhist influence on the country.

Last glimpses of the Pha That Luang before heading out to explore the outer complex

There are numerous temples here such as Wat That Luang Neua where travellers are able to take in the skilful, intricate architecture of the shrines and pagodas. 

I really loved the magnificent architectural facade of Wat That Luang Neua!

I highly recommend that tourists take a leisurely walk over to Wat That Luang Tai which is just a few steps away from Pha That Luang, as this temple displays a wide range of beautiful murals all over the interior of the building - on the walls and the ceilings - depicting various myths and anecdotes of the Buddha's encounters.

I had never seen such a charming temple before - emblazoned with gorgeous murals on every wall.

Visitors of the temple can slow down, admire the magnificent paintings and understand the myriad stories and experiences of the Buddha. They even have the opportunity to interact with the monks who study, live and take care of the temples, which is also another great way to learn more about the religion and appreciate the cultures and traditions which have been preserved in this country.

Even though the wordings are in Lao, visitors will be able to decipher the meaning from the murals.

Alternatively, there are various relics such as the statue of King Setthathirath (who constructed That Luang) and the Revolution Monument in the vicinity of Pha That Luang.

Here's the first of many reclining Buddha statues which I saw on my trip to Laos.


Talat Sao (Morning Market)

Colloquially known as the Morning Market, Talat Sao offers two distinct shopping districts for travellers to choose from for drastically different shopping experiences – one being an air-conditioned mall selling electronics and fabrics, while the other being the open-air Khua Din Market with groceries and souvenirs up for grabs. I would recommend visiting the latter which is located just behind the Central Bus Station, as it offers opportunities for travellers to snatch up on affordable souvenirs to bring back home, have a sneak peek into the locals’ livelihood and practices and to possibly interact with some of the amicable residents of the capital. 

Welcome to the busy Khua Din Market! Best time to visit? Morning, obviously!

Somewhat resembling a village bazaar, the entire area felt homely and welcoming with vendors pushing their commodities to the market to sell, chatting joyfully with one another and bargaining with the marketgoers who had bamboo baskets in hand. I felt as though I was whizzed back to the olden days, as such scenes are very rare in this day and age of ours.

Heaps of vegetables up for grabs! Grocery shopping, anyone?

If you are feeling hungry, just walk back out onto Boulevard Khouvieng where there are roadside stalls selling local delicacies like sticky rice (khao niew) and French baguettes (khao jee). While this may not be the most hygienic of food places with flies enjoying a feast on my breakfast, it was certainly an authentic local experience for me to eat, walk and live alongside the locals.

My khao jee breakfast was scrumptious and only cost me LAK 2,000 (USD 0.20)!

Heading over to the air-conditioned shopping mall planted along Avenue Lane Xang, tourists may wish to check out the mobile phones and other electronic devices sold by the various vendors. Nevertheless, it pays to be wary that goods which are sold at excessively low prices are probably not the authentic ones you are looking for – after all, there’s no free lunch in this world! There are also money changers here if you are running low on Lao kip, else you may wish to enjoy the cool air before heading out to bask in the hot Southeast Asian weather again.

Even though the shopping mall felt quite uninteresting to me, it must have been a big deal for the locals, as malls are extremely rare in the entire country of Laos. Throughout my entire 11-day adventure travelling through Laos, I had only seen 2 malls – the other being the fancier Vientiane Centre which had just opened a few years ago. Vientiane Centre has cosy cafes, classy shopping chains, fancy restaurants and a cinema, so it will probably be more suitable for tourists who enjoy a shopping spree as compared to Talat Sao.

That Dam

Legend has it that a seven-headed serpent resided in this stupa which was constructed in the 16th century and protected the inhabitants of Vientiane when the city was invaded and destroyed by the Siamese. It is also commonly believed that That Dam used to be covered entirely in gold (just like Pha That Luang) but the precious metal was completely ransacked and plundered by the Siamese intruders during the war.

That Dam celebrating almost 500 years of existence!

Today, That Dam sits quietly a street away from the bustling avenues in the vicinity of the Talat Sao, thereby offering visitors a peaceful, tranquil environment. However, its exterior is mostly covered with vegetation and plants, and the stones have blackened, resulting in its dull appearance which earned it the affectionate name of That Dam (‘black stupa’).

A rather depressing sight of That Dam overgrown with weeds which has definitely seen better days

While some may argue that the plants accentuate the charm of the structure by allowing life to flourish in this bustling urban city, I feel that this is a depressing sight. Bearing great historical significance of managing to survive the Siamese occupation, the stupa has been neglected by the locals and has failed to receive the care and restoration necessary to preserve it. I certainly hope that the government will step up to conserve this relic of their history so that future generations and more of the world will be able to better understand and appreciate their heritage.

Having seen some of the amazing attractions which Vientiane has to offer with spectacular views and rich history, let’s embark on an educational adventure to learn more about the devastating damage the Secret War has dealt to the country and to admire the magnificent Buddhist architecture exhibited by the many temples in this sleepy capital city of Laos!

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Comments

  1. Every single place you have written about here sounds lovely! Fascinating, fascinating pictures!
    Yes, I am tempted to visit Vientiane after reading your post. :)

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    1. Hey Priya, Vientiane definitely has lots of amazing tourist attractions to offer to travellers. As the country is very underrated by travellers who prefer to head over to neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, these famous sights you find everywhere in the city are not that crowded and it is really easy to have them all to yourself.

      Great to hear that you're interested to visit Vientiane after checking out this post. Besides the amazing architectural designs of the Patuxai, this capital boasts of a rich history and heritage dating back to the days of the occupation by Siamese invaders - with evident marks left on That Dam. The temples around Pha That Luang were amazing too, which was surprising as I thought there was only the golden stupa to admire there. Safe travels!

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  2. Another excellent and helpful article. It's only nine days now until we go to Laos, I am saving your articles to help us plan our itineraries. Pha That Luang and Wat That Luang Neua look beautiful!

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    1. Hey Alex, great to hear that you're heading over to this charming country of Laos. Once again, congrats on taking the leap into full-time travel which must be quite an experience for avid travellers like you and me. It's heartening to know that you found these itineraries I've started posting useful for planning the ultimate trip to embark on in Laos - do stay tuned as I promise that there will be more incredible content coming on as we head deeper into the country.

      I'll definitely agree that Wat That Luang Neua was amazing. When I planned my itinerary, Pha That Luang was a must-visit for me since it plays such a pivotal role as a national symbol and doubles as a religious site where locals pray and make their offerings. However, I was unaware that there were these quaint little temples boasting marvellous architecture just in the vicinity of the stupa. They were most definitely a pleasant surprise and further accentuated the beauty of the area - certainly worth the trip out to the outskirts of Vientiane. Enjoy Laos!

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  3. Great article! We're planning a trip to Laos when the kids are a bit older, so I'm bookmarking this one!

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    1. Hi Jess, it's really great to hear that more travellers are getting to know more about Laos and are interested to head there to experience the local culture, learn more about the traditions of the population there and admire the picturesque natural landscapes the country has to offer. The travelling experience that Laos has given me is very authentic, unlike many other countries which have prepackaged, overly commercialised tourist attractions.

      It is also because of this phenomenon of a more genuine travel experience where attractions retain their primitive state that it may not be that suitable for young kids. The infrastructure is slightly lacking, which I will be elaborating on in my next post on Buddha Park. As such, it is definitely safer to bring your children here when they are slightly older and can better take care of themselves. Other than that, I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time in Laos!

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  4. Ahh.... the stupa and temple looks beautiful, especially the gorgeous murals. Although I have to stay its the most vibrant colours temple I have ever seen! Usually their all just gold or fairly understated. Looks like you had a great time there!

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    1. Hi Amy, I was really looking forward to visiting Pha That Luang (the golden stupa) as it plays an important role as the country's national symbol and doubles as a religious site where devotees make their offerings to the deities and do their prayers. However, I was actually unaware that there were quaint little temples in the vicinity of the stupa. When I ventured into the first temple (with those magnificent murals), it absolutely took my breath away as I had never seen such intricate designs in a temple before.

      That's the reason why I continued temple hopping around the nearby buildings and shrines like the Wat That Luang Neua which wowed me with its beautiful architectural designs as well. I really loved that shot where the vibrant colours of the temple were juxtaposed against the dark blue sky which further accentuated the shrine's beauty. I definitely enjoyed myself - hope you'll be able to visit soon too, I'm sure you'll have a ball of a time as well!

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  5. Love this article because it's very detailed. The map and the shots are useful too.
    I hope to plan a trip here soon so I can use all your tips :)

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    1. Hi Daniele, Vientiane definitely has lots of amazing tourist attractions to offer to travellers. As the country is very underrated by travellers who prefer to head over to neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, these famous sights you find everywhere in the city are not that crowded and it is really easy to have them all to yourself.

      Great to hear that you found the information useful. I certainly hope that by sharing these tips and itineraries which I had formulated and garnered during my trip, I'll be able to help those travellers who are planning to visit Vientiane as well. Hope you'll be able to visit soon!

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  6. Reading your posts makes me want to travel to Laos even more! The temple is absolutely stunning, and I would spend hours just photographing it! I love outdoor markets too, as you get a feel of the place. And wonderful photos that are really inspiring to a new traveller to Laos like me!

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    1. Thanks Lisa! I really loved my time in Laos and it is definitely one of the most underrated travel destinations in the entire of Southeast Asia. While it will offer visitors unobstructed views of the most amazing sights and sounds that this country boasts of, I find that so many travellers are missing out when they forget about this hidden gem while taking the banana pancake trail. I certainly hope that more tourists will be able to come and appreciate the beauty of this nation.

      When I was planning to visit Pha That Luang (the golden stupa), I did not know that there were these little temples scattered around in the vicinity until I arrived at the square itself. While walking towards the stupa, I passed by a couple of temples which I curiously ventured into - the murals and the design of the interiors absolutely blew me away. Wat That Luang Neua which I explored after the stupa wowed me even more, so taking a trip out to the outskirts of the capital's centre is definitely worth it just to check all of them out.

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  7. Walking down Lane Xang sounds like a great way to spend a first day in Vientiane and get an introduction to the city! The view from Patuxai Victory Monument is lovely, and definitely something I'd want to see!

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    1. Hey Brianna, it was definitely a great way to get inducted to the city as travellers will be able to check out the greatest highlights of the capital - Patuxai Victory Monument and Pha That Luang. Traversing the boulevard of Avenue Lane Xang definitely made me feel like I was walking down the Broadway of Vientiane, and having the primary sights located conveniently along this street just made visiting them a whole lot easier and more convenient.

      The Patuxai Victory Monument was definitely the highlight for me in Vientiane. I absolutely love checking out amazing vantage points to admire urban and natural scenery, so this monument absolutely allowed me to take in the sights and sounds of the Laotian capital. It would be really cool if they extended the operational hours to allow visitors to admire the scenery at night as well, I'm sure some great shots could be captured in the dark. Having traditional Lao architecture being carved into this piece of artwork further accentuated its beauty. I'm sure you'll love it as well!

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  8. Great detailed article about Ventiane! I've been to every country country in SE Asia except for Laos. So I really need to check it out. And I had no idea that Buddha's breastbone is there. Interesting info. Thanks

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    1. Hey Andra, you most definitely should check out Laos as it is such an underrated travel destination in the Southeast Asian region. Besides rich culture and heritage, the country also has picturesque natural landscapes in more rural areas like Vang Vieng in the north and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) in the south. Amicable locals notwithstanding, Laos has one of the most authentic travel experiences to offer visitors, unlike the prepackaged, overly commercialised tourist attractions in many other countries.

      It is really amazing that the locals have been able to repeatedly reconstruct Pha That Luang despite numerous invasions and plundering expeditions by intruders from neighbouring kingdoms like Siam and Burma. Thanks to their concerted efforts, we visitors are able to admire it in all of its magnificence and beauty. I'm sure you'll fall in love with Laos when you are here physically to take in its sights and sounds for yourself.

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  9. Nathan, your posts on Laos are taking me on a very enjoyable ride down the memory lane. I had done the same circuit a decade back, on a bicycle, with a colleague who was also a friend. Talat Sao was where I regularly had my breakfast in Vientiane, but my staple was the noodle soup.

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    1. Hi Denny, I'm sure that you enjoyed your travelling escapades in Laos tremendously, since my post is able to bring back so many pleasant memories - great to hear that. I guess having those main tourist attractions like the Patuxai Victory Monument and the Pha That Luang erected along Avenue Lane Xang makes taking this circuit the easiest, most convenient option.

      Cycling down the boulevard definitely offers another fantastic way to check out the sights and sounds of the capital. I guess they did not have such a comprehensive public transport system back then but now you will be able to rely on dependable bus services if you're feeling tired. Great to hear that you savoured your breakfast at Talat Sao as well - I'm quite a big eater, so I whopped down a bowl of khao piak (noodle soup resembling Japanese udon) after half a khao jee pate (French baguette / banh mi). The local fare was absolutely scrumptious - loved it!

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  10. Laos is one of the few countries in South East Asia I didn't visit yet. Very helpful article, looking forward to add this place under my belt!

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    1. Hi Alice, you most definitely should check out Laos as it is such an underrated travel destination in the Southeast Asian region. Besides rich culture and heritage, the country also has picturesque natural landscapes in more rural areas like Vang Vieng in the north and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) in the south. Amicable locals notwithstanding, Laos has one of the most authentic travel experiences to offer visitors, unlike the prepackaged, overly commercialised tourist attractions in many other countries.

      Great to hear that you're interested to head to this absolutely beautiful travel destination. I certainly hope that my tips and itineraries here have been able to help you in your planning. Hope you'll be able to visit Laos really soon, and I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself as much as I did during my 11-day venture across the country.

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  11. Have always enjoyed reading your posts. Thanks so much for sharing about your beautiful country.

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    1. Hey Bhavi, I'm glad to hear that you found my post informative and interesting. I certainly hope that by sharing these tips I have garnered during my travelling escapades in Laos, I will be able to help inspire more travellers to visit this beautiful country and assist those who are already interested to visit to plan their itinerary and route around these cities I've visited.

      While I really enjoyed my time in the cities of Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang in Laos, I am not a local as I reside in Singapore which is in the Southeast Asian region as well :)

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  12. This is a great and detailed itinerary. Vientiane often gets over looked but we enjoyed exploring here. We explored by bicycle and came across the victory monument too; Which is beautiful. Thanks for sharing this post

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    1. Hey Katie, great to hear that you have personally experienced visiting this capital of Laos and exploring the sights and sounds that the city has to offer. The Patuxai Victory Monument was definitely the highlight for me, as I am a huge fan of amazing vantage points to admire urban and natural landscapes. Emblazoned with intricate Lao design, the monument offered me a magnificent bird's eye view of the entire city which was gorgeous. They should definitely consider opening it up at night, as I am sure that spectacular shots can be captured in the dark which offers travellers the opportunity to an alternative side of Vientiane.

      While I actually enjoyed my time in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang more than I did in the capital, Vientiane most definitely offered me an acclimatisation period where I was able to relax and move around at a slow, local pace. Hence, I would definitely recommend at least staying here for about 2 to 3 days to admire what the city has to offer rather than just directly taking the minivan off to other regions of the country.

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  13. This is an amazing post! Those pictures makes us want to go even more to that beautiful country :D Have a wonderful week ahead,
    xx

    Patricia & Miguel
    www.freeoversea.com

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    1. Hi Patricia and Miguel, thank you for checking out this post of mine. You most definitely should check out Laos as it is such an underrated travel destination in the Southeast Asian region. Besides rich culture and heritage, the country also has picturesque natural landscapes in more rural areas like Vang Vieng in the north and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) in the south. Amicable locals notwithstanding, Laos has one of the most authentic travel experiences to offer visitors, unlike the prepackaged, overly commercialised tourist attractions in many other countries.Hope you'll be able to visit really soon - I'm sure you'll enjoy yourselves tremendously!

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  14. I've been reading a lot about Vientiane lately. It looks like such an amazing city. I'd love to climb the Patuxai Victory Monument and see the views over the city, visit those gorgeous temples and explore the foods at the morning market! It's now added to my list!

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    1. Hey Lynne, great to hear that you're inspired to visit Vientiane after reading so much about it. The Patuxai Victory Monument was definitely the highlight for me in Vientiane. I absolutely love checking out amazing vantage points to admire urban and natural scenery, so this monument absolutely allowed me to take in the sights and sounds of the Laotian capital. It would be really cool if they extended the operational hours to allow visitors to admire the scenery at night as well, I'm sure some great shots could be captured in the dark. Having traditional Lao architecture being carved into this piece of artwork further accentuated its beauty. I'm sure you'll love it as well!

      Don't forget to head out to the outskirts to admire the Pha That Luang, which is the national symbol of Laos and also serves as a religious site for devotees to do their prayers and make offerings to their deities. The temples in the vicinity are absolutely spectacular and boast amazing architectural designs. Definitely a pleasant surprise, as I was unaware that there were so many of these little 'wats' in the area around the golden stupa.

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  15. Great post. When i went to Thailand and Cambodia i tried to visit Laos, but i didn´t have time. Next time i want to visit north Vietnam and Laos ;)

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    1. Hi Catarina, great to hear that you're interested to head to this beautiful travel destination and charming country of Laos. Combining a trip to northern Vietnam and Laos is definitely doable, as I have come across numerous backpackers who have been travelled to Vientiane from Hanoi via minibus which will take you approximately 24 hours and set you back approximately USD 25. Otherwise, if you are not limited by a budget, you may wish to consider flying directly.

      Laos is such an underrated travel destination in the Southeast Asian region. Besides rich culture and heritage, the country also has picturesque natural landscapes in more rural areas like Vang Vieng in the north and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) in the south. Amicable locals notwithstanding, Laos has one of the most authentic travel experiences to offer visitors, unlike the prepackaged, overly commercialised tourist attractions in many other countries. Hope you'll be able to visit really soon - I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself tremendously!

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  16. I am coming across a number of articles on Vientiane...I guess it calls me soon...I must say you've put together a great and detailed guide and the images are all the more inviting spl. Pha That Luang and the murals in the temple

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    1. Hi there, great to hear that you're interested to visit Vientiane after checking out this post. Laos has always been such an underrated travel destination that travellers are only starting to realise how beautiful the country really is and are beginning to include this nation in their itinerary recently. While the nation retains its authentic, genuine travel experience which is very much unlike the prepackaged, overly commercialised attractions in many other countries, I would highly recommend you to visit the country soon.

      Thank you for your kind words. I certainly hope that by sharing these tips and little snapshots in this post of mine, I will be able to raise awareness of this charming country, inspire travellers to consider visiting Laos and also help visitors who are already set on travelling to the country in planning their itineraries and routes around the cities. Since Laos is calling you, perhaps you should think about heading there soon :)

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  17. Great post. This city is a cultural hub. Love the architectural facade, Budha statue. Budha carvings are incredible. This place is a must visit for sure.

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    1. Thanks Supriya! Vientiane is most definitely at the crossroads of various influences from different parts of the world. Influenced by its regional neighbours like Siam, Laos gradually developed its own traditions and practices which was infused with French elements due to the colonial period under French rule (evident from the resemblance of the Patuxai to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris).

      Buddhism has played a pivotal role in forming the country's societal backbone and temples can be found scattered across the entire nation with large masses of devotees. If you are into exploring more about Buddhist influence in the country, you may wish to consider heading to Luang Prabang, which I will be covering subsequently in this series, to witness the daily Tak Bat (almsgiving ceremony) that is a cultural relic dating back to the olden days that still lives on even today.

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  18. Nice post on Vientiane. I would love to visit Pha That Luang for photography and its historical significance. Architectural facade of Wat That Luang Neu also looks splendid and grand. All places are very appealing and are worth visiting.

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    1. Hi Yukti, Pha That Luang is definitely a must-visit attraction for travellers who are visiting Vientiane, since it plays such a pivotal role as a national symbol and doubles as a religious site where locals pray and make their offerings. However, I was unaware that there were these quaint little temples boasting marvellous architecture just in the vicinity of the stupa. They were most definitely a pleasant surprise and further accentuated the beauty of the area - certainly worth the trip out to the outskirts of Vientiane.

      You should check out Laos as it is such an underrated travel destination in the Southeast Asian region. Besides rich culture and heritage, the country also has picturesque natural landscapes in more rural areas like Vang Vieng in the north and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) in the south. Amicable locals notwithstanding, Laos has one of the most authentic travel experiences to offer visitors, unlike the prepackaged, overly commercialised tourist attractions in many other countries.

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  19. Wow, I didn't know Vientiane has so many stunning and impressive monuments and temples! I really would enjoy a trip there. Thanks for all the infos!

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    1. Hi Verena, great to hear that you're interested to visit Vientiane after checking out this post. You should check out Laos as it is such an underrated travel destination in the Southeast Asian region. Besides rich culture and heritage, the country also has picturesque natural landscapes in more rural areas like Vang Vieng in the north and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) in the south. Amicable locals notwithstanding, Laos has one of the most authentic travel experiences to offer visitors, unlike the prepackaged, overly commercialised tourist attractions in many other countries.

      I'm glad to hear that you found the tips I have provided here useful. I hope that by sharing these tips and little snapshots of my travelling adventures in Vientiane, I will be able to inspire more travellers to consider visiting this nation and help those who have already decided to travel here in planning their itineraries. Hope you'll be able to visit soon!

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  20. wow - a city with so much history and culture. I can't wait to make it to Laos so I can explore this place more

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    1. Hi Mireille, Laos indeed has a rich history and culture, being at the crossroads of numerous influences which have crossed paths with Laos' past at certain points in time. Having a unique blend of traditional Laotian and Siamese flavour infused with remnants of the French colonial rule, this country has magnificent architectural designs and interesting traditions.

      With Buddhism playing a pivotal role in the country's societal backbone, temples and religious practices can be found all over the nation, making it vibrant and allowing travellers to immerse themselves in the local culture as well. Hope that you'll be able to visit Laos soon and experience the sights and sounds that the country has to offer for yourself!

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  21. Vientiane looks really charming. I was really impressed looking at the pictures around the Patuxai Victory Monument . Did remind me of the Arc De Triomphe and the boulevard across Champs Elysee. But I think the Patuxai Victory Monument looks much more beautiful and aesthetic than the Arc De Triomphe. The statue of the reclining Buddha is another lovely attraction.

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    1. Hi Sandy and Vyjay, Vientiane is definitely a great starting place to adapt to the slow pace of life here in Laos and has renowned national monuments like the Patuxai and Pha That Luang which are undoubtedly the symbols of Laos. Therefore, I would definitely recommend visitors to spend at least 2 to 3 days in the capital of the country instead of just treating it as an entry point to the country and speeding off away to other regions.

      I like that the locals cleverly infused traditional Lao symbols and designs into the architecture of the Patuxai Victory Monument as they made it unique to their country rather than just being another Arc de Triomphe lookalike. I would love to visit Paris and check out the monument there to better judge how they compare. I've seen many Buddha statues even back home in Singapore, but they usually do not appear in a reclining position, so I find these reclining Buddha statues rather special. Upon researching, I realised that this position is used to represent a peaceful image of the Buddha during his last illness before achieving nirvana.

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  22. This looks like an amazing trip! I love all of the history you included. I would love to visit the Pha That Luang and that temple looks beautiful; such intricate detail! Wonderful tips! Adding this to my bucket list!

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    1. Hey Melanie, great to hear that you're interested to visit Vientiane after checking out this post. I am also heartened to know that you found the tips I have provided here useful. I hope that by sharing these tips and little snapshots of my travelling adventures in Vientiane, I will be able to inspire more travellers to consider visiting this nation and help those who have already decided to travel here in planning their itineraries.

      You most definitely should check out Laos as it is such an underrated travel destination in the Southeast Asian region. Besides rich culture and heritage, the country also has picturesque natural landscapes in more rural areas like Vang Vieng in the north and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) in the south. Amicable locals notwithstanding, Laos has one of the most authentic travel experiences to offer visitors, unlike the prepackaged, overly commercialised tourist attractions in many other countries. Hope you will be able to visit real soon!

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  23. I'm a huge mural fan so I'm definitely adding Wat That Luang Tai to my list. Honestly, I've been wanting to do a SE Asia trip and Laos is on my list but only because it's in the area. I never really looked into the country and what to do there and I'm kicking myself for not having realized its beauties sooner! Thanks for introducing me to beautiful Vientiane!!

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    1. Hey Jas, I totally understand what you mean. Living in the Southeast Asian region myself, I knew that Laos existed but was never really aware about what the country had to offer until recently when I stumbled upon the picturesque natural landscapes of Vang Vieng on Instagram as well as the rich culture brimming in the quaint little town of Luang Prabang which was entirely a UNESCO World Heritage Site where almsgiving ceremonies occur on a daily basis.

      With that, I just had the impulse to book my tickets and fly over to admire all this for myself - and I was not disappointed at all! I certainly hope that you'll be able to execute that Southeast Asian circuit really soon and I'm sure that you will enjoy Laos as much as I did. I am guessing that you will be visiting Pha That Luang as it bears great significance as the national symbol and boasts extraordinary architecture. As such, Wat That Luang Tai will just be a stone's throw away and should be extremely easy to get to. Safe travels!

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  24. This was another really insightful, interesting, and rich article. I'm going to have to add this to my list for when I go through SE Asia! Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Hey Luis, you most definitely should check out Laos as it is such an underrated travel destination in the Southeast Asian region. Besides rich culture and heritage, the country also has picturesque natural landscapes in more rural areas like Vang Vieng in the north and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) in the south. Amicable locals notwithstanding, Laos has one of the most authentic travel experiences to offer visitors, unlike the prepackaged, overly commercialised tourist attractions in many other countries. Hope you'll be able to visit Laos soon - I am sure that you'll enjoy it tremendously!

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  25. I have never been to Vientiane, but it does sound very interesting and full of history. The French colonial architecture combined with Lao art looks like such a delightful combination. It feels like something straight from France some of the architecture. It would have been indeed interesting to see the That Dam completely covered in gold - such a shame how the war affected it!

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    1. Hi Soraya, That Dam definitely would have looked glistening in appearance and resembled Pha That Luang which is the national symbol of Laos. In retrospect, the monument in its current state probably serves as a reminder of how Pha That Luang must have looked like when its gold had been plundered by Siamese and Burmese invaders previously before it had been reconstructed.

      Laos is certainly at the crossroads of numerous influences such as regional neighbours like Thailand and Vietnam as well as its previous colonial rule under the French. As such, the consequent blend of drastically different flavours and traditions culminate in this massive melting pot of cultures which we are honoured to be able to experience and admire today.

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  26. That bread looks incredible! We haven't made it to Laos yet, but this reminds me a bit of Thailand. The Patuxai Victory Monument looks a bit like the Arc de Triomphe and it's quite palatial. I love the photo of the reclining Buddha!

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    1. Hey Marcie, I really enjoyed the authentic local experience of eating and living alongside locals, so savouring their local fare and trying them in the marketplace is definitely a unique experience for me. That is in spite of the fact that there were quite a lot of flies landing all over those khao jee pate (baguettes) which I was about to buy, but they tasted good and were extremely cheap - where in the world can you get a fully stuffed baguette for just USD 0.20!

      Laos is certainly at the crossroads of numerous influences such as regional neighbours like Thailand and Vietnam as well as its previous colonial rule under the French. As such, it has culminated in this unique blend of traditional Southeast Asian cultures and Western elements that is clearly reflected in the unique design of the Patuxai Victory Monument that looks like a cross of a Laotian temple and the Arc de Triomphe.

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  27. We are planning a trip to Vientiane this year and this post is gonna be very handy.. you have covered some very useful info..have bookmarked this post for our trip planning and oh beautiful pictures

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    1. Hey Ritika, it's great to hear that you found the tips and itineraries I have provided here in this post useful. As Vientiane still remains one of the less visited travel destinations, information from online sources may not be sufficient in providing travellers with a comprehensive understanding of what to expect during their time there. As such, I certainly hope that by collating the tips I had garnered from my adventures there, I will be able to supplement this pool of information to help visitors plan their journey more smoothly.

      Laos is a severely underrated country for backpackers and travellers alike, who prefer to flock over to neighbouring destinations like Thailand and Vietnam. However, it certainly offered me a truly authentic travel experience that I had never been on and so, I am confident that you'll enjoy yourselves tremendously during your time there. Safe travels!

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  28. Great article, so much information packet in there. A really well written and useful article for anyone wishing to visit Vientiane. I especially loved the Lao art. Wow!

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    1. Hey Jem, thank you so much! I certainly hope that by sharing these tips I have garnered during my travelling escapades in Laos, I will be able to help inspire more travellers to visit this beautiful country and assist those who are already interested to visit to plan their itinerary and route around these cities I've visited.

      During my entire time travelling through the country, I admired the architectural designs of the various buildings and temples dotting the Lao landscape, as they truly reflect the unique blend of French colonial architecture and traditional Lao designs. The Patuxai Victory Monument is probably the best example for this, but the temples (wats) all over have magnificent Buddhist designs as well.

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  29. Ohh your post just brought back great memories of one of my favorite country! We were backpacking in Laos in 2011 and your photos looks more or less like mine! When we were there the only mall Vientiane had was...hmmm...not very exciting. Now many years after I would love to get back there!

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    1. Hi Dada, I'm guessing that the shopping mall you are referring to here is the Talat Sao Shopping Mall which primarily sells electronics and fabrics. Certainly, it was not a spectacular mall for most of us who live in other parts of the world, but it was probably one of the highlights for the locals who are not that well acquainted with the idea of indoor, air-conditioned shopping as yet. Nevertheless, as the country continues developing economically, I guess Vientiane and other cities will begin to see much more rapid progress and possibly welcome luxury travel in the near future.

      It is great to hear that Laos is one of your favourite travel destinations, as it has certainly made its way up my list as well. A year ago, I only knew that this country existed but was unaware of what hidden gems it had to offer. Now, I am head over heels for this charming country which not only boasts rich culture and history and amicable locals but has also provided me the most authentic travel experience thus far. Absolutely spectacular!

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  30. Thanks for sharing this post and information, we are yet to visit Laos and will keep this post for future reference

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    1. Hey there! I'm glad to hear that you found my post informative and interesting. I certainly hope that by sharing these tips I have garnered during my travelling escapades in Laos, I will be able to help inspire more travellers to visit this beautiful country and assist those who are already interested to visit to plan their itinerary and route around these cities I've visited.

      You most definitely should check out Laos as it is such an underrated travel destination in the Southeast Asian region. Besides rich culture and heritage, the country also has picturesque natural landscapes in more rural areas like Vang Vieng in the north and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) in the south. Amicable locals notwithstanding, Laos has one of the most authentic travel experiences to offer visitors, unlike the prepackaged, overly commercialised tourist attractions in many other countries.Hope you'll be able to visit really soon - I'm sure you'll enjoy yourselves tremendously!

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  31. I really loved exploring Vientiane on foot. I was a little apprehensive about visiting as a so many backpackers don't rate it very highly, but I enjoyed the temples, the monuments and one of my favorite places was the COPE Visitors center. Lovely photos, it really brought everything back for me!

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    1. Hey Vicki, I had the same feeling when I was checking out online sources which seemed to indicate that backpackers should just treat Vientiane as a transportation hub and simply take the first bus out to the rest of the circuit - Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. As such, I initially had some concerns as to whether I should spend time in this city, just like you.

      Nevertheless, I found it to be quite a great city to adapt to the slow pace of life which is unique to Laos. Home to most of the national symbols such as the Patuxai Victory Monument as well as the Pha That Luang, Vientiane is certainly a great place to start one's backpacker circuit up the northern region of Laos. I absolutely adored COPE Visitors' Centre as it offered me such an educational journey to learn more about the massive destruction that the Secret War dealt the country and shared the efforts which have been put into eradicating the threats of 'bombies' which still endanger the lives of the locals. Great to hear that you had fun!

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  32. Wauw, you put so much information in this post. Sounds like an excellent place to visit. Definitely want to go sometime! What would be your best advise for this destination?

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    1. Hey Louise, it's great to hear that you found the tips and itineraries I have provided here in this post useful. As Vientiane still remains one of the less visited travel destinations, information from online sources may not be sufficient in providing travellers with a comprehensive understanding of what to expect during their time there. As such, I certainly hope that by collating the tips I had garnered from my adventures there, I will be able to supplement this pool of information to help visitors plan their journey more smoothly.

      I'm guessing that you're seeking advice as to the best time to travel to Vientiane and the rest of Laos to explore what this country has to offer. As such, I would highly recommend travelling there from November to February, as the climate is relatively cooler and drier with a lower chance of rain dampening the mood of exploring the city. Safe travels!

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  33. Wow, so much to see and do! Those temples are amazing with the architecture and colors. Loved the dragons on the steps. And of course, the markets! They look very similar to the ones we experienced in Morocco and like you said an authentic way to experience the local food, even with a few flies buzzing around.

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    1. Hi Heidi, the temples are definitely the highlights when travelling to Laos, as Buddhism plays such a pivotal role in forming the societal backbone of this entire country. Not only do visitors have the opportunity to admire the magnificent architecture and relics which remain in the temples ('wats'), they are also able to interact with the amicable monks that reside there and are always very approachable to share more about their local culture and traditions.

      Markets are also a great way to delve into the livelihood of the people who live here and possibly try one's hand at savouring local fare. That's why I always make it a point to visit local markets whenever travelling to other cities overseas, which I guess you enjoy to do as well. They never fail to surprise travellers, don't they?

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  34. We were in Vientiane last September. The Golden Stupa and the Black Stupa are clear highlights, together with Patuxai. But there are other Wats and also the presidential palace.

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    1. Hi Carol, Vientiane is most definitely brimming with culture and heritage which is especially prominent in terms of the number of temples and 'wats' this capital city is home to. The Presidential Palace is also one of the attractions worth visiting when you're in the heart of Vientiane. Nevertheless, I've actually clustered these landmarks based on geographical distance and ease of travelling to and fro. Do stay tuned for my other itineraries which will include these places of interest you have stated.

      Great to hear that you've visited Vientiane and Laos! It is a seriously underrated travel destination with so much to offer - from amicable locals and rich culture to spectacular natural landscapes and an authentic travel experience. I certainly hope you enjoyed your stay in this hidden gem of Southeast Asia.

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  35. I had never thought of going to Vientiane but your photos make it look incredible! I would love to breakfast with the locals at the market. And the victory arch is the coolest I’ve ever seen! What an amazing place.

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    1. Thanks Stella for your lovely comment! Markets are absolutely one of the best ways to better understand the practices and livelihood of the locals, as they offer the opportunity to possibly interact with the local people and even try out some local fare. That's probably the reason why I am always excited to explore these landmarks even though they may not be as touristy. I guess you're interested in this authentic travel experience as well.

      Vientiane has so much to offer with rich culture and heritage as well as amicable locals. Even though backpackers may recommend that you immediately take a minivan out of Vientiane upon arrival to other regions, I would advise you to acclimatise and adapt to the slow, relaxed pace of life here in the capital for about 2-3 days before heading off to the countryside. Hope you'll be able to visit and I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself as much as I did!

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  36. Wow, there's so much beautiful temple to see. I love how temples are being created, from the intricate design to the religious practice that it has to offer. I haven't been here and will surely include them all in my bucket list.

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    1. Hey Ariel, great to hear that you're interested to visit these attractions in Vientiane. Laos in general is a highly underrated travel destination which is often neglected when travellers visit the Southeast Asian region. However, it has so much to offer - with amicable locals and picturesque natural landscapes in the countryside. Shaped by various cultural exchanges with influences from regional neighbours and French colonialists, Laos has a uniquely rich culture.

      We're just scraping the surface of the significance Buddhism has on Laos in this post, as there are many other temples with so much culture and heritage to offer in Vientiane and the rest of the country. Do stay tuned as we step forward to explore some of the most significant temples and shrines that dot this capital city - I'm sure you'll enjoy them tremendously.

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  37. Wow. I would love to visit. Pha That Luang is just amazing. I would love to spend an entire day here. Wat That Luang Neua is an architectural marvel. I need to get to Laos asap. You inspired me to. LAK 2,000 is too less for a hearty breakfast. More reason to go here.

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    1. Hey Abhinav, it's lovely to know that you're inspired and interested to visit Laos after reading this post. This country is definitely one of the most underrated travel destinations in the Southeast Asian region which travellers often bypass to explore the sun-kissed beaches of Thailand and Vietnam. However, Laos actually has a rich culture and heritage owing to its history of being influenced by regional neighbours and French colonial rule.

      Amicable locals notwithstanding, Laos offers picturesque natural landscapes in its countryside which also open up a wide range of physical activities such as hiking to marvellous vantage points. What I love most about Laos, however, is the opportunity to enjoy a truly authentic travel experience that is unparalleled, unlike the prepackaged travel industries in many of the developed nations in the world. Yes, it's really affordable to travel around with a shoestring budget here, so what are you waiting for? :)

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  38. What an amazing journey! There seem to be so many impressive places to see, I especially love the look of the monument! Thanks for sharing this with us, will definitely add these ideas to my bucket list.

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    1. Hi Karo, great to hear that you're interested to visit these intriguing landmarks in Vientiane. Patuxai is one of my personal favourites throughout the entire trip in Laos, as it really showcases the fusion of traditional Lao architecture with French colonial influences that culminates in this magnificent structure. Being a fan of spectacular vantage points just makes me even more impressed with this monument.

      Vientiane certainly has rich culture and heritage that is evident in its numerous temples that dot the capital. You should definitely check out some of these shrines which offer gorgeous architecture and the golden opportunity to interact with local monks to better comprehend the significance of Buddhism in this nation. Hope you'll be able to check it out for yourself!

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  39. That place looks like a dream, we have to go there and get lost in its wonders :D Sounds like you had an incredible journey, thanks for sharing, we'll have this post in mind before going there :)
    Sending good vibes only,
    xx

    Patricia & Miguel
    www.freeoversea.com/blog/our-first-workaway-experience

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    1. Hey Patricia and Miguel, Vientiane was definitely an amazing travel destination for me as it has such rich culture and heritage for us travellers to explore. Even though many backpackers may advise travellers to skip the capital entirely, I would recommend that you stay here for 2-3 days to take in the sights and sounds and acclimatise yourself to the relaxed pace of life here in this country before heading to the countryside.

      Hope you'll be able to visit this charming little city soon - I'm sure you'll enjoy yourselves tremendously here just soaking up the sights and sounds and taking it easy in probably the quietest, most peaceful capital in Southeast Asia (besides Naypyidaw which is an entirely different story bordering along the lines of a ghost town).

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  40. So great to know more about Laos. I have no doubt that i really going to like this the city and the country. This street is amazing!

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    1. Hi Catarina, great to hear that you're interested to visit Vientiane and Laos after checking out a couple of posts in this series I have posted. One of the most underrated travel destinations in Southeast Asia, Laos has a rich culture and heritage owing to its history of being influenced by regional neighbours and French colonial rule which is probably most evident in its capital city of Vientiane with a tinge of Western influence (especially the Patuxai).

      Hope you'll be able to visit this spectacular country really soon! I'm sure you will not be disappointed, as it is home to picturesque natural landscapes and amicable locals. Safe travels!

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  41. I've seen Arc de Triomphe in Paris and this is amusing to see an Asian version of the same.
    I've been to only one Thai styled Buddhist temple (the Indian styled ones are very different than this) and that was in London.
    I guess Laos isn't as touristy as Thailand or Vietnam. Or is it?

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    1. Hey Bhushavali, Laos is probably one of the most underrated travel destinations in the area, so it is definitely not as touristy as its regional neighbours of Thailand and Vietnam. However, that does not mean that this country has nothing to offer. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite - the beauty of Laos resembles a well-kept secret that is just starting to be discovered by travellers and backpackers, so I cherished this opportunity to explore it while it is still not overcrowded with hordes of tourists from all over the world.

      Great to hear that you've checked out the Arc de Triomphe and Siamese Buddhist temples, so it probably offers some sort of comparison and contrast when you see the Lao versions infusing its own unique flavour and culture into these influences. Hope you'll be able to visit this charming country in the area - I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself tremendously!

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  42. I would definitely love to go to Laos because of this place. Thanks for the tips! http://spottedphilippines.com

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