You’ve seen Bangkok, explored Singapore, went shopping in Manila and went up the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Perhaps, if you are more adventurous you have gotten stuck in Jakarta’s never ending traffic and tried some of the best street food in Ho Chi Minh. This is what happens when you explore the capital cities of Southeast Asia: you get a sense of the day to day of the busiest areas in the region.
Regardless of how busy they are and how everything seems to revolve around money and work, Southeast Asian cities have their individual charm. However, within all the cities in the region, there is one that is quite small and sometimes avoided by travelers. Such city is Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. Some people have not even heard anything about Laos, let alone its capital. But this city has a lot to offer and a good couple of days in here can be a great jumpstart on your adventures around a place that is so pristine and untouched.
The first thing that makes Vientiane so unique and enjoyable in comparison to other capital cities, is that Vientiane has a slower pace. Although people are still busy working and this is the place where government decisions are centralized, people rely a lot on using their feet or slow public transportation to get from place to place. Using a bicycle on a main street is not a problem and this slow pace makes it a perfect spot for exploration.
If you are wanting to know more about Buddhism, Vientiane is also a great place to start. Having so many shrines close to each other, and monks living their lives within the city. Even if you are not a religious person, you are going to find the temples so fascinating, full of color and you will see how each them is so unique even though they all profess the same religion. There is even a Budda park within the city, a place so mystic and unique that you are not likely to find anywhere else.
Vientiane is also a great place for shopping. Perhaps they do not have all the original big brands you find in the bigger, neighboring cities, but you can find imitations so close in looks to the original product and the prices are ridiculously cheap. Local markets are very easy to find as they seem to pop in every corner of the city. These markets are In fact, if you love food, Vientiane has a lot of great options for dining. Being a city strongly influenced by the French, you can find unique dishes that perfectly blend the best of both, the European and the Asian cuisines. Again, all of these for a very decent price compared to other places in the world.
Last but not least, Vientiane is a great place because of its historical importance to not only the country, but the overall region of Indochina. While a big part of Laos is still land mined, after the intervention of US in the region, the country has started a new beginning and Vientiane is at the center of it. With places such as the COPE center, a place where you can learn about support for victims of the land mines, Vientiane is a window into the past that can impact the present.
Vientiane is like nothing you have seen before. With such a strong cultural, religious, culinary and historical background, this city will satisfy your need to see and experience something different and relevant to your traveling journal.