Vientiane Loas

Vientiane is the capital and largest city in Laos. Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Vientiane is a city steeped in legend. The city is the home of the massive gilded stupa, Pha That Luang, a national symbol of Laos. The streets are lined with trees, French colonial buildings, street markets, Buddhist temples, and noodle shops. Just outside the city is Buddha Park, a garden littered with over 200 cement sculptures depicting the gods and monsters of Buddhist and Hindu myth.
The Lao capital of Vientiane sits on the northern bank of the Mekong River. For many visitors, Vientiane provides the first taste of Lao food, culture and hospitality, and it does not disappoint on any count.
Translated as City of Sandalwood, the modern name of Vientiane comes courtesy of a  French transliteration. Wiang actually means “fort”  but by all accounts it mustn’t have been much of a stronghold, as the original city was overrun on a number of occasions by the Burmese and Chinese, and absolutely flattened by the Siamese (Thais) in 1828, after which the city was abandoned and left to the jungle.

This is one reason why many of the wats in the city are of a relatively young age, and if the road layout strikes you as an inspired affair, thank the French for it — they laid the whole place out when they oversaw the rebuilding of the city from the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries.

Like many French colonial cities, Vientiane is characterised by broad, often tree lined boulevards and colonial mansions. Dotted with rustic wats surrounded by coconut palms and a generally sedentary pace of life as well and the allure of the place can be well understood.

Indeed it’s only since the early 1990s that the city has really started to develop.  Nevertheless, slowly, the Mekong riverfront is transforming from what was once just a simple grass bank into a promenade of sorts. Elsewhere, the area is largely unspoilt and offers some stunning scenery. The sunsets here are simply spectactular and slow down to Lao speed — hire a bicycle; see one or two things a day; spend a lot of time snacking and quenching your thirst by the river. You’ll grow to appreciate the attraction of the place.

The good news is that Vientiane is probably one of the smallest capital cities in the world, so getting around is quick and easy. No matter where you stay, you’re never too far away from anywhere, including the riverfront. The further out of the centre you stay, the quieter it gets.

Luang Prabang, Laos

The ancient town of Luang Prabang situated in northern Laos, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. This is the heart of Laotian culture, the tiny town is encircled by mountains an is 2500 feet above sea level at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers.  This is Southeast Asia’s most beautiful spot and you can find the pleasures of eating, drinking and sleeping than they would in the country’s capital city Vientiane.

We stayed in the old Royal Palace outside of town by about a mile.  It was so relaxing and serene that I could have stayed there for ever.  Oue room overlooked a beautiful flowering court yard and we would walk to the breakfast room the over looked the flowing Mekhong river.  Life is very good here

Luang Prabang was the ancient royal capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom until King Phothisarat moved the administrative seat to Vientiane in 1545. Regardless, it has continues to be the destination of choice with its French architecture, glistening temples and extensive natural beauty.  The town’s entire historical section has everything from former royal palaces to over 33 Wats. This former Royal capital still remains the main centre for Buddhist learning in Laos and is the perfect location for spiritual contemplation.

Cascading waterfalls blue green waters of beautiful pools, scaling peaks and the milky-brown waters of the Mekong River provide ample opportunity to swim, climb and sail your way through Luang Prabang. It is only as recent as 1989 that Laos opened up to tourism and the country that had previously been cut off from the rest of Southeast Asia developed. This small and gentle town where most locals are asleep by 10:00 PM.  It is now one of the richest and most visited provinces in Laos and one of the few places that retains its unique ambiance.

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