WHAT TO DO IN VIENTIANE
A visit to Laos, without exploring is Vientiane, is an incomplete trip to Laos. Although we had traveled to other South East Asian countries prior to going to Laos, this capital city instantly told a different story and we were excited about exploring all the interesting things to do in Vientiane.
We had a rough idea of what to do in Vientiane during our stay, but we always like to ask for local advice on what they think we should do as well. It is always interesting to see what other hidden gems we might come across with local knowledge.
VIENTIANE, LAOS CAPITAL
Vientiane is the largest city in Laos and sits on the bank of the Mekong River, overlooking Thailand. There are aspects that are impressive and glamorous – the palaces and the temples; however, there is a rich feel of history and devastation which must be acknowledged and honoured. Vientiane is an easy city to get around and has a lot to offer!
BANGKOK TO VIENTIANE
Bangkok is a common connection point for travelers going into the Laos capital, Vientiane. You can travel from Bangkok to Vientiane by plane or bus/train or private vehicle. There are numerous Bangkok to Vientiane flights and airlines which travel each day if you are looking for a direct entry. Alternatively if you have some time, you might like to consider travelling through Northern Thailand and making your way into Laos by road.
Our Time In Vientiane Laos With Kids
We stayed in a Vientiane hotel which was in the heart of the city – Champa Garden Hotel. It was in walking distance to many local restaurants, the Mekong River and the night market in Vientiane. It was great to be able to explore by foot as much as possible, despite the pair of little legs (aged 4 and 5) we had on board!
We enjoyed eating at local Vientiane restaurants and loved the friendly faces who welcomed us into their restaurants. On our first night in Laos we took a tuk-tuk to one of the best Vientiane restaurants, Kong View Restaurant and Bar where we watched the sunset over the Mekong River and Thailand, this was such an incredible way to start our Laos family adventure.
We walked, went in several tuk-tuks, navigated our way through the Vientiane bus station and also organised a private driver for the day so that we could get around to as much as we could during our stay in Vientiane.
We spent three nights in Vientiane and loved being able to take our time to wander the streets, find a playground for the kids, travel by local bus outside the city centre, navigate our way around some of the tourist spots and one of the highlights for our boys was seeing Monks, of which they had heard so much about in the lead up to our trip.
THINGS TO DO IN VIENTIANE, LAOS
The Buddha Park Vientiane (Xieng Khuan)
For us, going to the Buddha Park Vientiane, was a full day outing and one of our favourite Vientiane attractions! Getting to the Vientiane Buddha Park was an adventure in itself and one we’re very proud to be able to say we surprisingly managed, without having to go to ‘Plan B – get a taxi’. We navigated our way to the public bus station Vientiane, Talat Sao Bus Station and somehow managed to get on the correct bus out to the Buddha Park.
It was an unsealed, bumpy road and what we imagined would be an easy one-way 25km trip, ended up an hour and a half each way on a not-so-comfortable ride; that said, the experience and adventure was worth it in the end!
The Buddha Park is an open-air sculpture park which was founded in 1958 by a monk and local sculpture artist, who studied Buddhism and Hinduism. The park features an incredible array of statues of Buddhas, Hindu gods, dieties, demons and animals from both beliefs.
One of the highlights of the park was the large pumpkin structure near the entrance where the opening was made to look like a demons mouth, with a ladder inside taking you to the top where you had panoramic views of the entire park. The 40 metre reclining Buddha was also very impressive.
We took a picnic lunch as there was plenty of space to pull out a rug, however, there is also a cafe at the back of the park serving light refreshments.
If you’re looking for a more straightforward way of see the Buddha Park, you can buy tickets, that include transport too and from – although the bus ride was quite an adventure.
C.O.P.E. Vientiane – Visitor Centre
Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise. Since the foundation of C.O.P.E. in 1996, the organisation has helped thousands of people with mobility related disabilities; allowing and enabling mobility and dignity. It is estimated that 50,000 people have been injured or killed, to this day, as a result of the UXO incidents since 1964; C.O.P.E. have worked hard to support survivors; as well as to provide prosthetic and orthotic devices, clubfoot treatment, physio and occupational therapies and related surgical procedures.
The Visitor Centre was eye opening for all of us, an education for our children but a reality to all of us, the trauma and devastation that individuals in Laos have and continue to experience is very apparent.
A brilliantly set up museum and free to wander through, it is definitely worth a visit. The exhibits cover the history of UXO, how C.O.P.E. works to assist the people of Laos and improves the quality of life of individuals to go on and live a valuable life.
An interesting fact – the need for prosthetic has increased since helmets for motorbikes has been introduced – more people are surviving accidents, however, not without injury.
Victory Monument – Patuxai Vientiane
Another popular tourist attraction in Vientiane is Patuxai, a war monument, was built between 1957 and 1968. The Patuxai has been dedicated to those who fought in the fight for independence from France. It is also commonly known as the Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane as it resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
The walk up the stairs is interesting, with market stalls throughout on different levels. From the top, the views are fantastic! It was well worth the look, as the 360 degree views, gave some perspective of Vientiane.
Pha That Luang Vientiane
Pha That Luang is a large Buddhist Stupa in the city centre of Vientiane. It is a strikingly impressive Stupa, covered in 500 kilos of gold leaf. The main Stupa is 45 metres in height and is surrounded by 30 smaller Stupa’s. The complex is large and well worth a visit.
Take some time to wander around and take it all in. The details are exquisite and being well preserved. The Stupa is said to be founded in the 3rd Century. It has undergone several renovations in its time. The reclining Buddha is also exceptional and worth a look.
There are market stalls and street food options for your visit. Or if you’re on a budget, grab a baguette from the local market and munch on that as you make your way around.
Champa Hotel was a great little place to stay with the kids. Although it was too cold to swim, there was that option. The rooms were simple, but clean and we had all we needed.
Champa Hotel was in an excellent location, easily accessible to everything we needed, walking distance to lots of restaurants, the Mekong River and the night market. We also had breakfast available, which is always a nice bonus when travelling!
There are hundreds of accommodation options in Vientiane and varying prices for different budgets.
WITHIN LAOS: Get yourself on a bus to Vang Vieng for some great fun, adventure and natural beauty. Or fly to Luang Prabang for great culture, French inspired Laos food, city exploration, relaxation and just generally a fantastic time!
OUTSIDE LAOS: Fly or get a train into Thailand to experience more South East Asian greatness!