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Overview

Set on a bend in the Mekong River, Vientiane was originally one of the early Lao valley fiefdoms that were consolidated around the time that Europe was leaving the Dark Ages. The Lao who settled here chose the area because the surrounding alluvial plains are so incredibly fertile. Early on, the Vientiane kingdom prospered and enjoyed a fragile sovereignty. Today a pleasing mixture of venerable Buddhist temples, French colonial-era mansions, Soviet-style socialist rectangles and modern East-West hybrid architecture sprawls along a tree-lined section of the Mekong in Vientiane, the nation’s capital. At the eastern end of the city’s broadest ...

Set on a bend in the Mekong River, Vientiane was originally one of the early Lao valley fiefdoms that were consolidated around the time that Europe was leaving the Dark Ages. The Lao who settled here chose the area because the surrounding alluvial plains are so incredibly fertile. Early on, the Vientiane kingdom prospered and enjoyed a fragile sovereignty. Today a pleasing mixture of venerable Buddhist temples, French colonial-era mansions, Soviet-style socialist rectangles and modern East-West hybrid architecture sprawls along a tree-lined section of the Mekong in Vientiane, the nation’s capital. At the eastern end of the city’s broadest avenue, the pointed, golden, and lotus-bud-shaped superstructures of Pha That Luang (Great Holy Stupa) loom over the horizon. Riverside cafes serve unique, tantalizing dishes such as laap, a traditional salad of minced poultry, fish or meat blended with fresh Lao herbs and spices. Although it's nowhere near as atmospheric as Luang Prabang, and lacks the sophistication of Hanoi, Vientiane nevertheless represents an intriguing blend of Lao, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, French, US and Soviet influences. At the same time it's more laid back than Indochina's other two capitals, Phnom Penh and Hanoi.

Joe Cummings
About the Expert

Joe Cummings has contributed to more than 35 guidebooks, maps, atlases, phrasebooks and photographic works, including his bestselling Lonely Planet Thailand and Buddhist Stupas of Asia: The Shape of Perfection.

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Joe Cummings for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Capital city of Laos situated on a bend of the Mekong river, which forms the border with Thailand
  • Language: Laotian
  • Currency: Lao Kip
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    November through February (cool and dry), June to October (warm and rainy)