Vientiane is a legend and historical city situated on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. Vientiane is a tranquil city with wide range interesting sights that visitors could not easily find in other capital.
The city is the home of the giant gilded towers, Pha That Luang, a national symbol of Laos. It is also famous for the French colonial buildings, the street markets, Buddhist temples and so on. There is Buddha Park, which is a garden decorated with over 200 Buddha and Hindu mythology cement statues in just outside the city.
Area: 3,920 km2
Population: 760,000 habitants (2015).
Pha That Luang
That Luang, or the Great Stupa, in Vientiane is a national symbol (its image is on Laos’ official seal) and also the most sacred monument in the country. It’s the most sacred monument of Laos with its long history and story. This stupa, built in 1566 by King Saysetthathirath, is said to contain relics of the Lord Buddha himself and is the country’s most cherished religious monument.
The main event is always held at That Luang and thousands of people come to pay respect to the stupa and to enjoy the colourful event that includes parades, live music and religious ceremonies. Laos largest Buddhist festival of the year is held here on the full moon of the 12th month of the Buddhist calendar with many activities going on for three days and three nights.
From the outside That Luang looks more like a fortress surrounded by high walls and it features two temples with the main stupa, the top of which is covered with gold leaf, standing 148 feet tall. The beautiful architecture is in Lao style, influenced by Buddhist beliefs – these include finely-gilded, red-lacquer doors, pointed lesser stupas, many Buddha images and beautiful flower and animal images.
In the 19th centuries, That Luang was destroyed during the invasion of Thais but was later restored original state. Architectural style of temple tower presenting Laos culture and identity has become a national symbol of Laos. It is printed on the banknotes and the national emblem of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos.
Open daily: 08.00-16.00 daily, except Mondays and holidays.
Xieng Khuan ( Buddha Park )
Buddha park, conceived in 1958 under the direction of Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, a Laotion monk, hosts a collection of larger-than-life sculptures that merge Buddhist and Hindu traditions. The park is located roughly 24 km south of Vientiane, across from the town of Nong Khai (Thailand) where Bunleua later erected a similar pantheon of sculptures.
Buddha Park (aka Xieng Khuan) is a famous sculpture park with more than 200 religious statues in many positons, shapes and sizes including a huge 40-metre high reclining Buddha image. They are all equally impressive because they are full of interesting details and interesting motifs. On top of the giant pumpkin structure standing about three stories high is the best place to enjoy all the scenery of the Park. The entrance is crafted to look like a demon’s mouth (about three metres high) with a stone ladder inside leading to a bird’s eye view of the entire Xieng Kuan Park.
There is a local eatery and café offering food and drinks to tourists at one end of the park right next to the Mekong River that makes a great spot to chill after all the walking and climbing. Among the popular snacks are papaya salad, fried bananas and cold Lao beer. It also has a souvenir shop and restrooms.
Open daily: 08.00-16.00 daily, except Mondays and holidays.
Patuxai Victory Monument
Patuxai Victory Monument is built at the middle of the most broad and famous avenue of Vientiane capital. Patuxai was built between 1957 and 1968 to commemorate those who died in the past wars. The monument was modelled after the Arc de Triumph in Paris, yet retains its Laotian identity with traditional decorative motifs. The name comes from the Sanskrit words for door or gate (patu) and victory (jaya).
Patuxai features four arches, facing North, South, East and West. The four corner towers and fifth central tower that crown the arch symbolise the five Buddhist principles of thoughtful amiability, flexibility, honesty, honour and prosperity. The seven floors of the monument contain administrative offices as well as a gift shop, a museum and the upper viewing galleries.
Patuxai was designed to pay homage to its national culture and traditions. Its exterior embellishments feature both Buddhist religious symbols such as lotus leaves and the stupa-shaped towers, and statues of animist kinnari (half-female and half-bird figures) and nagas (dragons). The interior of the monument is also richly decorated with painted walls and ceilings depicting gods, goddesses and elephants.
Patuxai Park is a popular place to stroll around in the afternoons among the palm trees and lotus ponds. There is also a musical fountain that was donated by China. The peace gong at the northern end of the park was presented to Laos by Indonesia in recognition of Laos being named the world’s most peaceful country.
Opening Hours: From 08:00 to 16:30 on Mondays to Fridays, and 08:00 to 17:00 on Saturdays and Sundays.
Entrance fee : 3,000 Kip (38 US cents) ( you can take the stairs or the new lifts to the top floor viewing area)
The Presidential Palace
The Presidential Palace is a well-known landmark for architecture style with tall colonnades and shaded balconies. It was first started in 1973 by the then Royal Lao government on the grounds that used to house the royal residence. This building is located at the intersection of Lane Xang and Setthathirath avenues that was built for the French colonial governor and was later used by King Sisavangvong as his secondary residence to the royal palace in Luang Prabang.
The building is surrounded by well-manicured lawns and gardens and fenced off by tall walls and a wrought iron gate. The Presidential Palace is not to be confused with the official home of the Lao president, which is located in the Vientiane suburb of Ban Phonthan. This magnificent building is lit up in the evening and offers a great opportunity for night photography although a long lens may be needed. Location: Junction of Lane Xang Avenue and Settathirath Road, Vientiane.
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