Vientiane initially pissed me off – we arrived in the evening, and all the guest houses were full, meaning we had to pay $19 for a room in a hotel. All the food we found nearby was expensive and I was tired. I had a feeling we would be spending a lot of money doing not that much here.
It then grew on me after I got to appreciate it for what it was: a capital city, which offers its visitors the comfort of home (by its food and shopping marts) and a piece of Laos history and culture (by its Arc du Triumph, National Museum, Golden Stupa and Buddha Park).
I got to ride a bicycle for a full day.
Now I am not that confident on a bike. It was pretty scary riding against one way traffic, riding on the right side of the road, riding on footpaths weaving between people and poles. We got around though. I managed. Here’s what we did:
-We saw the Arc du Triumph which is set amongst ‘Patuxai Park’ which looks lovely from the top of the building.
-We went to the National Museum which had ancient artefacts giving us some insight into how the ancient tribes used to live. There was also a lot on Laos gaining independence from France which was a time filled with a lot of bloodshed. Not long after it gained independence did Laos have to face the “Secret War” that still haunts them today
-“Pha That Luang” or the Great Stupa – a symbol of Buddhism and Lao Sovereignty. It serves not only as a National monument, but as a museum, containing pieces of Buddha statues from its original construction in 1566. It’s basically the same as any other stupa, but it is very brilliant to see.
One of the more exciting and interesting sights we saw in Vientiane resides about a 1 hour bus ride from the city centre – Buddha Park or ‘Xieng Khuan’ (literally spirit city). Filled with fascinating works depicting mythological stories from the Buddhist and Hindu religions, this park is a must see! Designed and built in 1958 by a yogi-priest-shaman who hired artists to create the masterpiece that it is. Hundreds of statues placed all over the place in what seem like no particular order works perfectly. It’s amazing, such great talent and so much meaning. I just wish I knew the stories behind the scenes!
I ended up leaving Vientiane quite pleased with what the city had to offer. I learnt a bit more about Laos history and culture, and saw some amazing things. Not to mention the food was great! (I will be talking about this in more depth in my up coming Laos Food post!)