If You're in Vientiane
The thing about travel is that, at the very least, you find beauty in what could otherwise appear mundane at home. Everything is new and exciting and different and even walking down a new street is an exploration. So, that’s why I hate to hate on any town - there’s always something to explore. I will be honest though, my main recommendation would be to skip Vientiane. This town pales in comparison to the beauty that is Luang Prabang to its north. But, if you must go, our suggestion would be to limit your trip to one or two days. If you’re in Vientiane, here are some tips. Some of these you'll find in any guidebook, but we've included them because we do think they're worth a visit. Guidebooks don't always tell you what is and isn't worth seeing - they just let you know what there is to see - we promise not to do that to you here.
First, the obvious sites.
The oldest temple in Vientiane, Sisaket is a little run down but there is still a lot of beauty to be found in this old temple. It is now also in the process of being restored to more of its former glory through a Laos-German partnership.
Otherwise known as the “vertical runway” because of the redirected funds provided by the U.S. that were meant to build an airport runway, but instead went towards building the monument. It’s a great sight, reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe, honoring those that fought in the struggle for independence from France. Pay 50 cents and you can head to the top for some views of the city.
For about $1 per person, take a one hour bus from Talat Sao Bus Station to the Buddha Park. While you probably won’t spend more than an hour there (which may make the two-hour round trip seem a little long) the park has some really interesting sculptures, some of which you can climb. Kitschy or not, you won’t see a park like this anywhere else.
Unfortunately, we left one of the top sights to our last day and didn’t make it due to conveniently getting sick. But this is apparently a sight, if not THE sight, worth seeing while you’re in Vientiane.
Now, the food.
We spent six (way too long) days in Vientiane. So we spent the majority of our time wandering and eating. One thing about Laos, which is true for Vientiane as well, is that you usually can’t go wrong with the food. Here are a few places we liked.
The laab here is delicious. Made with banana flower (if you haven’t had this yet, do it) and crispy garlic, meals here are a little pricier than what you would find at a typical food stand with similar dishes but well worth the extra few dollars. When you’re done, head over to Noy’s across the street for a smoothie.
I’ll admit, we had been in Asia for quite some time so we ended up eating western food here (this is usually something I don’t allow when travelling). Go Dunk is relatively new but it’s a great place for an easy beer, listening to live music and having a bite. It has a great terrace and a spacious indoor area.
Great place for a coffee or tea while you decide on your next adventure.