Vientiane is a great place with a fair bit to do but to be honest, you can do everything in 4-5 days without rushing. We ended up being there for 6 days total to catch our flight to Hanoi & this way too long. It has much more of a city vibe than the rest of Laos, being the capital and feels more built up for that reason.
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What to Do:
A really pretty piece of Laotian & French fusion architecture at the heart of Vientiane. The views here are absolutely sick, so much so that we went up there 3 times! There are 3 levels on your way to the top, each of which is filled with curios trinkets available for purchase. Keep an eye out for all the penis shaped paraphernalia on offer! This reminded us of a smaller version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and coincidentally, you could see the French looking Presidential Palace from the top. It only costs 3,000 Kips (30p) to go inside the arch so definitely check it out!
A place of great wonder & culture! The amount of sacred statues within the Buddha Park truly is marvellous. We spent hours here in awe of everything, from female Buddha statues to massive circular structures with multiple floors; each housing several statues themselves. There’s even an adorable sunflower field just behind the park which provides some incredible photo opps! The only downside to the park is that it’s about an hour outside of Vientiane’s centre. A taxi was around 200,000 Kips (£20) from our hostel so we opted for the bus. You should catch the number 14 bus from Central Bus Station which takes you all the way to Buddha Park. The best part is, it only costs 5,000 Kips (50p) per ticket, plus it’s super comfy & air conditioned. There’s a few restaurants at Buddha Park but they’re a little pricey so bring some snacks/water with you for more savings. You’ll have to buy a ticket to get into the park which cost 30,000 Kips (£3) per person. Be sure not to miss this place out, it’s well worth the bus ride!
In a word, magnificent! A beautiful Golden Stupa located about an hours walk from the heart of Vientiane. We walked there with friends which ended up being a great laugh in the sunshine! There’s a bunch of little temples & shrines here too for your culture fix. We ran into a group of Japanese tourists who were having a photo-shoot in traditional feudal Japan regalia and apparently it’s quite common to do this at the Stupa. It was pretty cool nonetheless! There are refreshment stands as well but bring a lot of water if you plan on walking as there isn’t much shade on the way. Overall, a great way to spend a morning (the afternoon is too hot) as it only costs 20,000 Kips (£2) a ticket to get in.
COPE Visitors Centre
Make sure you mentally prepare for this as it was genuinely one of the most harrowing experiences we’ve ever had. An educational building steeped in history, tales from the Vietnam War & the effects on the beautiful country of Laos. It’s only a small place but it’s filled with eye-opening exhibits and documentation. One video in particular really affected us (you’ll know if you go) to our core. As cliche as it sounds, it really does make you grateful for whatever you have in life. It’s free to get in but the place relies on donations so give or buy something from the shop there and help the centre keep telling these important stories. Laos really has an admirable spirit after going through so much and COPE really highlights that. Don’t miss this one out!
After all of the above, it’s only right we include some chill out activities here. The night market overlooks the Mekong River and has a ton of different food & shops on offer. There’s a donut stall (we believe it’s called Mister Donut) which was a game changer! We even visited the shop which was a 30 min walk from where we stayed just to get another taste. The market is open every night & was really cheap so be sure to grab dinner there at least once. The funfair is a bit further down the riverbank, maybe a 20-30 min walk. It’s pretty self explanatory too; bumper cars, roller-coasters etc. A nice change of pace from all of the culture Vientiane has on offer and really cheap compared to funfairs at home. Give it a go!
There are a bunch of great rooftop bars in Vientiane but we recommend finding one that overlooks the Mekong. Something about overlooking the river while sharing a Lao Beer tower with mates just does things for the soul! Drinking obviously isn’t the best thing for your health but it’s part and parcel of travelling & honestly a great way to pass the evenings. Lao Beer is so cheap that it’s hard to pass up on when you’re craving a cold one! So sink into a bar-stool, somewhere with a great view preferably and reflect on your travels so far!
Chao Anouvong Park
A little park near the Mekong which is the perfect spot to chill with friends. We actually found it great for HIIT workouts/running too (maybe not after hitting the bars the night before though)! In fact, it was probably the healthiest we were in all our travels. It really is hard to keep your fitness game up so trust us & take any opportunity you get to do it! It’s obviously great for your budget too as it’s totally free so why not enjoy the Laotian sunshine here and take a load off? We recommend getting some sandwiches/bagels from the Scandinavian Bakery (30,000 Kips or £3 for a MASSIVE portion) and having a picnic in the park! Check out our post on 8 Great Workouts for some inspiration when you hit the park below:
How to Get There:
Another bus journey from Vang Vieng to Vientiane. This one took about 6 hours with multiple different departure times but we would recommend the earliest bus so you can do stuff when you arrive! The journey wasn’t the most comfortable if we’re being completely honest but the roads in Laos just aren’t that great at the moment. Again, it was a cheap journey at 100,000 Kips (£10) per person which we haggled down from 120,000 Kips. You can book it through most hostels in Vang Vieng.
How Much Did It Cost?
Vientiane was actually pricey compared to the rest of Laos. It was in the range of Thailand pricing, which is still cheap in relation to everything in Britain. The food wasn’t too much pricier than usual at about 40,000-60,000 Kips (£4-6) per meal. Most of the activities were great value for money as they all take up a good portion of your day. Accommodation was well priced too and we’d recommend Lucky Backpacker Hostel:
It’s run by a really lovely family who were always so helpful! Breakfast was also included which was a massive perk too!
We know you’ll love Vientiane & Laos in general like we did. It taught us a lot during our travels, particularly to go in with a more open mind. If you don’t expect anything from a place you’ll visit, you’ll most likely enjoy it more!
Stay tuned for our next post which will be our guide on Getting Into Vietnam! We’re also going to start creating LGBTQ+ Guides for each country we’ve visited.
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Stay Safe & Much Love,
Matt & Mik
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