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Last updated : Nov 2009
Vientiane Culture Guide
Vientiane Culture Guide - TravelPuppy.com
Vientiane also spelled VIANGCHAN, the largest city and capital of Laos, situated on a plain just northeastern part of the Mekong River. The city's central river port location in a country relying heavily on its rivers for transportation and its surrounding hinterland of intensive rice cultivation, have made Vientiane the main economic centre of Laos.

The city has a tropical monsoon climate, with an average daytime temperature of more than 27oC every month and more than 80% of Vientiane's yearly precipitation on the average falling in the 5 months May to September.

The peaceful capital city and seat of government is set along the curve of Mekong River on the fecund flatland. Despite its chequered past, Vientiane (pronounced 'Wieng Chan' by the locals and its neighbours) is a relaxing city with a variety of attractive wats (temples) and lively markets. The prominent national monument in Laos is Pha That Luang (the Great Sacred Stupa), that signifies Buddhist and Lao union. The dome like Stupa and 4-cornered superstructure is the model for similar monuments throughout Laos. Stupas serve to commemorate the life of the Buddha and many Stupas are said to house sacred relics (parts of Buddha's body). Generally, Hinayana Buddhists cremate the dead body then collected the bone and put in stupa which up in a round the temple.

Different styles of architecture are evident in the Buddhist Wats. Three architecture styles can be distinguished, corresponding to the geographical location of the temples and monasteries. Wats built in Vientiane are large rectangular structures constructed of brick and coved with stucco and high-peaked roofs.

Other significant attractions include Wat Pha Kaew, a former royal temple which is presently a museum; Wat Si Saket, one of the capital's oldest temples; and the Morning Market, a wide range of stalls which open from 6.00 am to 6.00 pm. Wat Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park), situated 24 kilometres (15 miles) south of the city, display a selection of amazing Buddhist and Hindu sculptures.

There are quite a few top-end hotels and many guesthouses in this capital city; most of them are fairly high priced, but a collection of cheaper accommodation has become available in the last few years. Most of them are located in the heart of Vientiane. Places for eating include cafes, street stalls, beer halls and restaurants which provide everything from rice noodles to filet mignon. Guests can also try good Lao meals available at the Dong Palan Night Market on the east bank of the Nong Chan ponds.

Vientiane is not the illegal amusement palace like it was in the early 1970s: brothels or prostitutes are currently prohibited, the marijuana stands have removed from the markets and opium has been replaced with beer as the nightly drug of choice.

Entertainment includes live music and discos, mostly electrified Lao folk music or Western pop to Thai, Chinese, Laos and even Bulgarian films. Tribal crafts, fabrics, jewellery and furniture are all good purchases in Vientiane.