of a Million Elephants'
Vientiane, capital of Laos is Asia's biggest village. Busy and
hectic in comparison to the rest of the country, it is quiet compared
with any other city in Asia. This is a very modest capital, peacefully situated on the north bank
of the wide Mekong River. Vientiane is the hub for all travel in the country.
The city has a population of 450,000, about 10% of the country.
Its city centre is quite crowded, compact and fairly easy to walk around, with bakeries,
cafes and shop stalls never too far away. Paddy fields are still dotted in the suburbs,
extending close to the heart of the city in places.
Vientiane is still a sleeping place where there are fine examples of
Laotian temple architecture and French colonial houses,
some are gracefully rebuilt, but most are tumbling. Charming lanes run off
the main roads in the town centre, leading to Laos's lifestyles
that have changed little over the last few decades.
For the visitor, Vientiane, despite its urbanity, remains
unusual and interesting while its people are mostly as pleasingly relaxed as their
rural cousins. Vientiane is also a chance to step back in time to
get an impression of what neighbouring Thai provincial towns were
like before breakneck industrialization swept the kingdom.