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Last updated : Nov 2009
Vientiane Sightseeing
Vientiane Sightseeing Guide - TravelPuppy.com
Vientiane is more interesting, livelier and cheerier than any communist European capital. Most of its tourist attractions are located in a small district around parallel Setthathirat and Samsenthai roads, including the business and shopping regions. It is easy to explore the city on foot along shady avenues and streets expanding from the cheerful Mekong riverside to Talaat Sao, the exciting morning market.

One of Vientiane’s oldest temples, Wat Si Saket is nestled within a lush tropical plantation. It is not the oldest Buddhist place as many temples were destroyed during the wars in the 19th century. This large temple (wat) displaying a strong Thai influence with some fine, but fading Buddhist murals, is home to over 6,000 Buddhas of different sizes and styles. More peaceful than most wats, it’s worth lingering for a few extra moments in the pleasant surroundings before returning to the dusty streets.

Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan, 10 minutes stroll west along Setthathirat Road is one of Buddhist theology centres in Laos. The place with many monks and its attractive features are a large bronze Buddha, intricate carvings and a big drum on top of a tower.

Patuxai (Anousavary) - Victory Monument is situated at the north end of Lane Xang Avenue and resembles Paris' Arc de Triomphe - as it is sometimes known. During the day, the monument can be climbed and makes an excellent vantage point of the city.

Hop in a tuk-tuk for a 10-minute ride, via the Arc de Triomphe-like Patuxai, along some could-be-grand avenues to Pha That Luang, a very-sacred, castle-like symbol of Buddhism and the Laotian state. The stupa dates back 400 years, although it was rebuilt early last century. The design embodies Buddhist ideas about ascending to Nirvana, and of course depicts many Buddhas. There’s a few grand buildings, apart from Pha That Luang, the symbol of national sovereignty and Buddhism, the unfinished 1969 Patuxai national monument, and the new Chinese-financed cultural center.

Charting the history of the Pathet Lao’s march to victory, the Lao Revolutionary Museum is something of a gem as there aren’t too many communist propaganda halls like this left. Housed in a sprawling mansion on Samsenthai Rd, exhibits include maps, uniforms, and guns used by Laotians or imperialists. There’s also a small exhibition on Laotian culture, geography and geology, which seems to be an afterthought. Open 8-11.30am and 2-4.30pm, weekdays.

Once the Royal Temple, Haw Pha Kaew houses many royal religious artifacts including a throne, manuscripts and bronze drums. Also here are a number of Buddhas, plus a good collection of Laotian Buddhist sculpture. Although it is no longer a temple, some still make offerings on top of a wooden naga. Open 8-11.30am and 2-4.30pm, Tuesday to Friday.

Kaysone Phomvihane Museum is dedicated to the life of the Pathet Lao leader who directed wartime communist forces from a cave in northeast, and became Laos’ first post-war leader. It’s a cult-like place, following his life from a boy in southern Savannakhet province to guerilla leader and architect of a postwar worker’s utopia. Open 8-11.30am and 2-4.30pm, Tuesday to Friday.

Wat Xieng Khouang (Buddah Park) is situated about 25 minutes drive outside the centre of the city. Although not an old temple, it is nevertheless fascinating for its huge structures that combine Buddhist and Hindu Philosophies.
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