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
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,
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