First-Time Marvels: Two Days in Vientiane, Laos

July 28, 2013 ASEAN Backpacking

During my annual backpacking trips, I often find myself exploring new destinations. In my most recent adventure, I had the chance to visit Vientiane for the first time. 

Given the limited timeframe of just two days in Laos' capital and largest city, we made sure to make the most of our time there.

We took a train from Bangkok to Vientiane, enjoying scenic views as we entered the city. Our chosen accommodation was Auberge Sala Inpeng at 063 Inpent Street, Ban Watchan.

After enjoying a satisfying lunch, we spent the day at a local TinTin-themed bar, surrounded by delightful decor featuring TinTin photos and figurines, all while relishing mini burgers and beer. I know I should have started my exploration of the city, as my friends did, but who can resist this charming bar?

As evening approached, we dined at Makphet, an award-winning restaurant supporting street children in Laos. Our contribution not only offered a delicious meal but also supported meaningful local initiatives.

Even after dinner, our energy remained high, prompting us to explore the lively street food scene at the night market along the Mekong River in Laos, concluding our day in Vientiane on a delightful note.

The next day, we started our tour, choosing the convenience of a tour agency to explore Vientiane with their assistance. Despite we prefer exploring on our own, the time constraint of less than eight hours led us to sign up with a tour agency. 

Following a delightful breakfast at Sala Impeng served on the porch of our villa, we boarded our bus.

Vientiane, the capital and largest city of Laos, is situated on the Mekong River.

Our initial destination was the Buddha Park, known for its iconic reclining Buddha.

Buddha Park boasts a collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures dispersed amidst lush gardens and trees. Notably, visitors can ascend the pumpkin-shaped structure, featuring three stories representing hell, earth, and heaven, for a panoramic view of the park.

Following our visit to Buddha Park, we proceeded to Pha That Luang. Regarded as Laos' most significant national monument and a symbol of the nation, Pha That Luang is a gold-covered stupa located at the heart of Vientiane.

The next stop on our itinerary introduced us to another remarkable landmark, drawing inspiration from Paris' iconic Arc de Triomphe while seamlessly incorporating distinct Lao motifs. 

As I looked at this mix of architectural styles, memories of Paris came rushing back, making me think of the city I adore and hope to visit again. Interestingly, the upper floors of this Arc de Triomphe-inspired landmark have stalls with a variety of souvenirs, adding more to our experience.

After a satisfying lunch, our exploration continued with a series of temple visits, encompassing Wat Si Muang, Wat Si Saket, and Haw Phra Kaew.

Wat Si Muang intrigued us, especially due to its fascinating legend. The temple is named after Si Muang, a young woman who sacrificed herself over 400 years ago to calm angry spirits. She threw herself into a hole in the ground where the building’s central pillar was to be placed, and tragically, she was crushed when the massive pillar was lowered into position.

Wat Si Saket is a Buddhist wat in Vientiane, Laos. It is the oldest temple still standing in Vientiane.  The temple has thousands of Buddhas. 

Concluding our itinerary was a visit to Haw Phra Kaew, historically significant as the former residence of the Emerald Buddha.

After concluding our tour, we returned to our accommodations at Sala Impeng in Laos to freshen up and get ready for our 20-hour bus ride to Hanoi.

I absolutely love Vientiane! The city's unique charm, friendly people, and captivating architecture have left a lasting impression on me. I can't wait to come back and explore more of what Vientiane has to offer.

Regarding the tour operator we hired, I won't mention the name because we're not entirely satisfied. First, lunch was supposed to be included in the tour package, but there was conflicting information from the office, leading our guide to make a call for coordination. While we can overlook that, the disappointment extends to the bus service to Hanoi, which we arranged through the tour operator, opting for a luxury service. Unfortunately, the actual service did not meet our expectations.

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