Vientiane is a quiet city and is very different from other capitals in South-East Asia. It's probably the only place I'd be game to rent a car. Everything is fairly tame and it doesn't have the fast moving, chaotic pace.
This photograph is of Heng Boun Rd. at 5:30pm on a Friday afternoon. This road runs parallel to the Mekong four blocks back and would be considered one of the major roads in the city center. This should give you an idea of how relaxed the traffic situation is there.
Lao vs. French Cuisine
There are two types of cuisine that dominate in Vientiane (and Laos in general), Lao and French. The former obviously being the traditional cuisine of the Lao people, and the latter a remnant from the days of colonial French Indochina.
Authentic Lao cuisine is similar to the Issan cuisine found in the bordering regions of northeast Thailand. The staple of Lao cuisine is khao niaw (sticky rice), which is a glutinous rice that is typically served in small woven baskets with every meal. It is eaten with your hands by rolling some rice into a small ball and dipping into any accompanying dishes. Next to khao niaw, the other essential ingredient in Lao cuisine is pa daek, a pungent fermented fish sauce that is used to flavor and salt most dishes. One of the most common Lao dishes you will find is Laap, which is a combination of chopped meat (chicken, duck, fish, pork, beef) with onions, chillies, fresh herbs, and spices. The Lao prefer laap seua, where the meat is chopped and served raw, but tourists will be served the version with cooked meat (for obvious reasons). In fact, much traditional Lao food is served raw.
As for French cuisine in Laos, Vientiane in particular has many fine French restaurants serving everything from haute cuisine to rustic country fare, and there are also several upscale places that serve excellent French/Asian fusion cuisine. In addition, several French cafes can be found in the city, serving cafe and patisseries. Invariably, such restaurants cater solely to tourists and expats, as the average Lao could never afford such luxurious dining. Still, even local Lao cuisine has been noticably influenced by the French, as evident by the availability of French-style baguettes, pate, and sausages in the local markets and street hawkers.
With over 58% of the population considering themselves Buddhist, Laos has been highly influenced by the neighboring Thai and Khymer societies. I found the Buddha images in Cambodia the most appealing but those in Laos were also a sight to behold.
Don't point the bottom of your feet (bare) at anyone or anything sacred. This is also a very important rule. Specifically, by the culture, pointing a bare heel is very bad and extremely disrespectful. The bottom of the bare feet are considered the most unholy part of the body. And there is good cause also: Laotians accept the fact that bare feet are meant to be dirty. Laotians are very clean and shower sometimes more than three times a day, but the bottom of their feet are always dirty. Squatting toilets only affect the bottom of the feet. This is why the bottom of the feet are unholy so don't point them at anyone (including pictures and or statues of the Buddha, and famous monks). Be warned, if you break this rule, even accidentally, Lao people will be disgusted with you, normally the Lao are very forgiving and understanding but this one is very bad, although may seem silly to you.