This is my favourite area and when I am in Vientiane I always visit this temple. It's one of today's rare places of complete tranquility in a city getting busier and busier, tucked little away from main streets. I would sometimes go to listen Buddhist chants, sit down on the bench under tree and forget about my earthy existence.
This temple is actually unique in some way: it's so called forest temple, all shaded under majestic tree which cast thick shade. There are usually trees next to temples anyways but only rarely they become forest. Unlike many temples, this one doesn't glitter in gold and mirror - its appearance is rather ascetic...and it matches well with the environment.
There are Vipassana meditation courses here from time to time but one really good thing you have to try if you're here: herbal steam sauna which is kind of institution of Vientiane.
Good place to watch people here while holding a glass of beer Lao and grinding fried pumpkin or watermelon seeds, discarding its shells on floor... good as well to watch football match of local teams. We came sometimes paying no entry as nobody sold tickets, and soaked in the atmosphere with few other people. Usually they play in evenings or otherwise you'll fry under the sun. Makes sense. When you see lights turned on then there's something going on, so have a look. There will be always mosquitos here too.
Next to stadium there are few tennis fields which you can rent if you desire something more exciting and challenging than resting on plastic chairs. As it only comes 'natural' for tennis, it's not really a sport for a common mortal person in this town.
Both are at the end of Phnom Penh road.
This Bibliotheque Nationale has been set up in an ancient French home right in city centre among other colonial era buildings. You have to look inside of it as this is in my opinion one of nicest public institutions here, and they don't charge for entry. Discreetly and quietly of course - there a many people who find its rooms quiet oasis for reading.
The reading rooms remind to old colonial offices where strategic plans were drawn over a big tables in a secluded company of few men. The propeller mixes winds at the ceiling, providing little better atmosphere than outside, but it is still hot and sticky. Shelves full of knowledge and trivia, most of it written in Lao, a lot of it in English and even more, understandibly... in French.
It feels like going back 50 years and more... that makes it unique comparing to libraries we know today. Good for the feeling, bad for the books. This is one of rare places in country where you'd actually see people reading papers outside their homes, hungry for more knowledge... as if reading was never really strongly encouraged in the society. In a society where many things are being said - and written - between the lines.
Upon entry you're requested to leave bags at the counter.
Although died in 1992 Kaysone seems to be even more presented and offcially worshiped than any time before and one has to know country well to understand why's that...
Few years ago his persona got impressive large museum at KM 6 (6 kilometers from city centre - there is very interesting story about that spot which you can read about in some better written books) which would be large enough to conserve a whole country's history. The 'other' history is on display in other museum, lot smaller, next to Cultural hall in centre.
This museum is more or less to focus on the former Lao leader with photos and stuff used from his earliest years till his last moments of life. Lots of people believe that he got poisoned in Thailand, on his last official trip since he was apparently in very good health by then. Who would know for sure in a country where censorship is a norm still today... a lot of history is in shades, well camouflaged by triumph of Pathet Lao.
It is indeed no wonder that most of locals don't come here... majority prefer to identify with Buddhism rather than a guy who's seen so controversial for many not to mention general dislikes for the current system. This museum is like a huge temple worth millions, it is like any of those newer government buildings built with people's money: very large, all white facade with massive columns, red roofs in temple style, very spacious inside, made of cement while inside richly decorated with precious wood and red velvet carpets.
As you quielty observe in lone rooms with no other visitors what has been left behind the country's first face... the 'void' reminds a lot of the museum... as if time stopped and all that matters is facade.
No photos inside, see outside sculptures which are great examples of real-socialist artwork.
Located in a wooden mansion in lush garden next to city's most crowded interesections, there are quiet exhibition rooms with works of students from its Fine Arts School. Lower room exhibits sculptures and paintings as well as graphics selected for show through running year (and as well from some previous too) while upper room is actually both exhibition and working studio so you may actually find some students during work.
One can find anything between naive art that you can buy at night markets through modern conceptural works that are more rare and even more difficult to find in galleries. There is no admission and the exhibition closes at 4 pm, so you're welcome to step inside and have a look.
It takes less than 10 kilometers east of capital to reach Vientiane's more interesting (well, more green) places but don't use Thadeua road towards Friendship bridge as that road is very crowded and views are not that nice. Instead better cycle closer to Mekong, pass villages with high coconut trees, you'll get to rice paddies, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens that feed whole city. Plenty of birds screen for insects here and life takes slowlier pace. Dry season can be so green thanks to this old irrigation system of well established canal network.
Well, you thought there is little to see in Vientiane but then you haven't been to military museum. Basically it covers a lot of history, not all with objective view, but then again... where in the world you'll find objectivity in military museums?
For few hours you can have a more or less detailed view in the machinery donated by Soviets or Chinese during 60'ties and 70'ties used to fight their 'external enemy'. As if this is the most important part of their history, the weapon used at that time expands over half of the building. Well, it is indeed best documented as before those things simply wouldn't be collected and photography was still in rudimental phase.
What is most interesting is the more or less ancient weaponry used still in Indochina wars, and to some extent... also during their latest wars such as poisoned bamboo arrows and all that what i cannot find name for in English. Lots of local population when they feel opressed and didn't have access to modern warfare simply turned to those ancient techniques purely out of desperation and defiance.
Well, i know it is not everybody's cup of a tea that kind of exhibitions but on other hand it tells a lot about where's country standing today.
Admission is 3000 KIP. Opened from 9 - 12, then 13- 16.00 or so. No photography allowed inside.
The Wat That Foun temple and the surrounding garden are located between Lane Xang Avenue and Nong Bon Road. The garden is a nice place for a walk - and instead of just following Lane Xang Avenue to/from the Patuxai monument, you could consider strolling through the garden instead.
When you are walking towards Patuxai turn right at Dong Palan Road – or turn left at Sidamdouan Road when walking away from Pauxai.
Sorry, I don’t have any information about the Wat That Foun temple itself...
As we walked around the salt ponds we came upon the bagged salt store. The staff were having a break and I asked if I could take their photo. Happily they agreed, all had huge smiles.
You can see the bagged salt inside the store and the loading ramp for deliveries.
This looked like a very simple process. It works and I doubt if it has changed since the 1950's when the French left Laos.
There was no smell from the process and I would not expect any harmful chemicals are used in the process. For a small country like Laos, maybe there is no need to modernise the process. Everyone has a job, they look healthy, well clothed and happy.
My wife and I decided to take a half day private guided tour to districts outside the Vientiane City area. The tour was to include a local village, however it did not work out exactly how we expected.
After driving through the countryside for 30 minutes we arrived at a salt processing factory. Nothing modern, a traditional salt farm using pools the size of a rice paddies, but instead of rice the paddies contained salty water. The sun evaporated the water leaving salt crystals which were harvested by the locals.
The factory looked very run down, as though there had been no capital expenditure for decades, most likely not since the French were driven out of Laos.
We were left to amble around by ourselves for 45 minutes. After the initial shock we sort of enjoyed our self tour. it looked as though the workers lived in a village nearby and had a responsibility for individual "salt paddies".
The local workers were very friendly and did not mind us observing their activity. They were very willing to pose for photos.
Bhudda Park is an excellent place to visit and no trip to Ventiane is camplete without it. The highlight of a visit to the city. The park is located about 10 miles northeast of the city in a rural area. A Tuk Tuk costs $6 or so round trip. It is a really nice park with some neat statues.
This morning market is quite far from the city centre. If you have time and start walking there early (takes about half an hour if you don't get too lost), it is an interesting place to visit. You can purchase fresh produce like meats and vegetables to sundry and household goods like bottled sauces,noodles,rice, shampoo and the likes. You will also find that this indoor market is quite big with other stalls selling casual clothes to tailored clothes-you can find tailors there.
Some stalls start closing by 10am better to get there early and you can get in the thick of the action!
You can easily find food to eat as well. Tuk tuk drivers are very likely to know where this market is. If in a hurry take it one way and then take a walk back and enjoy local life around you plus continue your sight seeing to other venues not yet covered.
When it comes to pricing, just reach for the calculator which many vendors have anywhere in Lao should they not be able to speak in English. Not happy with price?type in your price.
If you are gungho enough to drag yourself out of bed at 6+ am, I recommend that you do so and watch monks collecting alms from the people. I was a bit surprised to see people kneeling on the ground as they waited for the monks to arrive. This simple gesture enlightened me to the tremendous respect they have for monks.
Don't be in a hurry to go off after watching the monks receiving the alms, for there's more to come! After the entire row of monks has collected their alms, they would chant Buddhist mantra while the donors clasped their hands and bowed thoughtfully in prayer. It was an interesting spiritual experience to behold.
The Presidential Palace was originally built to house the French colonial governor. After independence King Sisavang Vong and his son Sisavang Vatthana used it as a residence when visiting Vientiane. Since 1975 the house has been used for hosting guests of the Lao government and for ceremonial government occations. The Presidential Cabinet meets in a smaller building just NW of the main compound. Neither building is open to the public.
The Presidential Palace is located between Thanon Fa Ngum and Thanon Setthathiat on the east side of the city centre.