It is among the most significant temples in Vientiane only across the street from Wat Sisakhet. With its display of many ancient Buddha sculptures and religious script imprinted in stone it becomes one of most venerated places which is in the same time a small museum.
There are lots of details worth looking at from the outisde and inside, it is fine example of Lao craftmanship and architecture.
For more history read below page.
Hidden behind wall protecting it from direct views and motor traffic, this is the temple with impressively steep multi-layered roof. Its courtyard is most pleasant, leafy, shaded and as it's the case with temples - it's all quiet place, perfect for contemplation. Only sometimes you'll see its doors open, though. Outside you can hear and see many birds in the crowns of the trees, listen their singing... it's beautiful.
Nevertheless, sit down by the table and make a note to your book or write sentences to a postcard or letter. There are few monks, novices and kids around; they may as well you something more about temple if you ask kindly.
Wat had been recently renovated, so its golden reliefs from Ramayana epics, mixed within local historic conext look very good on the window sceens. By the enclosure, few golden statues stay and lay below large banyan tree; furthermore... stupas with 'bone' and 'dust' of deceased taking final rest in peace, alligned by the edges of temple, as the tradition suggests.
With money flowing to the country, some cosmetic improvements have been done too and the most visible one is on former Mekong promenade... it's now called Chao Anou's park. Before you could go to some of many nice bamboo terraces to enjoy fresh food or cold drink, right upon wild sandy shores with Mekong somewhere behind but seen. Now it seems like Mekong is no longer part of the capital, it's been prevented to come closer visibly and physically. It's like 500 m away.
Okay, that is new flood prevention measure, so there is some benfit for people. They built high flood protection banks expanding kilometers far from Vientiane upstream. They built new park with children playground and new road at the outer edge of park. New plants are now growing, many trees were removed. It has become place for a night market and a place for people strolling, jogging, skating... i have not seen anything like that before in Vientiane, so many people in one place. It is paradox... people drive cars here from all ends of city to stroll and watch and shop. Terrace with aerobics have always many ladies practicing with a guide after sunset under light. People gaze over sunset and take photos. Statue of King Chao Anou beomes worship place. The nature has been kept at distance so it doesn't affect modern man... even there seems to be less mosquitos!
One of best things you can do in this city is to treat yourself with traditional Lao massage and herbal steam sauna in bamboo hut at forest next to Sok Pa Luang temple.
Sauna in hot Vientiane at daily temperature 35°C??? Yes, it does miracle for the body! I can only say... try.
They use carefully selected herbs which are then boiled in a large container below sauna room, and they will make it for very refreshing aroma. Inside, the steam is so thick that you won't see an inch in front of your nose. Of course you're asked to wear sarong they provide you and you can go inside as many times as you like. When you're out of steam you actually feel chilly but so light. All those fumes that get absorbed into your skin and you got used to it you don't even see them ... they're now out of your body, it's like deep cleansing teraphy.
For sauna only you pay 10 000 KIP.
Massage is 30 000 kip per hour.
They open around 1 pm.
Massage is as well very good one and it's done on terrace on fresh air, which makes it lot better than concluded rooms elsewhere.
This is lovely location in a forest by wat, it feels something special.
Under red tents, just when day turns dark, there is now huge night market in centre of Vientiane... in an area where most people would prefer to spend their evenings anyways in a new Chao Anou's park.
I still think that better place for buying local handicraft is in Luang Prabang. But this one in Vientiane is just more colorful when you see it from above. When lights are lit the tents become giant red lanterns. Crowds pour in to stroll or buy, and become a river of human bodies until tents are packed later in a night. Here you can buy mostly textiles both locally made or those cheaper t-shirts and jeans imported from China or Thailand. Few corners serve snacks, nothing special to say about it because food night market is somehwere else better place to try. As a last minute resort you can still buy souvenirs here, but you won't expect huge variety... for which I said earlier that is better in Prabang.
Buddha park is definitively one of 'must see' things if you're in Vieng Chan - but it takes drive by car or tuk tuk (or bus) some 25 km east of Vientiane, a little further from the Friendship bridge. There's large reclining Buddha accompanied by sculptures of many mythological persons from Hindu and Buddhist religion (like women with snakes instead of hair and others half human-half animal and whole human) and a few cockroaches on leash. Really interesting. In the shade of tree you may want to sit down and glimpse at mighty Mekong behind - it feels like running though deserted land with air so hot through dry season. At the entry there's small market with handicrafts - but for better price you should look elsewhere. Buddha park can be sometimes pleasantly calm place before groups of people arrive.
The park was built in 1960'ies. One of the most interesting places there is artificial dark 'cave' called Hell. Get inside to be with thrilling company of most incredible creatures in this place.
There's entry fee + parking fee if you come by motorbike. You can also get there by local bus (from behind Morning Market bus station) if you don't want to drive by yourself.
Note: the review was written on Jun 24, 2009
The area between southern tip of Mekong Island (Don Chan) and Thadeua rd. is considered as the green belt of Vientiane. It's interesting place to see in dry season when bottom of Mekong channel (flood plain) becomes temporary garden area where farmers grow vegetables (see those lovely cabbage and pumpkins there) and birds fly in search of insects. The place is seldom visited by tourists, probably because it takes longer time to walk from city center (about 30 min. from Sisaket temple).
In rainy season as Mekong becomes larger the chanell will be again flooded - then Mekong river will bring along new sediments and nutrients from upper regions and therefore enrich soil at the bottom of flood plain. It's well treasured natural process by people who live from its benefits. On the other hand if it rains a lot it will flood not only lower levels but also the buildings on the island and close to the river bank (there was a huge flood in 1960ies when most of Vientiane was flooded and Morning market roofs were the only parts of a building seen).
There's old aqueduct above the plain that was built in 1930s. Back to those days there were some French settlers living on the island in wooden houses. Nowsadays there are mostly Lao families living there in stilt wooden houses (some are brick and concrete, too) and it is very nice area to walk in the shade of trees on the earthen paths. There's no other traffic than bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians since the bridge is too narrow to let cars through. You can hear many birds from trees, see butterflies and cicadas.
UPDATE 2013: This is so overwhelming - the whole area had transformed into giant construction site and after just a few years you got new ASEM VILLA residental area now on this site... looks like an amusement park for rich, well, they must feel lot safer behind that huge walls now after they had removed beautiful green village with so much life and chaotic order. No, no, no!!!!
A big statue of King Sisavang Vong is located very near the Wat Simuang. He was a strong supporter of French rule in Laos, and was - expect from 1945 to 1946 - king from 1904 to 1959.
The statue is designed by a Soviet sculptor and is a gift to King Sisavang Vatthana after a visit to the Soviet Union in 1972. Two years later, the statue was erected in Vientiane.
Lao National Culture Hall is located opposite the Lao National Museum. It was built in the late 1990s and is a gift from the Chinese government to the people of Laos.
Lao National Culture Hall is used for political meetings, film showings, concerts, exhibitions, and private functions - and you cannot visit the Culture Hall unless it is open for a public event (check the local news). But still worth a look from outside if you are in the area, it is one of the more impressive buildings in Vientiane...
If you take a stroll along the Mekong River you will pass the old Presidential Palace. It is built in Beaux Art-style and was originally built to house the French colonial governor.
After the independence war against the French, the palace also served as the royal residence, but since the communists took over in the 1970s it has only been used for government ceremonies - and is not open to the public.
Wat Dong Palan is located a little away from the centre of Vientiane – about a half hour’s walk or 5-10 minutes in a tuk-tuk. You can take Lane Xang Avenue or Nong Bone Road in direction of Patuxai and turn right at Dong Palan Road.
The main temple building (sim) is not the most amazing in Vientiane, but the small surrounding garden is full of beautiful sculptures, statues, and stupas. All are very colourful and highly decorated. Wat Don Palan is a working monastery and we saw a few monks there, but no other tourists than us.
I passed Wat Phiawat on a walk along the Mekong River. The temple is not one of the most famous temples in the city, but a fine example of one of the many beautiful temple buildings you’ll meet in Vientiane...
The original Wat Phiawat was built in 1529, but - as many other temples - it was destroyed during the Siamese invasion of Vientiane in 1827. The temple was reconstructed in the mid-20th century. The main temple building (sim) was closed when I visited the temple, but inside is a seated Buddha – said to be from the 16th century.
The National Ethnic Cultural Park is located around 20 km southeast of Vientiane. The park is a ‘see-the-whole-country-in-one-hour’ theme park and there are models of houses from Laos’ ethnic minorities, several statues, cement models of dinosaurs and more… Not much to see and the park looked a little old and outdated. I only visited the park because it was on the same route as the Buddha Park (read my other tip)...
Inside the National Ethnic Cultural Park there are a few refreshment stands along the Mekong River, and from there you have a nice view of “The First Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge”. The bridge was completed in 1994 and has a length of around 1,200 meters. It connects the city of Nong Khai in Thailand with Vientiane in Laos. The cost was about 30 million USD, but the bridge was funded by the Australian government as development aid for Laos.
The Lao National Museum is the largest of the country’s 10 government-run museums and is located in central Vientiane. The museum is housed in an old colonial building which was constructed in 1925. Originally it was the French Governor's mansion, but has during the years been the offices of the Ministry of Defence, offices of the Prime Minister of the Royal Lao Government, headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Lao Revolutionary Exhibition Hall (later upgraded to become the Lao Revolutionary Museum).
In 2000, the museum was re-established as the Lao National Museum. There are a number of exhibition halls, focusing on Lao prehistory, early civilisations, the history of the Lao kingdom of Lane Xang, the French colonial period, the first Indochina War, the Vietnam War and the period since 1975.
The museum has a few interesting exhibits, but in general there is not that much to see. Many exhibitions consist of old black-and-white photos – and some photos from the wars against the French and the American are not suited for younger children. You are not allowed to take photos inside the museum.
That Dam (also known as The Black Stupa) is located not far from the U.S. Embassy and Talat Sao - on Chantha Khoumane Road.
There are two legends associated with the stupa: The first says that That Dam once was covered with gold, but the gold was stolen by the Siamese in 1827. Now there is only a black stupa to remind the Laotians of this terrible act... The second legend says that the stupa is inhabited by a 7-headed dragon who tried to help Vientiane during the war against Siam in 1827...
You can not enter the stupa – only take a walk around it. A visit here only takes a few minutes if you are in the area...