Being the capital of Laos, Vientiane has its own charm; and it is one of the places that every traveler needs to put on their schedule when paying a visit to this country. Although it is not as busy as Luang Prabang or not granted with magnificent natural scenery as Pakse, this little city has much to see. Especially it offers great sightseeing of temples or pagodas. Let’s discover all the information about Vientiane Laos.
Many travelers say that they thought Vientiane as a small village more than a modernized capital as other countries’ capitals. This city sits next to the Mekong river bank and has a long history which dates back to around 1000 AD. In the 16th Century, Vientiane became the capital of Laos because of its advantageous topographic: this is a land of fertile and lush alluvial plains.
The images of Vientiane still appear so vividly when I recall the trip to Laos last year. It was during the Laos New Year (or as known as “Pi Mai”) hence the city was filled with exciting crowds of people who celebrate the new year, loud music and plentiful colors of flags, flowers, and people dressing up. It totally contrasts with what I had learned about Vientiane before traveling there. However, I guess that if I had not come to Vientiane on such special occasions, I would have seen the “real vibe” of daily life – a relaxing and serene city ever.
Vientiane Laos weather
The capital of Laos is located in the northwest with 2 seasons: dry and wet. The dry season is from October to the end of April. The rainy season starts from May to late September. The time between November and February is the most comfortable with lots of sunny days.
The wet season
The wet season in Vientiane runs generally from around May to October, in which June to August are the wettest months. As many areas in Laos, the weather is characterized by a sharp downpour for a few hours a day. Located on the banks of Mekong River, Vientiane is one of the areas getting a bit more rain.
This instinct monsoon time wreak havoc muddy roads, landslides. Therefore, traffic tends to be slow. Travel time for road routes can double trouble. However, the rainy season brings a lovely green landscape to Vientiane. As it is not raining all day, there is still a clear sky together with the stunning mountain, rice paddies bursting with neon green. Traveling to Vientiane in this wet season may be challenging but it will be rewarded with beautiful attractions in the amazing green landscape.
Also, you do not want to miss one of the biggest and most significant festivals, Laos boat racing, taking place every year during September and October. It attracts the racers from many villages around Vientiane, therefore, it strengthens the relationship among people from various communities.
The dry season
The dry season of Laos weather has two distinct periods: the cool dry season and the hot dry season. The cool dry season runs from late October to February and the hot dry season spans from March to April.
Be prepared to the blistering heat if you travel to Vientiane Laos in April, the hottest month of the year with an average temperature of about 35°C.
November is the first month of the cool dry season and also the best time to visit Vientiane in particular and Laos in general. At this time, heavy rainfalls have passed, leaving the green and lush to this laid-back capital. The average temperature is around 25°C with dry conditions throughout the city. November through February is the most comfortable with great sunshine in Vientiane. Temperatures are relatively low with the pure air. The rivers are high enough to make river travel a breeze. You will feel relaxed when visiting Vientiane temples, wandering down to the Mekong riverside, enjoying Beer Lao and the sunset on the Mekong in this cool weather.
Things to do in Vientiane
Patuxay – The Victory Monument
Patuxay is one of the most well-known attractions and check-in spots for travelers in Vientiane. It is a massive and intricate concrete arch, situated on Lang Xang Avenue, inside the area of Patuxay Park. Looking through the picture, it might seem familiar, it is true since people erected it in reminiscent of the Paris’s Arc de Triomphe. Still, it has the traditional Laotian buildings making traits, it is therefore a harmony mix between East and West design. When going inside the arch, you will see the carves and ornaments of Buddhist symbols as well as Hindu deities with 5 towers inside.
Coming here, you can take beautiful pictures at the front arch of the monument, or even climbing up to the top to see the view from there. There is no need for buying the tickets if you do not climb up to the tower.
Xieng Khuan – The Buddha park
The Buddha Park is not in the center, it lies 25 kilometers outside of Vientiane; which requires you to get a taxi, a bus or hiring a motorbike. Laotian people call it a park because it makes up a vast land to display more than 200 religious statues of all sizes and shapes. It was constructed in 1958 and was the brainchild of a monk with a hand help of a sculpture artist.
However, all of the statues do not depict only Buddha but also the gods of Hinduism. Many statues are of impressive size, the most outstanding one is in the shape of a reclining Buddha, which is 40 meters high. Besides that, the Indra god (a god in Hinduism) riding the three-headed elephants and the four-armed deity sitting on a horse, the artistic deity with 12 faces and many hands are the most prominent sculptures in the park.
Pha That Luang – the symbol of Laos
Pha That Luang – or also called the Vientiane Great Stupa, is said to be the most scared building as well as the most picturesque sites in Laos. The That Luang foundation dated back to the 3rd century, however, the current structure was later built only when Vientiane became the capital of Laos.
With a height of 44 meters, its pinnacle is actually covered in real gold, which makes it a very special characteristic. Surrounding the center stupa is sophisticated painted turrets in the Laotian style. The whole complex makes up approximately 4 kilometers.
Laos National museum
Should you are fond of digging more about the history and culture of Laos, there is one site you cannot miss: The Laos National Museum – or simply known as The National Museum.
This site is a small and ancient building that was founded during the French Colonial period. When going inside, you will have the opportunity to see both the primeval period, with dinosaur bones, fragments of pottery. Additionally, you can find various interesting art pieces are on sale here, for instance: local paintings, sculptures, and jewelry.
Vientiane night market
People of Vientiane make use of the Mekong River Bank to organize the night market daily. Vendors start their businesses after sunset and it gets busiest from 8 pm. During the night time, you can take a walk through rows of red-roofed stalls, either to enjoy street foods or to buying souvenirs, clothes or many other types of products.
Suggested Laos tours including Vientiane
All the information above is about the best time to visit and the suggested schedule if the traveling time does not allow you to spend many days in Vientiane Laos. If you have more time, you should also visit other sites such as Ho Phra Keo, Wat Si Muang, Wat Si Saket and also having fun in the Laos Bowing Center or get a massage in a spa. Happy traveling!
Minh Vu – Travel Specialist