Things to do - general

Vientiane (/vjɛnˈtjɑːn/; French pronunciation: ​[vjɛ̃ˈtjan]; Lao: ວຽງຈັນ, Viang chan, IPA: [ʋíəŋ tɕàn]; Thai: เวียงจันทน์, Wiang Chan,IPA: [wiəŋ tɕan]; Khmer: វៀងច័ន្ទ, Vieng Chan) is the capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. Vientiane became the capital in 1563 due to fears of a Burmese invasion.Vientiane was the administrative capital during French rule and, due to economic growth in recent times, is now the economic centre of Laos.

The estimated population of the city is 760,000 (2015). The city hosted the 25th Southeast Asian Games in December 2009 celebrating the 50 years of Southeast Asian Games.

The name of the city is derived from Pali, the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism. Although the original meaning of the name of the city is “city of sandalwood”, as shown by ancient Lao inscription which wrote according to etymology, unlike modern Lao which is written phonetically, in modern Lao, the meaning of the name Vientiane is ambiguous.

Many, if not most, Lao people claim that the city’s name means “city of the moon”, while many also claim correctly that the city’s name means “city of sandalwood” because the words for “moon” (ຈັນ or ຈັນທຣ໌ from chandra चन्द्र in Sanskrit) and “sandalwood” (ຈັນ or ຈັນທນ໌ from chandana चन्दन in Sanskrit) are written and pronounced identically as “chan” in modern Lao. Most academic and historic Lao sources claim that the city’s name does in fact mean “city of sandalwood”, reinforced by the city’s Thai (เวียงจันทน์) and Khmer (វៀងចន្ទន៍) names both retain the etymological spelling, which indicates “city of sandalwood”.

The romanised spelling “Vientiane” is of French origin, and reflects the difficulty the French had in pronouncing the hard “ch” sound in of the Lao language. A common English-based spelling is “Viangchan”, or occasionally “Wiangchan”.

Visa requirements

Visa to Laos

Languages spokenLaos
Currency usedKip
Area (km2)3920

Vientiane is best viewed as a comfortable transit point for other places in Laos, or as a recuperative stop on the way out. It's a pleasant enough place, but generally, there is little reason to spend more than a couple of days here.



Lao National Museum (Revolutionary Museum), Thanon Samsenthai (next to Lao Plaza Hotel). Formerly the Lao Revolutionary Museum by name, the historical exhibits on the first floor are modest though very interesting in depicting some of the early history. They include one of the original Jars from the Plain of Jars and various stone and bronze age implements. The second floor provides us with a great insight into the 18th Century Laotian Kingdom and the customs of the day. It would appear that the Loatians didn't treat their guests quite as well in those days, often keeping them from leaving the country for several months. The floor builds up to a fervently revolutionary pitch as it documents the heroic struggle of the Lao against the Siamese (Thai), French and American 'imperialists'. Exhibits include items such as socks worn by Politburo members when they escaped from prison and Kaysone Phomvihane's chest expander. The final rooms, on post-revolutionary Laos, are mostly a photo gallery of pressing topics such as the comrades of the 7th Plenary Session of the Laos People's Congress inspecting fertilizer production processes. The final rooms provide an insight into some of the modern advancements, though these are fairly dowdy and uninspiring.

Patuxai, the Victory Gate:

Patuxay Victory munoment

Victory munoment

A local rendition of Paris' Arc de Triomphe. Besides the elaborate Buddhist embellishment, it differs from the original in having four gates instead of two and being just a bit higher (to spite the French). Reasonably impressive from afar, a surprisingly frank English sign inside the monument labels it a "monster of concrete" when seen up close - and the concrete in question was donated by the US, although it was supposed to go towards a new airport instead (hence the nickname "the Vertical Runway". The monument itself aside, the palm tree-lined park around it complete with fountains is quite pleasant though lacking of shade during the day time, and for three thousand kip you can climb up to the 7th story (stairs only) for a nice view of downtown Vientiane and two souvenir shops with less than enthusiastic sales people sitting about. Features a musical fountain nearby that attracts visitors from around Laos and Asia, as well as a World Peace gong presented by Indonesia.



COPE Visitor Centre: Ku Wieng Road (Waterpark near Green Park Hotel), . 09:00-18:00. Explains Laos' legacy of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and the National Rehabilitation Centre's efforts to expand prosthetic services across the country. There are a number of hands-on exhibits and visitors can watch a number of short films on the subject. Exhibits are appropriate for all ages. An excellent gift shop offers fun, off-beat souvenirs that support a good cause. Free parking (do not confuse with the paid parking lot). Free. (17.96127,102.61789) edit

Temples and Stupas: Some temples (indicated below) charge an entry fee of 2,000/5,000K for Lao nationals and foreigners and are open 8AM-4PM, with a Noon-1PM lunch break. The monks of those that don’t charge a fee will be grateful for a small donation in the box.

Laos pagoda

Laos pagoda

Wat Si Saket: The oldest standing temple in Vientiane, now signposted as Sisaket Museum. Entrance fee. Corner of Thanon Lane Xang and Thanon Setthathirat. Probably the oldest standing temple in Vientiane and among the most atmospheric. Built in 1818 by Chao Anou in the Bangkok style and hence left unsacked when much of Vientiane was razed in a Siamese raid in 1828. Within the cloister walls are hundreds of niches housing Buddha images large and small, made of wood, stone, silver and bronze. In the center of the courtyard is a five-tier-roofed sim (ordination hall) housing yet more Buddha niches and beautiful but fading murals of the Buddha's past lives. hands-down "calling for rain" pose.

Pha That Luang: Entrance fee. Thanon That Luang (2 km east from Patuxai). The national symbol and most important religious monument of the country, That Luang is a three-layered gilded stupa. The current version dates from 1566, although it has been ransacked and renovated numerous times since then. Closed Mondays. You have to pay a few thousand kip to access the inner courtyard, which gives you a slightly closer view of the stupa, and lots of Buddha statues.
Vientiane's most important festival, Bun That Luang, is held here in November on the night of the full moon.
There are two temples beside That Luang: Wat That Luang Neua to the north(ish) and Wat That Luang Tai to the south(ish), both presently being renovated.

Wat Si Muang: Between Thanons Setthatirat and Samsenthai, about 1km east of the center. Despite its small size, the temple is very active and houses the city pillar. Followers believe that lifting the small buddha statue 3 times from its cushion means that your prayers or questions will be answered.

Wats Onteu: Inpeng, Mixay and Haisok are along Thanon Setthatirat right in the town center, and therefore the most likely temples to be visited by travelers.

Buddhism statue

Laos buddism statue

Buddha Park: (Xieng Khuan) is a bizarre outdoor collection of huge concrete sculptures of Buddhist and Hindu deities and real and imaginary beasts. The reclining Buddha is especially impressive. Built in 1958 by mystic Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, who left the country after the communist take-over and, in 1978, went on to establish a nearly identical park (Sala Keoku or Sala Kaew Ku) across the river in Nong Khai, Thailand

Interesting places & activities

Useful information

What is the Climate, Average Temperature/ Weather in Vientiane?Whether you wish to travel to Vientiane, Laos (Latitude & Longitude: Altitude: 172 m or 564 ft) on holiday, business or vacation, are interested in buying property there or are looking to migrate the following Vientiane climate, temperature and weather information should prove helpful: The average temperature in Vientiane, Laos is 26.5 °C (80 °F).The average temperature range is 6 °C.The highest monthly average high temperature is 34 °C (93 °F) in April.The lowest monthly average low temperature is 17 °C (63 °F) in January & December.Vientiane's climate receives an average of 1714 mm (67.5 in) of rainfall per year, or 143 mm (5.6 in) per month.On average there are 111 days per year with more than 0.1 mm (0.004 in) of rainfall (precipitation) or 9 days with a quantity of rain, sleet, snow etc. per month.The driest weather is in December when an average of 1 mm (0.0 in) of rainfall (precipitation) occurrs across 0 days.The wettest weather is in September when an average of 399 mm (15.7 in) of rainfall (precipitation) occurrs across 15 days.The average annual relative humidity is 78.5% and average monthly relative humidity ranges from 69% in March & April to 87% in August.Average sunlight hours in Vientiane range between 4.0 hours per day in June and 8.2 hours per day in November.There are an average of 2420 hours of sunlight per year with an average of 6.6 hours of sunlight per day.There are an average of 0 days per year with frost in Vientiane and in January there are an average of 0 days with frost

Culture and history info

The great Laotian epic, the Phra Lak Phra Lam, claims that Prince Thattaradtha founded the city when he left the legendary Lao kingdom of Muong Inthapatha Maha Nakhone because he was denied the throne in favor of his younger brother. Thattaradtha founded a city called Maha Thani Si Phan Phao on the western banks of the Mekong River; this city was said to have later become today's Udon Thani, Thailand. One day, a seven-headed Naga told Thattaradtha to start a new city on the east bank of the river opposite Maha Thani Si Phan Phao. The prince called this city Chanthabuly Si Sattanakhanahud; which was said to be the predecessor of modern Vientiane.

Pha That Luang
Contrary to the Phra Lak Phra Lam, most historians believe Vientiane was an early Khmer settlement centered around a Hindu temple, which the Pha That Luang would later replace. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the time when the Lao and Thai people are believed to have entered Southeast Asia from Southern China, the few remaining Khmers in the area were either killed, removed, or assimilated into the Lao civilization, which would soon overtake the area.

In 1354, when Fa Ngum founded the kingdom of Lan Xang, Vientiane became an important administrative city, even though it was not made the capital. King Setthathirath officially established it as the capital of Lan Xang in 1563, to avoid Burmese invasion.[3] When Lan Xang fell apart in 1707, it became an independent Kingdom of Vientiane. In 1779, it was conquered by the Siamese general Phraya Chakri and made a vassal of Siam.

When King Anouvong raised an unsuccessful rebellion, it was obliterated by Siamese armies in 1827. The city was burned to the ground and was looted of nearly all Laotian artifacts, including Buddha statues and people. Vientiane was in great disrepair, depopulated and disappearing into the forest, when the French arrived. It eventually passed to French rule in 1893. It became the capital of the French protectorate of Laos in 1899. The French rebuilt the city and rebuilt or repaired Buddhist temples such as Pha That Luang, Haw Phra Kaew, and left many colonial buildings behind.

During World War II, Vientiane fell with little resistance and was occupied by Japanese forces, under the command of Sako Masanori.[4] On 9 March 1945 French paratroopers arrived, and reoccupied the city on 24 April 1945.[5]

As the Laotian Civil War broke out between the Royal Lao Government and the Pathet Lao, Vientiane became unstable. In August 1960, Kong Le seized the capital and insisted that Souvanna Phouma become prime minister. In mid-December, Phoumi Nosavan then seized the capital, overthrew the Phouma Government, and installed Boun Oum as prime minister. In mid-1975, Pathet Lao troops moved towards the city and American personnel began evacuating the capital. On 23 August 1975, a contingent of 50 Pathet Lao women, symbolically liberated the city.[5] On 2 December 1975, the communist party of the Pathet Lao took over Vientiane, defeated the Kingdom of Laos, and renamed the country the Lao People's Democratic Republic, which ended the Laotian Civil War, but an ongoing Insurgency in Laos then began in the jungle, with the Pathet Lao fighting American CIA-sponsored factions of Hmongs, royalists-in-exile, and right-wingers.

Vientiane was the host of the incident-free 2009 Southeast Asian Games, with 18 competitions being dropped from the previous games held in Thailand, due to Laos' landlocked state and the lack of adequate facilities in Vientiane.

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