There are your huge, bustling Asian capital cities – the likes of Bangkok, Tokyo, Delhi and Beijing – and then there’s Vientiane, which dances to the beat of a very different (read: much slower) drum. It gets an unfair rap from some visitors, but we like the relaxed vibe and hidden gems of the capital of Laos. Here’s 5 great things to do on your next trip.
1. Visit a temple
Wat Si Saket, celebrating its 200th birthday next year, is the most famous temple in Vientiane. The pretty courtyard houses countless Buddha statues in niches, while in a separate temple complex next door you’ll find a huge reclining Buddha.
2. Sample street food
By all means try the national dish of laarp (minced meat with ground rice and herbs), but an easier option is a superb French-style baguette crammed with paté, pork, pickles and chillies.
3. Stop for coffee
Thanks to the French influence, you can find fantastic coffees and pastries in Vientiane. An old favourite is Le Banneton café on Sakkaline Road, one block back from the Mekong – don’t miss the croissants!
4. Go shopping
Silk is the bigticket item in Vientiane, and there are several craft emporiums and shops where you can watch artisans at work, making modern cotton weavings with traditional motifs. Lao Textiles (laotextiles.com) is among the best regarded of these.
5. Enjoy a sundowner
Vientiane’s waterfront isn’t the prettiest in Asia, but there’s still something mesmerising about the wide sweep of the Mekong here, and the atmosphere in the riverside bars tends to have a mellow charm – perfect for a cold Laobeer.