Vientiane, Laos


Vientiane is best viewed as a comfortable transit point for other places in Laos, or as a recuperative stop on the way out to other parts of Laos. It's a pleasant enough place, but generally, there is little reason to spend more than a couple of days here. For many visitors, spending a full day or two is more than sufficient to visit most of Vientiane's major attractions.
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Lao National Museum
Thanon Samsenthai (next to Lao Plaza Hotel). Open: Daily from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission: 10,000 kip for foreigners and 2,000 kip for Laotian.
Formerly the Lao Revolutionary Museum, the historical exhibits on the first floor are modest though very interesting in depicting Laotian 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 insight into the 18th Century Laotian Kingdom and the customs of the day. The floor builds up to a fervently revolutionary pitch as it documents the heroic struggle of the Lao people against the Siamese (Thai), French and American imperialists. The final rooms provide an insight into the country's modern advancements, though these are quite uninspiring. Most exhibits are labelled in English, though some French labelling remains.

Lao National Museum by neajjean

Patuxai (Victory Gate)
Centrally located in Vientiane.
The Patuxai is a major city landmark and local rendition of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Besides the elaborate Buddhist embellishment, it differs from the original in having four gates instead of two and being just a bit higher to trump the French! Reasonably impressive from afar, a surprisingly frank English sign inside the monument labels it a "monster of concrete" when seen up close. The monument itself aside, the palm tree-lined park around it is complete with fountains - quite pleasant though lacking of shade during the day time. You can climb up to the 7th story (3,000 kip to climb) for a nice view of central Vientiane and three levels of souvenir shops with less than enthusiastic sales people sitting about. Roving cameramen will be happy to charge you for photos near these attractions.

The Patuxai by Tevaprapas Makklay

COPE Visitor Centre
Khou Vieng Road (1 km from Talat Sao and opposite Green Park Hotel). Open: Daily from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission: Free.
The Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) is a local non-profit organisation that provides orthotic, prosthetic, rehabilitation and advocacy services for survivors of unexploded ordnance accidents and other people with disabilities in Laos. During the Vietnam War (1964-1973), the conflict spilled over into Laos with more than two million tons of explosives. The COPE Visitor Centre allows visitors to understand about the devastating impact of unexploded ordnance and work of the COPE project. Besides exhibits, visitors can also watch documentaries and read survivor stories. There is a gift shop selling wares from local Lao organisations and the Karma Cafe serves delicious ice cream and Lao coffee.
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