Vientiane, Laos


Vientiane by yeowatzup

Vientiane is the capital of Laos or officially known as the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Compared to the hectic, bustling capitals of other Southeast Asian countries, Vientiane's deliciously relaxing atmosphere makes it feel like the small town it is. After you've done the round of temples, the best thing to do here has always been to wander down to the riverside and watch the sun set over the Mekong River.

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Of course, the booming tourism industry is changing Vientiane by slowly but surely bringing the excesses of Thailand and China to this formerly sleepy city. Just like any other Southeast Asian capital or major city, Vientiane is experiencing a large scale building boom. Even its Presidential Palace has experienced a major makeover with the addition of a convention centre. The best part is getting around Vientiane is generally easy even for the first time visitor. Traffic in this city is far less murderous than in the larger Southeast Asian capitals of BangkokHo Chi Minh City (Saigon), Kuala Lumpur or even Phnom Penh.

Patuxai by Ondrej Zvacek

Settled sometime around the 10th century, Vientiane became an important administrative city of the Kingdom of Lan Xang in 1545. Ransacked by the Siamese in 1828, Vientiane experienced a resurgence when it became the capital of the French protectorate, a position it kept after independence 1953 and remained unchanged after the communist revolution in 1975. Today Vientiane is the largest city in Laos, with an estimated population of 210,000 in the city itself and some 700,000 in Vientiane Prefecture.

Tuk-tuk in Vientiane by Ilya Plekhanov

Vientiane is stretched out on the north-eastern bank of a bend of the Mekong River. From the river bank inland, the main roads running parallel to the river are Thanon Fa Ngum, Thanon Setthathirat and Thanon Samsenthai. The central district, Chanthabuli, contains most of Vientiane's government offices, hotels and restaurants. Vientiane's widest boulevard, Thanon Lane Xang, runs from the Presidential Palace (now used for government offices and for state receptions) to the northeast around Patuxai (Victory Gate) towards Pha That Luang and the That Luang Stupa, the most important religious monument in Laos.
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