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South-East Asian countries are rich with thousands of years of historical prominence. If you visit any country in South-East Asia, you will be overwhelmed with the fervor you will find in the cities out there. Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is no different. The city, a former French colony, is a historical center with massive colonial architecture kept intact through the years. Simultaneously, it boasts of modern cafe culture, abundant cheap spa centres, and wide diversity in the riverside market. Whether you are a religious person, or a history enthusiast, or a true lover of happening nightlife, Vientiane is a likely place for you to pay a visit.
Tip: Being a tropical climate country, Vientiane tends to be quite hot and humid between March and May (40°C). So, those who want to avoid the heat should plan a journey between November and March as the weather remains soothing during that time (24-37°C). However, if you want to avoid the crowd, you can plan a trip between May and October, the rainy season. There will be a lot of rain, sure, but in short bursts. So, you will have a lot of dry gaps to explore the city.
There are many reputed airlines flying to Vientiane on a regular basis including Thai Airways flights, Thai AirAsia flights, China Eastern flights, Bangkok Airways flights, Singapore Airlines flights, AirAsia flights, SilkAir flights, Thai Smile flights, and Korean Air flights. Many of these airlines also offer many direct flights to Vientiane. For traveling to Vientiane, you have to land at Wattay International Airport, one of the very few international airports in the entire Laos.
The city of Vientiane is not very far away from the airport. You can either take a shuttle bus from the bus station outside the airport. It costs you $2 (15.000 Kip) and in 35 minutes you will reach the central bus station in Vientiane. If you are taking a taxi, on the other hand, it will cost you $7 but it will save time as you will reach the city in 15 minutes. If you go for a van, it will take you $8. You can also rent a car to be driven on your own.
Tip: If you are planning on taking a bus, you must remember that the earliest bus leaves the station at 8:35 am and the last bus from the bus station leaves at 9:40 pm.
The city of Vientiane looks less like a city and more like a township. It carries a rich Buddhist heritage through its culture and its mausoleums. The city attractions are all in close vicinity- so you can explore all of it on foot. You can start your trip to Sisaket Temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in Laos. This temple was built in the 1820s. The entrance fee to this temple for foreign nationals is $1.14 (10.000 Kip) per person. There are more than 6 thousand Buddha statues in total in all shapes and sizes in this temple. Just across the street from Sisaket, you can enter another Buddhist temple, Hophakew museum with the same entrance fee. You can also visit Patuxai, the landmark monument of Vientiane situated exactly in the middle of the city. If you want to enjoy yourself with more urban entertainment, you have to go to Vientiane Centre, the super mall. Behind the mall, you can find a pond where you can opt for riding little local boats. The price for boating is $5.77 (50.000 Kip) for a 30-minute ride. Next to it, you can also find the vibrant night market which is a shopaholic’s paradise.
Tip: It is very easy to roam around Vientiane in a tuk-tuk. You can find a rate-chart hanging inside the tuk-tuk indicating the price for an entire city tour. It is generally priced at about $3.45 (30.000 Kip) for a 3-kilometer ride. You can also bargain with the tuk-tuk drivers to take the tour at a cheaper price. If you are a big group, jumbos are a better option as it costs only $1.15 (10.000 Kip) per ride.
If you are a foodie, then Vientiane will be your paradise. The dining experience in Vientiane is going to overwhelm anybody who takes a tour here. The best part about the food here is hygiene. Starting from the posh restaurants to the street side food, Vientiane will never compromise on hygiene. The simple cuisines here have their unique, distinct flavors that one can be sure will remain etched in their memories. A very common experience for a Vientiane tour is to take a tuk-tuk food tour. While in the midst of the market with your tuk-tuk driver as a guide, you must try unique preparations like Kanom Krok which is a coconut pancake, Jaew mak khua, grilled eggplant and Tam Maak Hoong which is a papaya salad. You must try the Laotian coffee for its exotic aroma. One of the unique food experiences in the market would be the salty fish grilled on charcoal. You can choose any fish (priced between $4-6) and they will prepare it for you. Moreover, if you are in Vientiane, you must experience a cooking class. So, after you are done with the market tour and have bought enough vegetables and pa daek (dried meat), the essential ingredients for Laotian dishes, you should head straight to a cooking class. You can learn to make typical Laotian preparations like Khao Niaw, Tam Maak Hoong, Savanakhet grill chicken, etc.
For shopping, you can head to the Vientiane Night market which opens every day at 6 pm and continues till 9.30 pm in front of the Mekong River. You can choose from the collection of red-roofed stalls offering handicrafts, clothes, and electronics. You can also explore Laotian Textiles at Ban Mixay. At the Lane Xang Avenue, the Talat Sao Vientiane offers clothes, sports equipment, souvenirs, and jewelry.
Tip: Try Boutiques selling silk and cotton varieties. Also, explore the Phaeng Mai Gallery, the traditional weaving village to acquire hand-dyed fabrics.
So, if you are planning a trip to Vientiane to experience all these ecstasies, go to Trip.com. The simple interface at the website is extremely user-friendly and will guide you through the most important features like cheap flights to Vientiane, affordable accommodations, and all the other things you might worry about. Their 24-hour customer service will also help you find the best deals.