In the Heat of Vientiane
When we decided to move on to Vientiane, we did that mainly because it has an international airport which permitted us to continue our travels to Vietnam. And as we were still missing the visa for Vietnam, it was also a good opportunity to organize it while staying in Laos’ capital.
The center of Vientiane is very international and it is in fact not so easy to find an authentic local restaurant, instead, there are lots of French cafés, pizza and pasta places, and other international restaurants. As we had quite a bit of time to kill because we had to wait for our Vietnam visa, this was however very welcome. And because it was up to 35° C during the day, cooling down in a café every now and then was also pleasant.
Tourist Attractions of Vientiane
While Vientiane does not offer the same amount and quality of tourist attractions like Luang Prabang or Vang Vieng, there are still a few sights worth visiting. The most important one is Pha That Luang, Laos’ national monument and a symbol of Buddhist religion. Nearby there are several temples and a giant golden reclining Buddha statue.
Another attraction is the Patuxai, Laos’ victory monument. It resembles a bit the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. However, it was built from cement and looked by far less interesting as its Paris counterpart. Ironically, even one of the explanation boards admits that the Patuxai is not really a beautiful monument. Nevertheless, because it was possible to climb it for less than 50 cents, it makes a good spot for getting a panoramic view over Vientiane.
Other than that, there are a few temples and government buildings to have a look at, but nothing overly spectacular (after having seen dozens of temples in the past months).
Around 25 km outside of Vientiane, we paid a visit to a so-called Buddha park. It is basically a park with all kinds of recently made Buddha statues put together seemingly in a random way. The statues themselves were, at least from my art understanding, were not of very high quality. While for tourists it is an interesting visit (for Vientiane standards), I guess that for the locals, this park does not have any religious or historic significance.
COPE Visitor Center
COPE stand for Cooperative Orthotic & Prostethic Enterprise and stands for an organization that provides artificial limbs, walking aids and wheelchairs in Laos. As explained in the post about the UXO Museum in Luang Prabang, due to many unexploded remainders of cluster bombs, tens of thousands of Laotians got injured by losing their hands, arms, or legs. With international support, the COPE organization provides victims with free medical treatment and appropriate aids to make their life easier. Visiting the COPE Visitor Center was very informative and once again showed us the tragic consequences of America’s secret war in Laos.
I can also recommend the following five minute movie created by COPE for more detailed information and numbers:
Getting Ready for Vietnam
The main reason we stayed in total four nights in Vientiane was because we needed to organize our onward journey to Vietnam. Unfortunately, a visa is required, and because it was New Year break in Vietnam, the authorities only issued visas on the 21st of February. So we had plenty of time for getting our blogs a bit up to date and discover various cafés. But now we are ready for Vietnam and we will fly to Hanoi. We chose a 50 minute flight over an 18 hour bus ride.