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INTRODUCING VIENTIANE

Wide, tree-lined boulevards and riverside parks. Parisian bakeries and buzzing night markets. Colonial mansions standing beside glittering temples. Vientiane, Laos’ cosmopolitan capital, is a bewitching mix of past and present, west and east. With a wealth of sites to discover and a laid-back atmosphere, this enchanting city is made for luxury breaks.

Echoes of 19th-century France beside the Mekong River, Laos.

Things to do

CULTURE

An important centre for Buddhism, Vientiane is home to some of Laos’ most venerated sites. The jewel in the crown is Pha That Luang, an immense monument drenched in gold leaf. This eye-catching temple becomes even more colourful in November when the Boun Festival brings parades and ceremonies. For an insight into the country’s mix of religious heritage, visit Wat Ho Phra Kaew. Once home to a revered Emerald Buddha statue stolen from the Khmer empire, the temple is now a museum of sacred art.


FOOD

Vientiane’s history as a trading port means its culinary scene is a real melting pot of cultures. Start the day with a fresh croissant and a newspaper in a classic French bakery. Dine on Vietnamese, Chinese or Thai favourites for lunch. Then follow your nose to Vangthong Evening Market to sample authentic Laotian specialities. Snacks to look out for include crisp spring rolls and succulent roasted duck, followed by sticky rice with coconut cream.

DAY TRIPS

Leave the city streets behind for a day in the great outdoors. One of Laos’ most spectacular national parks, Phou Khao Khouay, is easily reached from Vientiane. Discover a land of sheer sandstone cliffs, deep river gorges, mountains and forests inhabited by bears, jackals and clouded leopards. Keep your camera handy as you explore – you may be lucky enough to spot the Asian elephants that call the park home.

After a busy day exploring, follow the locals’ lead and sip chilled Beer Lao while watching the sun set over the river.

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