Things to do
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.
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.
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.