The City of the Moon
The Lao people believe that Vientiane’s name means the “city of the moon,” which is a very romantic name for a wonderful city. Legend says that a prince named Thattaradtha founded the city, right after he fled his ancient Lao Kingdom when he was denied is royal birthright. The prince’s city was built right on the banks of one of the country’s main rivers, the Mekong.
Vientiane has gone through centuries of interesting historical events, including several governments. At present, Vientiane is one of the fast-rising cities in Southeast Asia, and has been the host of the 2009 Southeast Asian Games.
Destinations like no other
Aside from being the capital city of the country, Vientiane is popular to tourists from different parts of the world because of its numerous historical and religious attractions. The Pha That Luang, a massive golden Buddhist Stupa located in the middle of the city, is one of the most popular destinations in Vientiane. This structure is built in the third century, but was restored and reconstructed over the recent years. Many Laotians believe that the Pha That Luang is one of the most important national monuments in their country, as well as an essential symbol for their fair nation – and all for good reason. This stupa is said to be the home of an important Buddhist relic.
The Wat Si Muang temple complex is another popular destination in Vientiane. Wat Si Muang is a temple built upon a Hindu shrine’s ruins, and is believed to be guarded by the spirit of a brave local woman.
Famous for a large statue of a reclining Buddha is the Buddha Park in the south of the city, near the banks of the Mekong River. Aside from the larger-than-life Buddha, this park is also home to other religious (both Hindu and Buddhist) sculptures, which are surrounded by lush trees and verdant gardens.
When in Vientiane, make sure to also visit the Lao National Museum, the ancient temple of Haw Phra Kaew (currently a museum), the monastery of Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan, the Wat Si Saket, the temple of Wat Sok Pa Luang, and the Talat Sao and Sanjiang Markets.
Vientiane is also home to a Chinatown that many tourists are not aware of. The Laotian Chinatown is not as expansive or as grand as the Chinatowns in larger countries, but there is a unique flavor that you would not see anywhere else. Sanjiang, a little piece of the Chinese mainland in Laos, is a place best for unforgettable culinary and shopping experiences. Visiting this part of town will transport you, momentarily, to China—it is quite a thrilling experience, but nobody really talks in English. Communicating in anything other than Chinese or the local language can be a bit difficult.
When in Sanjiang, make sure to try Sichuan dishes, Yunnan hotpot, and Beijing dumplings.
TNK Travel Team