24 Hours in Vientiane
With just 24 hours to explore the city, what should you do? Vientiane has a wealth of hidden gems to discover for those wanting to get a real feel for this charming city.
If you get up early, you’ll see the monks on their alms-rounds. They begin each day by walking, barefoot from their temple to the streets around, where people wait for them outside their houses, with offerings of food. By giving to the monks you gain merit, so when people have an important life event coming up, alms offerings are considered to bring good luck.
When the monks have past, head over to That Luang. The golden stupa is one of the most revered in Laos, and is the site of a massive annual festival, when monks from all around the country gather to receive alms. Today you can go to the temple where the monks will give thanks for their food as local people gather around. Once they have finished eating and head off to study or pray, join the rest of the congregation for breakfast and experience a memorable meal – the offerings from the alms round.
Whilst you are at That Luang, check out the pictures from the Jataka Tales, depicting the Buddha’s life, that are painted on the temple walls, and the reclining golden Buddha behind the temple. Be sure to walk clockwise around the stupa three times where, it is said, the Buddha’s breastplate is entombed.
After visiting That Luang, make your way over to Buddha Park, where Buddhism and Hinduism combine in an eclectic group of statues alongside the river. Once you’ve checked out the statues, have some lunch and relax under the sala, drinking from a coconut as the river drifts past.
Heading back to town, drop in at the Lao Disabled Women’s Development Centre, where, as well as seeing the great work they are doing, you can buy some wonderful handmade gifts to take home.
Clay House by Souliya:
The river road gives you a great glimpse into Lao life as it bends alongside paddy fields and bamboo huts, while fishermen cast their nets from boats. Call in at the Clay House by Souliya where Souliya Phoumivong can give you a tour of his workshop, where he makes clay animations for TV shows and educational programs for schools. While you are there, check out the Khmer ruins of an ancient temple in his garden which is crammed with fruits and veggies, both familiar and unusual. Just make sure you make an appointment to visit first!
Sinouk Coffee Pavilion:
After you leave the animation studio, head to the Sinouk Coffee Pavilion and learn about the history of coffee in Laos and about how the perfect cup of coffee is made (check out their website for tours and even barista training!). Once refreshed, cross the road to check out the City Wall Visitor Centre where parts of Vientiane’s original city wall still stand. Vientiane dates back to 1545 as an important city in Lan Xang, or ‘Million Elephants’ although people have lived here for over 1,000 years!
Once back in town, head over to the night market. In the evening they close the road to traffic and courting couples stroll, kids are taught to ride bicycles, and the river glows red in the sunset. Street food vendors line the Mekong River Road offering a wealth of BBQ fish, fresh vegetables and delicious delicacies to tempt any palate. To finish this full day in Vientiane, drop in at the The Spirit House and try one of their specially crafted cocktails. Their Lao Botanical Gin with lemongrass, lime leaf, fresh lime and pomelo is definitely worth checking out (and you can even buy a bottle to take home), while their Ultimate G&T is highly recommended!
Got some more time available in Vientiane? Then definitely check out our Another 24 Hours in Vientiane post!