Vientiane: The World’s Most Laid Back Capital
Vientiane, the capital of Laos, lies right across the border from northern Thailand. For most travelers, it is a city that must be passed through to visit other parts of Laos. I was shocked by how little was going on in the largest city of Laos. It’s worth a stop for a day or so, just to get a feel for the nation’s capital. But spending two full days there was a bit much and we found ourselves a bit bored.
Entering Laos from Chiang Mai seems to be a popular route, and this is exactly what we did. We decided to go the more convenient, more expensive route, which is with a bus company called Aya. A 12 passenger van leaves Chiang Mai at 8pm and gets to the Laos border at 6am and finally Vientiane at 7am. The price was 850 Bahts ($26). This is probably the most convenient option, as the company took us through the border and all the way to the city which is about 12 miles (20km) from the border. However, I must say that the ride wasn’t the most comfortable. The driver was insane, flying around corners at high speeds and passing at iffy times. But we made it and in good time.
Vientiane: A Touch of France
For about 50 years, until 1945, Laos was under rule of the French. Because of this, Vientiane (and Laos in general) have many things that are French influenced. For example, baguettes are everywhere and are delicious. After two months of rice and noodles, nothing tastes better than a baguette sandwich. A baguette sandwich with fried eggs, tomatoes, lettuce, and onions has become my go-to breakfast. Secondly, there are many cafes in Vientiane. In the downtown area, it seems there is at least one café on every street block. French infrastructure and architecture also still remain. One road in Vientiane, Avenue Lane Xang, feels a bit like Paris with its long, wide streets leading to Putuxay Monument, something similar to the Arc to Triomphe in Paris.
Other than this, Vientiane really doesn’t have much else that is interesting. Like I said, we found ourselves bored after just two full days there. The French food and various bakeries treated us well, but we were ready to head north to explore what most people come to Laos to do, explore the outdoors.