Discovering the capital of Laos: Vientiane
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We reach Vientiane, the capital of Laos, by minivan coming from Vang Vieng (https://www.marsontheroad.com/en/destinazioni/81/una-sosta-all%e2%80%99-insegna-del-divertimento) for 70 thousand kip (travel time 4 hours). We stay here 3 nights: 2 at Ali Backpackers hostel and 1 at the Leafsta hostel, both at a cost of 50,000 kip per person in a dormitory, but the second of a slightly higher level.
Both also enjoy a great location to visit the city, as well as being very close to the famous night market that takes place every night. The latter is located on the bank of the Mekong River which divides Laos from Thailand. It is really pleasant to walk around this area full of stalls with local souvenirs, street food and an unusual European town atmosphere, perhaps also due to the huge presence of French tourists.
We recommend stopping in the city a couple of days if you want to explore its temples. You can do it by bike or on foot. One of the main attractions is the Patuxai, the Triumphal Arch of Vientiane, where you can stop and admire the city from above (3,000 kip entry). It is a monument that was built in the year 1962 to honour those who fought in the independence of Laos against France and also for those who perished during the Second World War.
Speaking of war in Laos, it is also curious to know that during the civil war, the CIA's American secret service trained special departments that carried out important actions of disturbance to the operations of the Laotian-Vietnamese communist forces. It was a secret campaign, not authorized by Congress, which violated the agreements reached in Geneva in 1954, in which Laos had been declared neutral to the Vietnamese conflict. During the bombings, more than 2 million tons of bombs were dropped. About 30% of the bombs launched did not burst on impact and many are still on the ground. Much of the Laotian agricultural land is in fact still littered with unexploded bombs and often the country's peasants are still injured or killed by an explosion!
But, returning to the capital, Vientiane is a city full of temples among which the most important is the Wat Si Saket (the oldest temple of those left intact) with its beautiful cloister that includes more than two thousand Buddha statues and the Haw Pha Kaeo, now transformed into a national museum, which houses some of the most beautiful statues in all of Laos.
Finally, if you have time, you can visit the nearby Buddha Park, which is a religious theme park of about 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues. The largest statue has 40 meters: a reclining Buddha. The park is located 24 kilometres from the city and can be reached by bus n. 14 (departs from the Talat Sao bus station near the Khua Din Market).
Not to be missed are the pretty French-style cafés offering breakfast with croissants and good coffee. A city therefore in which past and present, Asia and Europe, ancient and modern blend harmoniously, creating a pleasant place to spend a few days during your tour in Laos.