What Can We Do to Enjoy Local Life in Vientiane Tour?
Posted on 23/12/2019 2:21:10
Stretched out along the northeastern bank of a large bend in the Mekong River, Vientiane is the cozy and sleepy capital of Laos. Renowned for the laid-back atmosphere that attracts those who enjoy a peaceful and relaxing time, the most popular tourist attraction is the multitude of ancient Buddhist temples. While this mass of temples may not be as replete as those in Luang Prabang, they are just as popular. From the Great Stupa of That Luang to the former home of the Emerald Buddha at Wat Ho Pra Keo, the tourists crowd into these ancient temples of Buddha to explore and reduce to snapshots. Instead, while the masses crowd the temples, why not enjoy something a little more relaxing, and a little more in tempo with the slow and tranquil life of the locals to make your tour a little more than a rush of wats.
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Morning shopping at Talat Sao
While Laos cannot match the markets of several other Southeast Asian nations, the morning markets of Talat Sao are a great way to wake yourself up in the morning. Located at the corner of Lan Xang Road and Khu Vieng Road, the market opens daily at 7:00am and is the ideal place to get some early morning fruits and vegetables for breakfast. Housed inside a two-storey covered building, the market is a popular destination in the early morning in Vientiane for both tourists and locals.
The market offers a huge range of goods for sale, mostly fabric-based, but with plenty of other goods for someone willing to dig a little deeper into the markets shops and stalls. Around half of the main lower hall contains shops and stalls that sell household appliances and the usual knock-off gadgets and watches, while around the edges you can find snack stands and Lao-styled ice-cream sundaes. The basement has plenty of other Laotian food stalls to tempt you, facing the appliance shops, and noodle soups, heavily seasoned with MSG, are the most prolific dishes available.
Upstairs, the main hall is dedicated to the prime shopping area, where silks, cotton, and embroidery are beautifully laid out in one of the most amazing displays of textiles, clothes, and bags in Indochina. If you are looking for the Sinh, the traditional Lao costume, this is where you would go to buy it, with endless rows of fabrics and styles available. Silk scarves abound along the stalls, and fashionable stylish bags aplenty can be bought as gifts for those back home. Wooden bowls, carvings, miniature Buddha statues, all can be found in the smatter of shops and stalls, and if you like the Lao elephant motif, here you can find hundreds of delightful samples. In a word, if you want it, Talat Sao probably has it.
Take photos and stroll at Patuxay
Literally translating as Victory Gate, the Patuxay Monument in Vientiane is a war monument to commemorate those lost in the war of independence from France, and was known simply as “Anousavali”, or “monument”. While typically Laotian in design, it is ironic that it so closely resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the famous landmark of the nation the monument’s dedication stands against. Built in the turbulent period of Lao history, between 1957 and 1968, the monument was built with money given by the US to build a new airport, and earned the nickname of the “vertical runway”. After the Pathet Lao overthrew the ancient monarchy in 1975, they renamed the monument “Patuxai” to honor their “victory”, with the help of the North Vietnamese Army.
These days, Patuxay is more than just a monument to the dead of the wars, and this iconic landmark in the Lao capital is surrounded by an immense park. Tourists and locals alike take a stroll to enjoy the splendor of the gardens and the beauty of the city. The monument is located in the center of the large park, with four ponds, one on each side of the massive monument. A small Sala to the side of the monument houses the “World Peace Gong”, the replica of the original that was created for permanent display in the city after the gong was moved on to other places as a symbol of peace and unity.
If you are feeling a little energetic, you can climb up to the balcony that lies at the top of the monument, where you can get an amazing view of the entire sleepy Laotian capital. While you can get some great photos from the top of the central tower on the monument, the best shots are always down below. Inside the park, the flowers and fountains are interspersed with benches for relaxing. At any time of day, you can find the locals relaxing around the park, while travelers take photos to remind them of this beautiful monument when they depart.
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Have a lazy afternoon tea at café
The mark of the French has never really left Indochina, and this can be seen no more clearly than in the whole café culture that pervades throughout the Laotian capital. This amazing city has been home to dozens of cafes for almost three decades, and they just keep growing. Cafes are a major aspect of the culture of Vientiane, and popular coffee-shop chains mingle with local cafes to give you one of the most spectacular coffee-house cultures in the world.
If you are looking for some of the best cafes, then try to steer clear of the overpriced mass-produced coffee houses that American companies have tried to bring into the city and go for the smaller and the local establishments for the best experience.
Le Trio is one of the smaller cafes in Vientiane, where you can sip your latte to the sounds of old jazz tracks. The café roasts its own beans to give you exquisite blends and is a popular hang-out for caffeine addicts in the city.
The TitKafe on the Rue Setthathirath may have an amusing name, but it is easily the most sophisticated coffee shop in Vientiane. Using local and imported beans in a variety of new blends, you can choose from excellent espresso to nitro-style cold brews, as well as a selection of snacks, burgers, and pasta.
The Naked Espresso is one of the best-loved cafes in Vientiane, and specializes in local home-grown beans for its main blends, with imports from Fair-Trade countries like Ethiopia and Indonesia to add to the selection. Light meals are also available, as well as some delicious baked goods and pastries.
Trained in Paris, Boris Luangkhot makes the delicious cakes and pastries of the Bakery by Boris, where minimalist style contrasts the exuberance and decadence of the coffee and cakes. A sleek and popular café, the Bakery lies close to the Wat Si Muang, so is ideal for coffee after.
More “Friends” café culture than typical Parisian, the Common Grounds is a stylish and family-friendly café with soft sofas to read on, a selection of wraps, falafels, salads, and quesadillas and excellent coffee. Popular with families that have kids, the shaded play area in the back is the perfect place for some kiddy fun while the parents enjoy the delicious coffee and relaxing atmosphere.
Enjoy the night life at Mekong Market
Held every night along the banks of the Mekong River, the Vientiane Night Market is the place to go for all your shopping needs. Row on row of stalls and stands sell a vast plethora of goods, from local handicrafts and tailor-made clothes to gadgets and electronics galore. What’s more, you can also find a delightful kids playground if they get bored of being dragged around shops and market stalls (which they are going to after a while), as well as a Chinese shrine, and an imposing statue of Chao Anouvong in the lovely flower garden.
The market starts to set up around sunset, and gets busiest from around 8:00pm, so get there early if you want to avoid the crowds. You can find a wealth of items to please all comers, from Buddhist-inspired paintings and cheap sunglasses to shirts and clothes. Most of the clothes are geared towards the younger backpacker market, but you can find some nice dresses, skirts, and pants to keep your wardrobe up to date while on vacation.
Street food is the other reason people head for the night market. Renowned for the wide variety of dishes and styles of food, not to mention the massive number of stalls selling street foods on every corner, the market is a veritable cornucopia of delicious delights. The best of Laotian street foods are available throughout the night, and the flavors and textures of these amazing snacks is all part of the experience. And the foods are amazing value for money.
The market is also a good place for those looking for a bargain, and you will need all your bargaining skills here. Prices are always inflated, as bargaining is a part of Laotian culture. So be prepared to haggle for the best price. Just not too hard, as the sellers do have to make some profit. And over-haggling is considered to be rude. Last price actually does mean “last price”.
Vientiane is one of the most laid-back cities in Asia, possibly the world, and a trip to Laos of this tranquil capital city is a trip to relaxation and cultural immersion. Few cities give you the chance to become immersed in the local city culture as much as the Lao capital, and the opportunities present themselves everywhere. From the unique Laotian café culture to the beauty of its war memorial and the ultimate in shopping at the night market. So after the wats and temples are all covered, relax in this peaceful and serene atmosphere in the most laid-back city on earth.