The sight of Vientiane

Posted by samakomlao Thursday, December 3, 2009

Photo: Signs hung up along the median strip on Lane Xang Avenue promote the ongoing 25th SEA Games.

Although Vientiane is a small town compared to the bustling metropolises of Southeast Asian, the host city of the 25th SEA Games will keep you entertained, with surprises around every corner.

The hearts of millions of Lao people nationwide are beating faster at the prospect of welcoming athletes and guests to the SEA Games, and also in anticipation of next year's celebrations to mark the 450th anniversary of Vientiane as the capital of Laos .

This year's SEA Games is not just about winning, but also serves to remind us of the principles of ‘Generosity, Amity, and Healthy Lifestyle' – the slogan promoting the games. This is a simple expression, but profound in meaning, and relates to Laos and to the rest of the world.

It conveys the lofty ideals of the people of Vientiane as well as Laos in general. They will attempt to share these principles with the global community and to set the stage for a bright future hand in hand with the rest of the world's citizens.

The slogan expresses the firm beliefs of a great nation with a long history and on its way towards modernisation. Laos is committed to peaceful generosit y, a society where friendship reigns, and to encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

Perhaps a tour of Vientiane will enable the visitor to see these ideals in practice, and offer another exciting option in addition to the mouth-watering competition schedule.

Yes it's a relatively small city, but don't be deceived. Many sights of interest await you, and they're all easy to get to. We have places of cultural significance, shopping malls, an endless array of dining options and a magnificent river that affords stunning sunset views.

Vientiane is about 3,920 sq km in size with a population of about 610,000. There are nine districts: Chanthabouly, Sikhottabong, Xaysettha, Sisattanak, Naxaithong, Xaythany, Hadxaifong, Sangthong and Parkngum.

The first place to go is the That Luang stupa - the symbol of Laos and very important to the Lao people. We have a saying: “If you come to Vientiane and don't visit That Luang, you haven't actually seen Vientiane ”. The stupa, built in 1566 by King Sayasetthathirath, is said to contain relics of the Lord Buddha himself and is the country's most cherished religious monument.

Your next port of call might be the Patuxay Monument (Victory Gate), which was built in the 1960s and is located nearby on Lane Xang Avenue .

A short walk away on the same street is Vat Sisaket, built in 1818 by King Anouvong. Having survived attacks by the Siamese, this is the oldest standing temple in Vientiane . It is also one of the oldest monasteries in the country and houses many important documents and treasures, including 6,840 Buddha images.

On the other side of the road sits Hor Phakeo, originally built in 1565 as a place for the Phrakeo (Emerald Buddha) during the time of King Sayasetthathirath. Today it is a museum, and contains one of the most extensive Lao collections of Buddhist artefacts.

Xieng Khuan Buddha Park , an artistic extravaganza conceived in 1958 under the direction of Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, a Lao monk, hosts a collection of larger-than-life sculptures that merge Buddhist and Hindu traditions. The park is located about 24 km south of Vientiane , across from the town of Nong Khai in Thailand where Bunleua later erected a similar pantheon of sculptures.

A stroll by the Mekong River will bring you closer to spectacular sunsets and open vistas. Fa Ngum Road is the most popular place to hang out at this time of the day. Here you'll find an abundance of eateries and watering holes to enhance your sunset experience.

The town centre features two main shopping centres, where you can pick up some colourful souvenirs. The Morning Market can be found on Lane Xang Avenue and the Xang Jieng Chinese Market on Asean Road is on the way to Wattay International Airport .

If you're a fan of Indian food, Fa Ngum Road can accommodate your needs.

When the desire for European food strikes, head for the Nam Phou fountain area just a few minutes walk away. Here you'll find a handful of cosy restaurants, many of which also serve Lao food.

You will be amazed but, despite its size, Vientiane offers a range of international cuisines that also extends to Italian, scandinavian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants.

Whether it's a restaurant, shopping mall, health centre or some other destination you're in search of, everything is easily accessible. Just hail a tuk tuk or taxi, but don't forget to negotiate the fare first.

By Sisay Vilaysack

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