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Into Laos: Strolling Vientiane

I’ll be honest with you, Laos, like Sri Lanka, wasn’t really on my radar when I moved to Asia. Then my friend Chloe went to Laos. When she came back, she told me, “You have to go.” Over a cup of coffee I listened to her talk about the charming old town of Luang Prabang and delicious French food. She also brought me back a pot of delicious black currant jam. I was sold. I contacted another PiA fellow who had been living in the capital, Vientiane, for a few years. She recommended a spot on NYTimes 36 Hours piece to start exploring. As I read more, I would encounter some dark pieces involving the Communist government. This piece was especially interesting and I recommend it to anyone before going. To put it in super simplistic terms, Laos is a complicated place. The landlocked country gets overlooked by many Americans today, yet, as the NYTimes piece notes, “Between 1964 and 1973, the United States dropped over two million tons of ordnance over Laos, making it the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.” As we strolled the night market in Vientiane, passing tables with dolls and beautiful embroidery, we also passed many with jewelry made from leftover bombs.

Welcome to Laos

We had a full day to explore Vientiane, but, unfortunately, that day was a Monday. The famous Pha That Luang (Great Stupa) was closed. So instead we stayed in the center of town and visited Wat Si Saket, the oldest temple in the city. I could have spent hours here looking at all of the small Buddhas.

Buddah's Delight

Tiny Buddah

The French descended on Laos in the 19th century and their legacy is still present:

Colonial Past

Vientiane even has its own Arc de Triomphe. Patuxai, or the Victory Monument, was built in 1969 and Lonely Planet had this interesting description that it was built “with cement donated by the USA intended for the construction of a new airport; hence expats refer to it as the ‘vertical runway.'”


Not Paris...

View from inside the Arc:

View From Above

Victor and I had a giggle when we saw this sign: That Dam Wat!

That Dam Wat

That Dam Wat, Really

We also paid a visit to Haw Pha Kaew, a royal temple known for its Buddhas as well.

Temple Time

Golden Elephant

Electric feel:


Want to get to Thailand? Just swim over:

To Thailand

I could have probably spent another day in Vientiane. It was a pleasant and super slow-paced capital city where strolling, stopping at cafes and eating well are on the menu. But Luang Prabang awaited us, so just as soon as we’d settled in, we were back on the road.

Ansara Hotel

Where to Stay: Ansara Hotel, a bit of a splurge, but it was a nice hotel and the breakfast was delicious.

P.S. I just jumped on the Instagram bandwagon recently. If you’d like to see more photos, follow me @lydiatomkiw.

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve not been to Laos. It sounds fascinating. I shall have to persuade Mrs. Ha to join me. Nice photos too.

    May 27, 2013
    • I encourage you 100 percent. The pace was nice and relaxing in Laos. I will be blogging about the city of Luang Prabang soon — a truly beautiful and special place. Thanks for reading.

      May 28, 2013
  2. Lydia, I’m so glad you went to Laos. It’s a country full of surprises, sights and delicacies – such as my all-time favorite, most often had at bus stations around the country: sticky rice with grilled buffalo meat. YUM. Did you indulge?!

    May 28, 2013
    • Indulgence is my middle name. Not only did I take a cooking class (food post coming soon), I crammed my suitcase full of as many goodies as I could and I’ve since managed to recreate dishes too. It really is a special country, and as you rightfully note, “a country full of surprises.”

      May 28, 2013
  3. My children have an expression that they use when they jealous about something ‘wel jel’
    Well, I’m wel jel about your trip to Laos. I’ve heard from friends that it’s fabulous and now you’ve added further proof! Really love your photos too :D

    May 28, 2013
    • I am glad wel jel has entered my lexicon. I have been wel jel of your beautiful kampung posts and photos!

      My favorite part of the trip to Laos was my time in Luang Prabang (post coming soon). I ended up making a very special four-legged friend while there too :)

      May 28, 2013
  4. Love the photos! Laos definitely went under my radar for South Est Asia as well, but it looks like an absolutely gorgeous place!

    May 28, 2013
    • It really is. If you ever get the chance, don’t think twice!

      May 30, 2013
  5. I adored Laos when I went with Bama last May – and this post brought me right back. Did you manage to try the dish “or lahm”? That incredible, fragrant stew of slow-cooked eggplant, lemongrass, basil and one of my favourites, dill! We had it with chicken and sticky rice in a great restaurant in Vientiane.

    I loved how the city was so peaceful… even on a weekday there was hardly any traffic on the streets, and you could clearly hear birdsong, crickets and the geckos going ta-ko, ta-ko. Such a shame that Pha That Luang was closed, it was a lovely place to walk around and I’ll never forget how the golden stupa gleamed in the late afternoon sun.

    May 29, 2013
    • I loved, loved the food. A post coming soon. And you’re right, the rhythm was beyond relaxing, thinking about it mellows me out!

      May 30, 2013
  6. Laos was definitely a place I would go back in the future. Never in my life I felt so laidback when traveling, and that’s good after my previously I tended to travel in a rush. I loved the food, especially or lahm and laap, and I loved Luang Prabang.

    May 29, 2013
    • I hope you get to go back so I can live through you vicariously. I made myself a promise to return in 5 years…

      May 30, 2013

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