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Home Laos Vientiane: A Visitor’s Guide ⇒ Downtown Vientiane

Vientiane: A Visitor’s Guide

4Downtown Vientiane

The impressive Patuxai or Arc De Triomphe of Vientiane.
Vientiane’s Impressive Patuxai.

A s well as the major temples, the eastern side of Vientiane is where the government agencies and imposing commemorative architecture is to be found. The western side is where things seem to be done. Here you will find the shops, markets restaurants and most of the guest houses.

Government offices and other official entities are often housed in the remaining French colonial buildings by or near the river. Many of of these buildings have just been, or are in the process of being, renovated though they all look deserted. There is almost no movement of cars or people in and out and certainly no bustle which makes you wonder where the governing and administration is actually done.

There are several examples of more recent socialist style architecture. In particular the fading Lane Xang Hotel, once the pride of Vientiane, its now tatty rooms are popular with travellers while the colossal Soviet Cultural Centre, hard to miss in bright yellow and gleaming white, looks as if it has never been used. Near here you will find Haw Pha Kaew National Museum which is well worth a visit just to get Lao side of their colonial history.

When you are tired of the grandeur, wander the streets around Thanon Setthathirath and Thanon Samsentha. This is the backpacker’s centre and is stuffed with guesthouses and restaurants of all kinds. This is where you will find travel agents and all the other essentials for the traveller.

While away an evening with (a highly-recommended) Beer Lao in the Nam Phu Fountain Circle and watch the world go by. It’s a peaceful pedestrianized area in a vaguely European style. Round the outer edges of the circle are some upscale French and Italian restaurants while the Scandinavian Bakery at the top does a roaring trade in sandwiches and pastries.

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