Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand.
Vientiane became the capital in 1563 due to fears of a Burmese invasion.
Vientiane was the administrative capital during French rule and, due to economic growth in recent times, is now the economic centre of Laos.
Compared to the hectic, bustling capitals in other Southeast Asian countries, Vientiane's relaxing atmosphere makes it feel like the small town it is. After you've done the round of temples, the best thing to do here has always been to wander down to the riverside, relax with a cold Beerlao, the Lao national beer, and watch the sun set on the Mekong.
Of course, the booming tourism industry is changing this by slowly but surely bringing the excesses of Thailand and China to this formerly sleepy city. Just like any other Southeast Asian capital/major city, Vientiane is experiencing a building boom. Even its Presidential Palace is having a major makeover-addition and a new convention centre has been built.
The estimated population of the city is 760,000 (2015). The city hosted the 25th Southeast Asian Games in December 2009 celebrating the 50 years of Southeast Asian Games.
|POPULATION :||City: 783,000|
|FOUNDED :||9th century|
|TIME ZONE :|
|LANGUAGE :||Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages|
|RELIGION :||Buddhist 67%, Christian 1.5%, other and unspecified 31.5%|
|AREA :||3,920 km2 (1,510 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||174 m (570 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||17°58′N 102°36′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 49.30% |
• Female: 50.70%
|ETHNIC :||Lao 55%, Khmou 11%, Hmong 8%, other (100 minor ethnic groups) 26%|
|AREA CODE :||21|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||+856 21|
Although still a small city, the capital experiences a major influx of tourists. The city contains many temples and Buddhist monuments with Pha That Luang, a Buddhist stupa, one of the most famous in Laos. It is the most important national cultural monument and very popular amongst foreign tourists. The original was built in 1566 by King Setthathirath, and was restored in 1953. The golden stupa is 45 metres tall and is believed to contain a relic of the Lord Buddha.
Another site that is also popular amongst tourists is Wat Si Muang. The temple was built on the ruins of a Khmer Hindu shrine, the remains of which can be seen behind the ordination hall. It was built in 1563 and is believed to be guarded by the spirit of a local girl called “Si". Legend says that Nang Si, who was pregnant at the time, leapt to her death as a sacrifice, just as the pillar was being lowered into the hole. In front of the temple stands a statue of King Sisavang Vong.
The memorial monument, Patuxai, began construction in 1957 and completed in 1968, is perhaps the most prominent landmark in the city.While the Arc de Triomphe in Paris inspired the architecture, the design incorporates typical Lao motifs including “Kinnari”, a mythical bird woman. Energetic visitors can climb to the top of the monument, which reveals an panoramic view of the city.
Buddha Park was built in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat and contains a collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures, scattered amongst gardens and trees. The park was built about 28 kilometres south of Vientiane at the edge of the Mekong River.
Most historians believe Vientiane was an early Khmer settlement centered around a Hindu temple, which the Pha That Luang would later replace. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the time when the Lao and Thai people are believed to have entered Southeast Asia from Southern China, the few remaining Khmers in the area were either killed, removed, or assimilated into the Lao civilization, which would soon overtake the area.
In 1354, when Fa Ngum founded the kingdom of Lan Xang. Vientiane became an important administrative city, even though it was not made the capital. King Setthathirath officially established it as the capital of Lan Xang in 1563, to avoid Burmese invasion.When Lan Xang fell apart in 1707, it became an independent Kingdom of Vientiane. In 1779, it was conquered by the Siamese general Phraya Chakri and made a vassal of Siam.
When King Anouvong raised an unsuccessful rebellion, it was obliterated by Siamese armies in 1827. The city was burned to the ground and was looted of nearly all Laotian artifacts, including Buddha statues and people. Vientiane was in great disrepair, depopulated and disappearing into the forest, when the French arrived. It eventually passed to French rule in 1893. It became the capital of the French protectorate of Laos in 1899. The French rebuilt the city and rebuilt or repaired Buddhist temples such as Pha That Luang, Haw Phra Kaew, and left many colonial buildings behind.
During World War II, Vientiane fell with little resistance and was occupied by Japanese forces, under the command of Sako Masanori. On 9 March 1945 French paratroopers arrived, and reoccupied the city on 24 April 1945.
As the Laotian Civil War broke out between the Royal Lao Government and the Pathet Lao, Vientiane became unstable. In August 1960, Kong Le seized the capital and insisted that Souvanna Phouma become prime minister. In mid-December, Phoumi Nosavan then seized the capital, overthrew the Phouma Government, and installed Boun Oum as prime minister. In mid-1975, Pathet Lao troops moved towards the city and Americans began evacuating the capital. On 23 August 1975, a contingent of 50 Pathet Lao women, symbolically liberated the city.On 2 December 1975, the communist party of the Pathet Lao took over Vientiane, defeated the Kingdom of Laos, and renamed the country the Lao People's Democratic Republic, which ended the Laotian Civil War. The next day, an Insurgency in Laos began in the jungle, with the Pathet Lao fighting factions of Hmong, and royalists.
Vientiane features a tropical wet and dry climate with a distinct monsoon season and a dry season.
Vientiane’s dry season spans from November through March.
April marks the onset of the monsoon which in Vientiane lasts about seven months.
Vientiane tends to be hot and humid throughout the course of the year, though temperatures in the city tend to be somewhat cooler during the dry season than the wet season.
Climate data for Vientiane
|Record high °C (°F)||35.6|
|Average high °C (°F)||28.4|
|Average low °C (°F)||16.4|
|Record low °C (°F)||0.0|
|Source #1: World Meteorological Organization,|
|Source #2: NOAA|
Vientiane is on a bend of the Mekong River, at which point it forms the border with Thailand.
Vientiane is the driving force behind economic change in Laos. In recent years, the city has experienced rapid economic growth from foreign investment. In 2011, the stock exchange opened with two listed company stocks, with the cooperation of South Korea.
Vientiane city comprises the following districts:
- Pak Ngeum
Internet cafes are ubiquitous in Vientiane, particularly along Samsenthai Rd and the east end of Setthathirat Rd. The going rate is 100 kip per minute, usually charged in 10-minute increments. Charged by the hour from 5,000-6,000 kip. Many hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars etc have free wifi but it's often quite slow.
- FastestNet, Samsenthai Rd (Between Lao Plaza and Asian Pavilion). Lives up to its name fairly well. No firewalls or program-install restrictions. 100 kip per minute.
- Lao National Library.
Wi-Fi and GPRS
Laos network SIM cards such as Unitel, can be bought at the airport, together with credit and data package if required. Thai SIM cards will work here if you are near and have a clear view across the Mekong river to Thailand on the other side.