Vientiane hugs the northern bend of the Mekong River. The city is divided into districts called bans or villages. With a population of only half a million people, it is both manageable and small. Most places are easily reached by foot or bicycle.
The covered market of Talat Sao marks the center of the city. Nearby are the main post office, the bus station, and tourist information office. There are also a number of banks and government offices in the same area. In addition to Talat Sao itself, there are also plenty of other shops and boutiques worth checking out in this area. Near the southern side of the market beside the post office is the Ethnic Handicraft Market where one can find goods from every part of Laos.
The areas of Ban Mixay and Ban Sisaket are situated next to each other west of Talat Sao, and running through them parallel to each other are the main thoroughfares of Samsenthai Road and Setthathirath Road and Fa Ngum Road running along the riverfront. In this area you will find most of the restaurants, hotels, guesthouses, and cybercafes. A number of side streets connect Samsenthai and Setthathirath roads, the busiest of which is Pangkham Street ending at Nam Phu Fountain. The northern part of the city is centered on That Luang. Apart from the temple itself, the main points of interest for visitors in that district are That Luang Market, the That Luang Dok Mai Plant Market, and Patuxai Monument.
Wattay International Airport is located 4km (2 1/2 miles) to the northwest of the city. The bus station serving the south of Laos is 8km (5 miles) from the center of the city to the northwest. The bus station serving the north is about 2km (1 1/4 miles) away in the same direction. The Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge marking the border with Thailand is 19km (12 miles) to the southeast.
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