Walking Tour: Vientiane
Start: Patuxai Monument
Finish: Mekong at the end of Kun Bulom Road
Time: 3 to 4 hours, not including eating or shopping stops.
Best Times: Morning or late afternoon (midday can be hot and dusty)
Vientiane is a terrific walking city. This tour hits Vientiane's highlights, which you can leisurely explore with stops for food and drink. Be sure to read the full listings for each stop, above.
Begin your tour with a climb to the top of:
1. Patuxai Monument
This structure resembles Paris' Arc de Triumph, with distinctive Lao features. Dedicated to those who fought for independence from France (patuxai means victory in Lao), the monument offers panoramic views of the city.
Then stroll down Lane Xang Avenue heading south toward the Mekong staying on the left side of the road. You will soon arrive at:
2. Talat Sao (the Morning Market)
Located at the eastern corner of Lane Xang Avenue and Khu Vieng Road, Talat Sao consists of many small shops, restaurants, and fruit and vegetable stalls. You can browse through jewelry, silk and clothing, wooden crafts, musical instruments, electronics, appliances, housewares, CDs and DVDs/VCDs, and groceries if you wish. There is also the Ethnic Handicrafts Market next door packed with colorful clothing and heavy ethnic jewelry.
Cross over Lane Xiang Avenue and walk northwest up Bartholomie Road. This will bring you to:
3. That Dam
The "Black Stupa" is set in a quiet traffic circle with next to no traffic. This is one of the oldest monuments in the city -- though it's never been dated, it's estimated to have been constructed in the 15th century.
Walk south down Chant Khammouane Road and turn right. Walk a few minutes up to the Nam Ou Fountain.
Take a Break -- Nam Ou Fountain is a pleasant place to relax and enjoy a snack. If the weather is not too hot, sit at an outside terrace.
Walk back up Setthathirath Road. On your right, you will see the:
4. Presidential Palace
The Beaux Arts -- styled Presidential Palace was originally built for the French governors, and later housed the monarchy during their reign after Laos gained its independence. It is closed to the public.
Opposite the Presidential Palace is:
5. Wat Si Saket
This wat is renowned for its jataka murals (scenes depicting the lives of Buddha before his final incarnation) and the many Buddha images set in niches in the cloister.
Just a little farther up on the other side of the road is:
6. Haw Pha Kaeo
This temple was rebuilt in 1942 after the original was destroyed in the Sino-Laos war, and houses a fascinating collection of religious art.
Now head south on Mahasot Road, until you reach the riverfront and Fa Ngum. Stroll along the banks of the Mekong, stopping where you will for a tipple of your choosing until you reach Nokeo Khumman Road. This will take you to:
7. Temples Along Setthathirath
As you turn left at Setthathirath Road, you'll find a cluster of temples, including Wat Mixay, Wat Impaeng, and Wat Haysoke. Take the time to admire them; each one has its own distinctive features.
Head south down Khum Bulom Road arriving, once again, at the Mekong. Pull up a plastic chair, order something cold and if it's evening, wait for the sunset.