History buffs and culture vultures love Luang Prabang, while hippies and adventurers flock to Vang Vieng. But what about Vientiane? The country’s capital represents why travellers love Lao PDR: Please Don’t Rush. Despite its status as Laos’ largest city, Vientiane feels more like a town where things go at a much slower pace compared to many Southeast Asian cities.
The city is laid back enough that most travellers are comfortable with getting around with rented bicycles. But if you would like to have a glimpse of the local lifestyle, public transport is the way to go. And we’re not just talking about tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) and songthaew (shared taxi/bus) either. Most tourists are not privy, but Vientiane actually has a decent bus system. Cheap and air-conditioned, taking the public bus is something that every visitor to Vientiane should try at least once.
1. Pha That Luang
Let’s start with the gold-covered Buddhist stupa that tops every visitor’s list. The actual structure of the monument was built in 1566 and legend has it that this was the location where monks from India arrived in the 3rd century to spread Buddhism. Today, Pha That Luang has become a national symbol of the country. There’s even an annual festival dedicated to it!
How to get to Pha That Luang by Bus:
Take Bus #20 Central Bus Station – Dong Kham Xang Market and alight when you see Pha That Luang
Take Vientiane City 2 Bus Service from Lao – ITECC to Talat Sao Bus Line and alight at bus stop #5 (Wat That Luang Tai)
Take Airport Shuttle / Lao ITECC – CBS Line and alight at bus stop #B4 (Wat That Luang Tai)
If Paris has Arc de Triomphe, then Vientiane has Patuxai. Built in the 1960s as a memorial for those who gave their lives fighting in the struggle for independence from France, it is one of the most recognisable icons of the city. But would you believe that Patuxai is actually taller than its French counterpart?
How to Get to Patuxai by Bus:
Take Bus #29 Central Bus Station – Dongdok and alight when you see Patuxai
Take Bus #23 Central Bus Station – Thangon and alight when you see Patuxai
Take Vientiane City 2 Bus Service from Lao – ITECC to Talat Sao Bus Line and alight at bus stop #16 (Patuxay)
Take Airport Shuttle / Lao ITECC – CBS Line and alight at bus stop #B10 (Patuxay)
3. Wat Si Saket
Built in the early 19th century, this Buddhist monastery is believed to be the oldest temple in Vientiane. It miraculously survived the Siamese attack in 1827 which destroyed much of the city. It is believed that Wat Si Saket survived because the temple was built in Siamese-style architecture.
How to Get to Wat Si Saket by Bus:
Most of the city buses going through CBS like #23 and #20 pass the temple, but if you’re using the airport line the easiest way is to take Airport Shuttle / Lao ITECC – CBS Line and alight at bus stop #A8 (AV Hotel)
4. Buddha Park
Founded in 1958, this park is considered a more recent tourist attraction, especially when compared to the old monuments found within this list. Located some 25 kilometres southeast from Vientiane, it takes a little more effort to visit. But if you’re interested in giant sculptures of Buddhist and Hindu deities, then you’re going to have a grand time here.
How to Get to Buddha Park by Bus:
Take Bus #14 Central Bus Station – Friendship Bridge and alight when you see the park. Don’t panic when you see everyone is alighting at the bridge, as the bus will continue to the park.
5. Night Market
A tour around a Southeast Asian city wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the local night market. The makeshift market that magically appears along the Mekong Riverfront every evening is where you can get your handicrafts, clothes and electronics to take home. Just don’t go expecting to find street food like you would in Bangkok or Hanoi, though.
How to Get to Vientiane’s Night Market by Bus:
Take Airport Shuttle / Lao ITECC – CBS Line and alight at bus stop #A8 (AV Hotel)
For more info on Vientiane’s public bus routes, timetables, and fares, head to vientianebus.org.la
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