Vientiane
.: Loas
This delightfully friendly capital, studded with crumbling French mansions, bougainvillea­-blooming streets and steaming noodle stalls, is somewhere between a big town and a diminutive city; the kind of place you might find a Graham Greene protagonist. Its conveniently compact travellers’ enclave is based around Nam Phu, the Mekong riverside and Setthariat and Samsenthai streets. Full of things to see, from Buddha Park to the Morning market and an impossibly rich selection of international cuisine – most pointedly French – you’ll find yourself slowly won over by the easy charms of this evolving backwater. The city may reveal its beauty less readily than Luang Prabang, but spend a few days visiting its unusual sights, sampling its excellent food and enjoying a Beer Lao at sunset by the river, and you’ll soon feel at home here.

Lao National Museum (Revolutionary Museum ພິພິຕະພັນແຫ່ງຊາດ), Thanon Samsenthai (next to Lao Plaza Hotel). 8am-4pm. Formerly the Lao Revolutionary Museum by name, the historical exhibits on the first floor are modest though very interesting in depicting some of the early history. They include one of the original Jars from the Plain of Jars and various stone and bronze age implements. The second floor provides us with a great insight into the 18th Century Laotian Kingdom and the customs of the day. It would appear that the Loatians didn't treat their guests quite as well in those days, often keeping them from leaving the country for several months. The floor builds up to a fervently revolutionary pitch as it documents the heroic struggle of the Lao against the Siamese (Thai), French and American 'imperialists'. Exhibits include items such as socks worn by Politburo members when they escaped from prison and Kaysone Phomvihane's chest expander. The final rooms, on post-revolutionary Laos, are mostly a photo gallery of pressing topics such as the comrades of the 7th Plenary Session of the Laos People's Congress inspecting fertilizer production processes. The final rooms provide an insight into some of the modern advancements, though these are fairly dowdy and uninspiring. Visitors are forced to walk through the shop (items look like they have been on sale since the revolution in 1975). A guestbook regularly features amusing arguments between young western visitors on the subject of communism. Most exhibits are labeled in English, though some French labelling remains, occasionally to the exclusion of English.


Patuxai (Victory Gate), Avenue Lane Xang. A local rendition of Paris' Arc de Triomphe. Besides the elaborate Buddhist embellishment, it differs from the original in having four gates instead of two and being just a bit higher (to spite the French). Reasonably impressive from afar, a surprisingly frank English sign inside the monument labels it a "monster of concrete" when seen up close - and the concrete in question was donated by the US, although it was supposed to go towards a new airport instead (hence the nickname "the Vertical Runway"). The monument itself aside, the palm tree-lined park around it complete with fountains is quite pleasant though lacking of shade during the day time, and for three thousand kip you can climb up to the 7th story (stairs only) for a nice view of central Vientiane and two souvenir shops with less than enthusiastic sales people sitting about. Features a musical fountain nearby that attracts visitors from around Laos and Asia, as well as a World Peace gong presented by Indonesia. Roving cameramen will be happy to charge you for photos near these attractions

COPE Visitor Centre, Khou Vieng Road (300m East of Water Park/Joma Cafe Opposite Green Park Hotel), 09:00-18:00. Explains Laos' legacy of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and the National Rehabilitation Centre's efforts to expand prosthetic, orthotic and rehabilitation services across the country. There are a number of exhibits and visitors can watch a number of short films on the subject. Exhibits are appropriate for all ages. An excellent gift shop offers fun, off-beat souvenirs that support a good cause. Free parking. Free.

The Art of Silk, Manthatourath Rd, Lao Women's Union . Mon-Fri 9am-4pm. A local magazine says "Phone before visiting, as there is no permanent staff.

Kaysone Phomvihane Museum, km6 Dongdok Rd. Tue-Sun 9am-4pm. Museum about Kaysone Phomvihane.

Lao People's Army History Museum, Kaysone Phomvihane Rd, Ban Nongsangthong.Tue-Sun 8:30am-4:30pm. Museum about the army

Memorial of president Souphanouvong, Kaysone Phomvihane Rd, Ban Phonsa-art. Tue-Sun 8:30am-4pm

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