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Vientiane might be billed as Southeast Asia’s smallest and sleepiest capital but there’s more there than meets the eye. With great watering holes, art, sports and temples galore, Laos’ capital is both livable and laidback. Rent a bicycle, motorbike or take a tuk-tuk to explore Vientiane’s top neighborhoods.
The Mekong Riverfront “Bans” or “villages” of Haysok and Mixay are as “downtown” as you can get in Vientiane. Grab a bite to eat and shop for everything under the sun at the night market, which was renovated in 2018 with permanent stalls. Participate in an early morning or evening exercise dance class in the park or watch the sun set with drinks from Spirit House or SunTara’s roof. While it’s certainly the most touristy area of Vientiane with many coffee shops, restaurants and hotels, it also boasts the Presidential Palace, National Cultural Hall and half a dozen temples worth checking out.
Ban Phapho and Ban Phivat are home to attractions such as the beautiful Wat Si Muang and the Vientiane City Pillar. Grab a shake on Thatkhao Road, also known as Avocado Street, and check our Top Cycle Zone, a favorite among distance cyclists Team Dai. Check out the rotating selection of art at iCat Gallery, and try the coconut coffee or brunch on offer at Kung’s Cafe. Learn the history of the war in Laos and how UXO victims are getting a new lease of life at the Cope Visitor Center.
Vientiane International School hosts weekly drop-in adult volleyball in their covered outdoor gym. In the same neighborhood is Kiettisack International School and a campus of Panyathip, meaning big western-style houses rented out to foreigners fill this neighborhood. The KFC of Laos: Khouvieng Fried Chicken has delicious fries and fried fowl at cheap prices and is open late. 30 Ml is a coffee shop and restaurant with a modern vibe, chic decor and great wifi. Flavours & Spices has some of the best Indian in town and plenty of cheap massage parlors and temples to visit make this area ideal to wander through if you’re looking for fewer tourists.
No visit to Vientiane is complete without a walk up to the top of Patuxai or Victory Gate for the best panorama of the city down Lane Xang Avenue. Check out a class (like their free Saturday morning meditation) at Vientiane Yoga Studio. The British, Vietnamese, Thai and Indonesian embassies are in the neighborhood if you have passport issues or need to apply for a visa. Get dinner at Tamnak Lao restaurant while live performers dance and play traditional Lao music. The Vientiane Capital Library is just down from Patuxai. Check out the collection. Many of the children’s’ books were published in other languages with Lao translations pasted in.
For the ultimate family vacation experience, check out Ban Phônthamua and Ban Phonpapao. Order a meal at the Hard Rock Cafe Vientiane and see a movie (in English) at the Lao ITECC cineplex. Enjoy the heat at Ocean Park which is filled with water slides and splash pools. Try your hand at Muay Lao boxing at a drop-in class at Safaa Gym or show up as a spectator at a fight night. The Thatluang Lake Specific Economic Zone is under continuous development with more apartments, shopping, restaurants and bars in the works around the lake.