Laos is tranquil, peaceful, and quiet, and its capital city, Vientiane, is no exception. Although it claims to have over 700,000 residents, the streets, temples, and sidewalks were sparsely populated, with barely a tourist to be seen. No one honks their horns. No one rushes or speeds or runs. It is lazy. Languid. Refreshing. 

There are temples — huge ones — on what seems like every corner. If we had more time, I would have enjoyed just strolling down the street and popping into a temple every so often. But since our time was limited, we grabbed a tuk-tuk and narrowed it down to three of the most popular sights: Phra That Luang, Sisaket Museum, and the Ho Phra Keo Museum. Admission to each of these was only 5,000 kip (approximately 60 cents), and it was delightful to walk around and explore each of these with no one there but the four of us. 

In the evening, when the heat of the day started to fade, we went for a stroll along the riverside. There aren’t many nightclubs or stores next to the waterfront, so we opted for a few drinks and a delicious dinner in a restaurant filled with locals. Vientiane doesn’t have a huge night life (I didn’t see a party scene at all, actually) so it was nice to just relax and refresh after the constant hustle and bustle of Vietnam.

A popular tourist destination just outside of Vientiane is Buddha Park. Tip: do not travel there by anything other than a vehicle (car/truck!). The road is only partly finished, and there are tons of potholes and bumps on the way there. We saw some people in a tuk-tuk and it looked like they were in danger of some brain damage with how much the tuk-tuk was shaking. Thank goodness we decided on taking the shuttle from our hostel!

We had no idea what the Buddha Park was when we got there (but apparently it’s someone’s private collection of sculptures). Despite our ignorance, we really enjoyed walking around the park and admiring the strange, and sometimes downright scary, sculptures. At the entrance of the park, there’s a huge orb-like structure that you can actually climb into and to the top of! Be warned: the staircases are super steep and it’s quite dark inside!

Vientiane isn’t a city where there is lots to do or many sights to see — it’s more of a place to take a deep breath and enjoy the hospitality and kindness of the Laotian people (and a place to get your energy up before you hit up Vang Vieng, once the party capital of Southeast Asia!).

Highs: Lack of tourists, Buddha Park, temples dotting the street, the overall ambience of the city

Lows: The bumpy roads!