In Vientiane, Southeast Asia’s sleepiest capital, the highlight of your day could simply be watching the sun set over the Mekong with a Beer Lao in hand. Here, locals make time for regular herbal saunas and mass evening aerobics classes by the river. Even the monks at nearby Wak Sok Pa Luang run open meditation sessions for tourists on Saturdays, in exchange for English conversation practice. The liveliest spot is perhaps the Ban Anou night market, where vendors in colourful aprons serve up French-style baguettes and sticky rice dishes laced with herbs.
Aside from a smattering of Buddhist temples, there’s not much to do in this former French trading post besides wander the tree-lined boulevards fringed with colonial buildings and sip strong Laos coffee in one of its many cafés. At the COPE Centre, an essential history stop, prosthetic limbs and documentaries about UXO survivors bring home the reality of Laos’s torrid war history. Join local Buddhists at Pha That Luang, who light incense at the foot of a golden spire said to contain Lord Buddha’s breastbone.
Slip under the skin of Laos’s languid capital by talking to our travel experts, who can arrange Vientiane tours with local guides.