Not like a bustle of Bangkok or Hanoi capital, Vientiane has its own charms and yields surprises to those who spend a little time exploring. What will you do if you have only a 24 – hour trip in Vientiane, Laos? Here is the suggestion from our experience:
6am: Alms – giving ceremony (Tak Bat):
Laos is the country of Buddhism. It is understandable that why there are many pagodas and temples and their culture which will connect to Buddhism, one of these is alms giving ceremony (Tak Bat). To attend Tak Bat, you have to get up early from 5am – 6am. Is it too early for you? However, Tak Bat only takes place at dawn when the monks get out of their temples to collect offerings from local people. Travellers can prepare offerings and wait monks on streets. The ritual is done in silence; the monks walk in meditation, and the alms givers reciprocate with respect by not disturbing the monk’s meditative peace, even when they pass already. After the alms – giving ceremony, the monks will share their offerings for the poor people, for other monks at the pagoda, for animals at the pagoda and they will eat (They have only one meal per day)
8am: A visit to Wat Simuang and have Baci ceremony:
Being located in downtown Vientiane this temple is always busy with activity with many local and international visitors coming to the Wat to worship or sightseeing. They believe this is a sacred temple.
If you do not rush, you can spend your time exploring and relaxing in the garden here. Baci experience is one of the spiritual activities travellers can be recommended in here. The ceremony involves a feast and tying strings or cloth bracelets around the wrists to wish people good luck and a healthy life. Baci is common Lao ritual widely practiced throughout the country and by other ethnic groups as well. It is done for any big change in people’s life, such as a wedding, the start of a big journey or the arrival of long absent guests.
10 am: Visit That Luang (Symbol of Laos)
That Luang, or the Great Stupa, in Vientiane is a national symbol (its image is on Laos’ official seal) and also the most sacred monument in the country. From the outside That Luang looks more like a fortress surrounded by high walls and it features two temples with the main stupa, the top of which is covered with gold leaf, standing 148 feet tall.
Every November when the Boun That Luang Festival is held in Vientiane, a large crowd of followers and tourists come to town from all over Laos and neighbouring countries. The festival is considered the most important Buddhist celebration in Laos with many activities going on for three days and three nights.
11am: From the top of Patuxai
Patuxai, or Victory Monument, is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Vientiane. It is dedicated to the Laos who were killed in the fight to gain independence from France as well as from the Nation’s earlier occupiers, Siam and Japan. The Patuxai is open daily from 8am to 5pm. From the top of Patuxai, visitor can view the whole of square and capital. This will be a worthy experience for all travellers.
12pm: Lunch at Makphet. This restaurant is managed by managed by Friends International (www.friends-international.org), helps disadvantaged kids build a future as chefs and waiters. It’s similar to Koto in Hanoi which helps get kids off the street and into education and training. The restaurant has a French-style two storey building painted a lovely yellow with green and white window trimmings. Inside framed artwork adorn the walls and the windows look out onto a tree-filled garden. There are many hand-made products by disadvantaged children are shown here.
2pm: Go to Buddha Park:
Xieng Khuan is an absolute must-see. It is more known under the name the Buddha Park, and the whole park is filled with more than 200 Buddhist and Hindu sculptures. Some of them are enormous, a lot of them are a bit weird and what is absolutely amazing: you can go inside and on top of some of the statues! The big ball, for example, has three floors which represent hell, earth and heaven. On top of the ball, you have an amazing view over the whole park. The statues look ancient, but they are not. It was built in the late ’50’s by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, a shaman who combined the Hindu and Buddhist religions.
5pm: Riding bike along Mekong river and enjoy Beer Lao
Riding along the old streets in Vientiane to view the temple and enjoy the pure atmosphere. Or you can pass through the Mekong River. One surprising you is that you cannot hear any vehicle’s horn in this city. Like Thailand, tuk tuk is always available for you for visiting around the city if you want. Stopping by the river for a while and enjoying Beer Lao, you get a complete journey in Vientiane.
7pm: Dinner at Kua Lao restaurant
This restaurant has a French style architect however, they specialize in authentic Lao cuisine. The highlight of this restaurant is that they will perform Lao dance. The dancers are beautifully accompanied by traditional instrumental music played on authentic Lao instruments.
9pm: Shopping at the Night market
The night market pops up every evening on the boulevard, you can’t miss it when walking the central part of Vientiane next to the Mekong. Here you can find all your awesome Laos souvenirs, and also personal care products, clothing and typical night market snacks. Locals and tourists mix, and it’s really enjoyable to search for the right color of nail polish and the perfect shampoo together with the Lao girls.