Some facts first:

  • Vientiane is located on the banks of the Mekong River.
  • Vientiane is connected to Nong Khai province by the “Friendship Bridge”.
  • There are officially 350.000 people living in Vientiane.
  • Vientiane is the capital of Laos PDR.

.and soon will you learn, that PDR does not stand for “Peoples Democratic Republic”…

It stands for “People Don’t Rush”!

Rush-hour in Vientiane

I have lived in Bangkok for the longest part of the last 6 years and apart from many places inside Thailand (which don’t count, in my following argument), I have been to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, UAE, Vienna and Berlin during that time.

Not one of these cities charmed me as much as Vientiane did!

Maybe, it is due to the fact, that life in Bangkok is a constant reminder of our mortality.

The traffic is hellish – just crossing a street gives you the feeling, everybody is just out to kill you- , the nearly constant noise- pollution makes your ears numb and the constant air- pollution does the rest. If New York, according to Mr. Sinatra, is a city that never sleeps, Bangkok is a city that doesn’t even take naps!

…and then you come to Vientiane!

Of course, with only 350.000 citizens, it is a lot less noisy and polluted than Bangkok.

But if you have been to smaller cities in Thailand, you know, that people there are also out to kill you, when you try to cross the road!

But first things first:

Vientiane is so small, that you can WALK approximately 3 hours and see many of the sights, that are there to see!

Start at the Pha That Luang, the golden Buddhist shrine and town’s landmark, follow the Rue Singha past the impressive Monument des Morts (also known as Vientiane’s Arc de Triomphe), make a left to see some old temples, make a right and follow the Mekong until you get to the night market and all the restaurants, pubs and bars…and take a Tuk- Tuk back to your hotel.

…ta-taaaaaaaa…you are done!

There are some museums and some temples or the Buddha Park…but basically…that is it!

 And as I said earlier: you can walk!

That is not so much remarkable since Vientiane is small…There are also sidewalks that are partly in an “okay”- state and not totally blocked by street vendors. (If you ever lived in Bangkok, you know, what kind of a big deal that is!)

 One of my first experiences in Vientiane involved a car.

Not my car, just a random car, that was parked and its owner was just getting in and was about to un-park it. Again, the Bangkokian in me raised his head and talked to me, wishing the driver “good luck”, because back “home”, he’d better pray, he parked in front of a 7eleven. Because if he didn’t want to violently just take a dive into traffic, taking his chances of an unharmed escape, he would need to get some food and drinks, because he would be here for a looooong time!

But: this wasn’t Bangkok!

And I noticed that in the instant, the oncoming traffic stopped, to let him out of his parking space!

No one was honking, no motorcycle was rushing by…he had all the time he needed to get out and onto the street!

I was stunned!

Could it be that the people in Vientiane had no idea how to behave in traffic? Reckless, fast, not minding your fellow traffic- participants?

I had to make a test.

So I went to a zebra crossing and set my food onto the street. The cars stopped to let me walk across the street!.. THEY STOPPED!. In Bangkok, this would have been a near- death- experience.

It was that moment that I knew I was in love!

But of course, this was not all. Vientiane has a lot to offer.

There are photo opportunities almost everywhere. Some are just nice, like old temples and stupas, some are slightly bizarre, where signs of religion and Buddhism meet signs of the communist government.

But when you are finally sitting down in a small riverside restaurant, eat a spicy Laos cucumber salad and down it with a bottle of cold and excellent Beer Lao…you would be considered a fool, if you would not like to come back here, where People Don’t Rush!