Located on the banks of Mekong River near the border with Thailand, Vientiane is the capital and the largest city of Laos. Unlike other hectic, bustling capitals of the other countries in the area, Vientiane seems to be a peaceful, relaxing city steeped in legend and history. It is the home of numerous renowned heritage sites as gilded stupa, Buddhist temples, Pha That Luang-a national symbol of Laos, French colonial buildings and Buddha Park.
The city has its name derived from Pali, the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism. According to each different source, the original meaning of the name of the city is different. It was once called “city of sandalwood” or “city of the moon” but based on the most academic and historic Lao sources, the city’s name means “city of sandalwood”. Vientiane started to become an important official city of the Kingdom of Lan Xang (“millions of elephants) in 1545 since it was settled. After independence 1953, Vientiane became the capital under the French protectorate and has kept that position after the communist revolution in 1975. Today Vientiane is the largest city and the centre of culture, economics of Laos.
The city offers a diversity of landmarks and highlights. Temples and stupas here are famous not only in the region but also all over the world. Wat Si Saket, with its very contemplative ambience, is the oldest standing temple in Vientiane, has hundreds of niches housing Buddha images large and small which was made of wood, stone, silver and bronze. Pha That Luang, one of the most famous Buddhist golden stupas in Laos, was built in 1566 and restored in 1953 with 45 metres height, is the most important national cultural monument because it’s believed to contain a relic of the Lord Buddha. Wat Si Muang is also another popular site. The temple was built on the ruins of Khmer Hindu shrine in 1563 and is believed to be guarded by the spirit of a local girl called “Nang Si” who was pregnant, leapt her death as a sacrifice just as the pillar was being lowered into the hole. Patuxai, the memorial monument, is the most prominent landmark in the city. It was constructed in 1957 and completed in 1968. Visitors can climb to the top of the monument to take an excellent panoramic view of the city. Buddha Park - a garden littered with over 200 cement sculptures depicting the gods and monsters of Buddhist and Hindu myth, scattered amongst gardens and trees. Visitors can pay a visit to other sites as Ha Phra Kaew, former temple, now is museum and small shops, Lao National Museum, Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan-Buddhist monastery, That Darn and so on. Above all, Vientiane is often described as one of the world’s most relaxing capitals and worth-visiting destinations.