Discover the Jewel of Mekong | 10 exciting things you can do in Vientiane
A gentle city with gentle people. Vientiane is known for its old world charm, from the slow pace of life to the kindness of the locals, a foodie heaven where you can sit alongside the colonial buildings, drinking some of the superb locally grown coffee as the Mekong glides by.
Some of the real joys in this amazing capital city can be hard to find, but once you discover the delights on offer, we know you’ll be back for more.
Weaving and dyeing
The weaving of Laos is extraordinary. It is an integral part of the culture and has been used over the years to tell the legends from one generation to the next and each group has its own style that is highly distinctive. While you are here, learn more about this tradition and about how to feed indigo to keep it alive at the Lao Textile Museum. Then head to the Houey Hong Vocational Training Centre where you can weave and dye your own scarf, choosing from a range of natural dyes, onion peel, jack fruit, or flowers are just some of the possible ways to dye your work.
The orchid gardens and an orchid trek
For plant lovers, the orchid gardens are extraordinary. Bertrand Laville of Vientiane Orchidees set up the centre 13 years ago and is passionate about the plant. He can explain about the 400 species of orchids at the gardens. If this whets your appetite, then they can take you to discover wild orchids on a trek at Phou Khao Khouay National Park about 60 kilometres from Vientiane.
At a beautiful house, on the edge of a lake, make your own lotus painting. Marie-Do at MDO studio will guide you through each step so that even if you don’t consider yourself artistic, you will leave with an extraordinary painting to take home with you. Of course if you have longer in town, you might want to take one of her other courses, lacquerware, Kinsugi or mosaic, for example.
Vientiane is fast gaining a reputation as a city for foodies, with a wonderful choice of high-quality restaurants serving food from around the world. Standing out as one of the top places in town is 3 Merchants. This contemporary fusion restaurant is considered by many to be the finest in town, offering outstanding food, in a beautiful environment. The tasting menu is a meal to remember. Offering a number of courses, matched with their wines, it is a taste sensation you won’t forget.
A cooking class with Tangkin
Lao food is unique and packs a flavour punch. Combining wonderful meat, fresh vegetables, and herbs with chilli and fish in just the right quantities is a skill that you can learn with Tangkin. On one of her courses, you will learn everything you need to recreate these dishes back at home.
One of the real treats of a trip to South East Asia is time spent at the spa. Take the Tranquil Journey Experience at Senses Spa, an award-winning luxury spa at Crowne Plaza Vientiane. You’ll leave feeling deeply relaxed and calm. Ready for anything.
Rice planting with Tuk Tuk Safari
Tuk Tuk Safari will pick you up and take you out for an extraordinary adventure where, according to the season, you will learn to plant or harvest rice on a farm, not far from Vientiane. An extraordinary experience that takes you to the heart of life in Laos.
Buddhism is the thread through which life in Laos is led and as the oldest temple in Laos, Wat Sisiket is well worth a visit. The only temple to survive the destruction of the city in the early 1800s, Wat Sisiket is now home to over 6,000 Buddha images, together with murals, which were begun in 1820 and have been undergoing extensive restoration to protect them.
Laodi distillery tour
Laodi is rum made from Lao sugar cane. Book a tour on a Saturday (more often if you are able to understand Japanese) to see how this spirit is created, and try some, of course.
Laos has the unenviable distinction of being the most bombed country in the world, per capita. Learn more about this but also see the uplifting way in which COPE is working to improve the lives of those who were injured and hear the stories of the people impacted by this war that happened long before they were born. Whilst you are there, see some of the prosthetics people crafted for themselves, some out of the very bombs that had caused the injuries and try the hand driven wheelchairs, so much harder to use than you expect.