LAOS - CLASSIC VIENTIANE
VIENTIANE - Arrival
Arrival in Vientiane. Your guide and private car will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel for check-in.
The rest of the day is at your leisure to explore Vientiane, whose name means 'the city of sandal wood'.
You might choose to end your day along the banks of the Mekong River. Stroll along the river, stop to enjoy a cold drink, or sample a snack from one of the many local food stalls. This area is very popular with locals who go to exercise in the park in the evenings and you can also browse the evening market for souvenirs.
Overnight in Vientiane
Distance and journey time: Vientiane Airport - Vientiane (4 km): 15 min
VIENTIANE FULL DAY CITY TOUR
Today enjoy a guided tour to discover the hidden charms of Vientiane, which is one of the quietest capital cities in the world and far away from the hustle and bustle of other Asian capitals.
Your guide will pick you up at 0900 this morning. Your tour begins at the serene Wat Sisaket, the only temple left intact after the Siamese (Thai) invasion in 1828. It is one of the most beautiful temples in the capital, and its breezy teak covered hallways are filled with thousands of miniature Buddha statues.
Continue on to the nearby Wat PraKeo. Used as a religious museum, Wat PhraKeo displays a collection of both Lao and Khmer works of art. Also nearby, is the Presidential Palace. Although you are not allowed to visit inside, it is a good glimpse in to the town's colonial past as this building formerly served as the French governor's palace.
Stop at Wat Simuang, the most popular and venerated temple in Vientiane, as it is considered the guardian of the spirit of the city. Upon its grounds, you will find an Angkorian-era pillar and it is a popular belief that if you circle it three times and make a wish, then that wish will come true.
Nestled near the original morning market is That Dam. Also called the 'Black Stupa', the structure was once covered with a layer of gold which was stolen by the Thais during their invasion in 1828. From here, travel on to nearby Pangkham Street, with its plethora of tailor shops, and Nam Phou Fountain. Here you can see how traditional areas of the city are embracing modernity.
Enjoy a delicious Lao-style lunch at Makphet Restaurant. Established by Friends International (www.friends-international.org), Makphet is a charity-run restaurant aiming to train the area's street children in the hospitality industry. Professional chefs from around the world have volunteered their time in developing the menus and training the staff. The food is excellent, and the staffs excel in bringing true Lao-hospitality in to their service.
Visit COPE, an association working to help landmine victims. A visit to the center provides in-depth information about the history of the American/Vietnam war and the lasting impact of unexploded ordinances (UXO) in the area and the efforts underway to clear them.
Next, your tour takes you to That Luang, the holiest site in Laos. Constructed by King Setthathirath in the 16th century, the temple is resplendent as the sun shines upon its towering golden spire.
Continue to the Patuxay monument, Laos' version of the Arc de Triomphe, where you can climb the stairs to the roof and finish your day with sweeping panoramic views of the city.
Overnight in Vientiane
VIENTIANE - BUDDHA PARK - Departure
This morning you will be driven out to Buddha Park. The drive takes around 45 minutes, along a road which serves as an important link between the Lao capital and Thailand. On the way, stop and take photos of the Friendship Bridge which was built by the Australian government in 1994 and links Laos and Thailand.
Arrive at Buddha Park and enjoy a stroll around the park. Also known as XiengKhuan, this unusual park is filled with over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues. The quiet and tranquil setting along the Mekong River is a contrast to the slightly eccentric sculptures which were built in 1958 by a Laos shaman. The concrete sculptures are bizarre but intriguing, sitting majestically in the peaceful park.
After visiting Buddha Park, start the drive back to Vientiane. En route, stop at Mai Savanh to explore the traditional textiles of the Lao people. This shop specializes in high quality silk products and involves several families in their process, from the northern province of Luang Nam Tha Province and the southern provinces of Attapeu and Sekong. (Note: Mai Savanh is closed on Saturday & Sunday)
Another stop will be made at the Lao Disabled Women Development Center. This center aims to bring knowledge and skills to disabled women so that they can become self-sufficient, productive members of the community. The center focuses its efforts on helping people with disabilities gain independence and self-confidence. A visit to the center provides you with the opportunity to talk to these women and to observe their skill at creating handicrafts such as handmade paper. (Note: Subject to change without prior notice from the suppliers).
You will return to the city around lunch time and can be dropped off at the airport to catch a flight to your next destination.
Distance and journey time: Vientiane - Buddha Park (24 km): 45 min
Vientiane - Vientiane Airport (4 km): 15 min