FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Unearth Vientiane’s Rare Cultural, Architectural and Culinary Treasures

by Elyse Glickman

Aug 10, 2021

PHOTO: © REMOTE LANDS, INC.

August 2021

Many travelers regard Vientiane, perched on the Mekong River’s left bank, as Laos’ business-focused capital or a stopover en route to Luang Prabang or adventure-driven Vang Vieng. However, as the old saying goes, to know it is to love it. Expats who call Laos home — such as professional guides Andrea Vinsonneau (of ExoTravel) and Lee Sheridan, and photographer/author Jane Thomas (Books & Bicycles) — insist it deserves far more attention than a quick meal, a good night’s rest and a stroll through its fusion of French Colonial and Laotian architecture.

Like any Southeast Asian capital, Vientiane has impressive historic buildings (Presidential Palace, Lao National Cultural Hall), gilded Buddhist temples (Wat Chan and Wat Sisaket, the city’s oldest surviving monastery) and bustling night markets. However, the expats and Remote Lands’ Vientiane expert, Inthy Deuansavanh, note that if you dig deeper into Riverside’s narrow lanes and residential streets beyond the river promenade and main roads, the cafés, spas, shops and art galleries read as “best-kept secrets” instead of boxes to check off on one’s itinerary.

Exploring Lao National Museum first provides a greater appreciation of Vientiane’s hidden small museums and galleries, some weaving in shopping or dining. Lao Textile Museum contextualizes the artistry and history of Laos’ textile industry, while Oot Ni Art Gallery showcases antique decorative arts. The Iccat Art Gallery spotlights up-and-coming Lao artists, as does The Secret Art & Wine Bar … but with a sweet French café backdrop. The COPE Visitor Center, where victims of wars and bombings received prosthetics, delivers a thought-provoking delve into the wars’ human toll.

Boutiques specializing in hand-crafted investment fashion, accessories and home décor offer an enchanting antidote to night market souvenirs, especially as they support local artists, communities and the environment. Favorites include Birds Follow Spring’s reclaimed wood pieces; Ministry of Silk’s clothing; Caruso Lao’s furniture; Her Works’ accessories created by Laos’ ethnic tribe artisans; Le Comptoir de Vientiane’s exquisite serving pieces; and T’Shop Lai Gallery’s fragrant skincare crafted from sustainable, locally sourced botanicals.

Laos’ favorable exchange rate makes the neighborhood’s splurge-worthy joie de vivre even more appealing. While street food abounds, restaurants such as 3 Merchants, Kitchen Lounge by Manoi, Kualao, The Living Library, Amphone and Doi Khai Noi reflect the future of Southeast Asian cuisine. French fare with regional twists surfaces at crêpe shop Suzette and L’Adresse de Tinay. Choice hotels Settha Palace and Green Park Boutique bring luxury, authenticity and lush landscaping, adding to Vientiane’s sense of place.

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FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

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