Did you know that Vientiane is THREE TIMES the size of New York City!? Yes, Vientiane is 1,510 sq miles while the Big Apple is 472.43 sq miles.
Vientiane became the capital of Laos in 1573. Vientiane’s seasons are: wet season (April – October) and dry season (November – March). And the temperatures vary from hot, hotter, and HOTTEST! Sometimes I start sweating as soon as I step outside. And my hair – forget it! That poor thing has never experienced so much humidity before. I can’t control my frizzy hair!
This beautiful city is home to notable monuments, such as Patuxay and Pha That Luang.
Patuxay Monument (ປະຕູໄຊ) translates to “Victory Gate.” It’s a massive war monument and triumphal arch located in the center of the city. It was built between 1957 and 1968 to commemorate the Lao soldiers who died during the war of independence from France in 1949. And guess where the funds came from? They were donated by the United States government to fund the construction of an airport.
The arch resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris but followed the Laotian design. The exterior and interior of the monument includes Buddhist symbols, Hindu deities, and female spirits of the clouds and waters. Typically, during non-COVID times, people are allowed to go to the top of the monument. The fee is 5,000 KIP ($0.60).
Pha That Luang (ທາດຫຼວງ) translates to “Great Stupa.” It’s the national monument of Laos. In front of the Great Stupa, you’ll find a statue of King Setthathirat, who built the Great Stupa and relocated the capital city from Luang Prabang to Vientiane in the 1500s. The Great Stupa is believed to house a breastbone of Buddha, which was brought by an Indian missionary in the 3rd century.
This gold-covered Buddhist stupa is approximately 147 feet tall (45m). Pha That Luang is surrounded by large gardens, monuments and temples, where monks still live and study. Additionally, as you walk around, you’ll see many altars with people’s pictures, flowers, and gifts. The two big temples to the right and left of the Great Stupa are: Wat That Luang Nuea (Northern Great Stupa Temple) and Wat That Luang Tai (Southern Great Stupa Temple). I had the opportunity to stroll around the detailed and colorful Wat That Luang Tai, which houses many Buddha statues and a gigantic golden reclining Buddha.