Vientiane, Laos, is divided into the capital city and the surrounding province. The city itself is small for a capital with an estimated 800,000 residents. Most major sites can be seen in a few days. Those with more time or a taste for an experience outside the city will enjoy a day trip to the surrounding province. Here are 10 of the best spots to venture outside of the capital.
Nam Ngum Dam and Reservoir
Located 56 miles (90 kilometres) north of the capital of Vientiane, Nam Ngum, is the largest lake in the country. The reservoir was created with the Nam Ngum dam was completed, which provides hydro electric power domestically and as an export. Take a boat ride around the lake and enjoy the calm waters.
Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area
Phou Khao Khouay means “Buffalo-Horned Mountain.” One of 20 National Protected Areas in Laos, this park is 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of the capital. The park has forests, waterfalls and several villages. Hire a driver, rent a car or motorbike or join an organized tour leaving from the city to enjoy the day at Phou Khao Khouay.
Gamble at the Casino
The Dansavanh Nam Ngum Resort Casino is Vientiane’s only casino (although there is another, even larger casino in Savannakhet and a third in Tonpheung.) Lao people are technically prohibited by law from gambling, so you’ll be in the company of other foreigners. Dansavanh has 60 tables and 150 machines at which to try your luck.
Lao National Zoo
The Lao Zoo has improved dramatically since partnering in 2015 with a Thai non-profit and the U.S. government to create the Lao Wildlife Rescue Center. The center is the first of its kind in Laos and takes animals from the illegal wildlife trade for rehabilitation and provides refuge for them.
Ban Nong Weaving Village
Not far outside the city is the weaving village of Ban Nong. Take a tuk tuk or hire a driver to take you through the dirt packed streets past traditional Lao style homes to see how traditional weaving is done on large looms.
Tad Moun and Hinkanna Waterfalls
Follow the locals and get out of town to enjoy the local waterfalls in Vientiane. Drink a Beerlao while sitting on a bamboo mat in a wooden hut or rent a tube and splash around in the water. Ice cream and snacks are available from vendors and paddle boats can be rented on parts of the river.
Hinkhanna Waterfall | © Regina Beach/Culture Trip
No trip to Vientiane is complete without checking out the sculptures in Buddha Park. Also called Xieng Kuan, this family-friendly park on the banks of the Mekong is 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) from downtown Vientiane. Over 200 Buddhist statues are on display in the park, including a giant domed structure that visitors can climb inside to view the park from above.
Ban Mai is a small town/neighborhood on the outskirts of Vientiane past Wattay International Airport. If you’re planning a motorbike or cycling tour of Vientiane province, this is a good place to refuel. There are a few stores, restaurants and a temple. If you’re a golfer, Mekong Golf and Resort is nearby in Phou Panang National Bio-Diversity area.
Thangon Floating Restaurants
Two floating restaurants take patrons out on the Nam Ngum River while they eat their meal. Karaoke (a favorite Lao pastime) is available for those who would like to croon on board. Take in the scenery as you dine on seafood and sip a Beerlao before driving the hour back to the hustle and bustle of Vientiane.
Lao Textile Museum
Off the beaten path, this family-owned museum and production facility displays weaving patterns from different parts of the country and helps guests try their hand at traditional weaving methods. Demonstrations about natural dying methods and the silk production from worms to the final product are part of the tour.