Hotel accommodation near Vientiane's Mekong River architecturally is a mix of Asian, colonial French and modern western. Travel to Vientiane is usually via Wattay International Airport near the Vientiane central business district or via the Thai Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River from the city of Nong Khai in the province of "Nong Khai" Thailand which is 20km from Vientiane.
Many land travellers to Vientiane catch the train from Bangkok, stay in hotel accommodation near the Friendship Bridge in the city of Nong Khai overnight, before and after crossing the Thai Lao Friendship Bridge which was funded by Australia and built by Australian companies. Many expats from as far away as Chiang Mai fly to Vientiane via Luang Prabang or park their car in secure parking at nearby Nong Khai before their "Thailand to Vientiane visa run". Signage near the Thai side of the border names the bridge as the "Thai Lao Friendship Bridge" whereas signage on the Lao side near the bridge names the bridge as the "Lao Thai Friendship Bridge". The nearest town to Vientiane is our home town of "Si ChiangMai", 400 metres directly south across the Mekong River in the Thai province of Nong Khai. I've had many romantic sunset dinners on the bank of the Mekong River at Si Chiang Mai, listening to Lao music drift across the Mekong and watching long tail boats, cargo boats and the Vientiane dinner cruise boat ply the mighty Mekong. The new bigger Vientiane hotels near the Mekong River have great views of the Mekong river.
Early in the monsoon season the Mekong River near Vientiane is so low that trucks drive halfway out into the Mekong from the Lao side to cart sand for building materials in Vientiane.
Big dragon boat races are held in September on a swift flowing Mekong River in towns near Vientiane. See photo of dragon boat racing near Vientiane in the video below. Hopefully damming of the Mekong upstream by China won't reduce the Mekong to a trickle like the fate of many other once great rivers. See photo of Mekong River Commission building near the Mekong River in the slide show below of Vientiane.
Accommodation close Vientiane's CBD with internet, 80 TV channels, restaurants or near restaurants and swimming pools are common at 4 and 5 star hotels in Vientiane. Cheap home stay style guest houses are also near the
Language spoken in Vientiane is Lao, Laotian, (Lothian). It is a form of Isaan (Isan, Esaan) which is widely spoken in nearby north east Thailand.
Tourist visa upon arrival at Wattay Airport costs about $40. Prices vary according to nationality.
Flights to Vientiane
from Bangkok, KL,
Hanoi etc are common. The first time I caught a flight from KL to Vientiane's
Wattay international airport near the centre of Vientiane with AirAsia for
Photo of 50 cents Friendship Bridge Crossing Bus embarking Nong Khai to Vien Tiane.
Cheap bus transport to Vientiane the 50 cent bus fare , over the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River from Nong Khai Thailand. Pay Lao "visa on arrival" fee of 1300 bhat ($46) to Lao immigration window 1 or 2 which you'll see as soon as you get off the bus and where you get forms if tour drivers don't give/help you with forms first. To either window 1 or 2 Present your:
Arrival / Departure card
Visa application one page form
1 passport photo
1300 bhat immigration fee to enter Laos.
Wait about 10 minutes. A Lao migration officer's hand hold's your passport out 3rd window near window number 2 for collection. Watch this window carefully to make sure no one makes off with your passport and change from your visa payments. (While the Lao currency is Kip, Thai baht is welcomed in Vientiane. The ANZ bank ATM near our $30 hotel displays Lak which is equal to Kip.)
Travel to Vientiane CBD by bus or airconditioned 500 bhat taxi / mini bus from the Lao immigration check point near the Friendship bridge. We hired a good driver named Sonenal Pin and air conditioned mini bus tour van for 2.5 days sightseeing and Vientiane / Bridge transers for 1900bht.
If you're driving to Vientiane, road signs display Vientiane spelt "Vien Tiane" Click photo below for Friendship Bridge tolls for self-drive vehicles in the Kip Laos currancy. On the Lao side of the Friendship Bridge the tourist bus crosses over to the right hand side of the road. Small motorbikes, pedestrians and bicycle are excluded from crossing the Friendship Bridge. A friend of mine was permitted to drive his 250cc motorbike over the bridge. Click to enlarge the blue Friendship Bridge toll sign below.
Negotiate price of not more than $1 per kilometre for tuktuk travel in and near Vientiane.
A must visit to the Lao War Museum in Vientiane will confirm that Laos is a communist country. The Lao War Museum is large and full of many interesting Vietnam war exhibits. More bombs were dropped on the Plain of Jars and on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos than all of WWII. We saw the war museum with a mechanic from Kalgoorlie who's working near the Ho Chi Minh Trail. He's seen many huge craters and daily there are finds of unexploded bombs near the Australian copper/gold mine near the Vietnamese boarder with Laos. Eye candy in uniform are female military War Museum attendants. The chorus "women in uniform" kept ringing in my head.
Swim and enjoy the cool jungle environment of waterfalls near the Mekong River near Vientiane. The videos below were filmed 18km, from Wattay international airport near the Vientiane CBD. You'll need your passport to cross the Mekong River into Thailand to get to these beautiful waterfalls.
How to apply for Thai visa renewal or Thai visa extentions at the Thai embassy in Vientiane.
Visit markets near Vientiane
While communist, officially the "Lao People's Democratic Republic" LPDR as they like to name themselves or Laos as the west terms the name of the country, does not give the impression of equality of all it's people. Booming Vientiane, with new hotel accommodation developments, advertising billboards of many western brands, mostly imported from China, grand building and luxury cars are everywhere. Compact four door, left hand side drive sedans cost about $9,000. Many petrol stations in Vientiane are Vietnamese.
Day Mekong River Cruise from "Si Chiangmai near Vientiane.
If you're in Vientiane in the second week of hot April, go swimming in the Mekong River near the Thai Lao Friendship on the Thai side near Nong Khai town. Bring a big water pistol or super soaker for the famous Thai festival of Songkran near Nong Khai. If you're not in a car with the window up, you WILL get wet on this day trip near Vientiane.
Arch near grand presidential palace.
Banks of the Mekong River viewed from near a large Laotian liberation fighter's statue.
Bus tour of waterfalls near Vientiane. The Wang Nam Mok waterfall is 18km near Vientiane.
Large statue near Mekong River of a 17th century Lao King who defeated Thai armies to keep Laos independent till French rule.
There are many good Vietnamese restaurants near Vientiane's CBD. We ate a lot of great Vietnamese food at the Family Hotel. The green vegetable dish is recommended but avoid the tofu.
As a former French colony there are still some French and other European style restaurants to enjoy near the Mekong River or bustling streets of Vientiane.
There are bars near Vientiane's centre with beautiful Laotian women but my wife wouldn't let me go.
Restaurants near the centre of Vientiane dish up good food but as in most capital cities, is double the price of restaurant food on the other side of the nearby Mekong River in Si Chiang Mai.
A legacy of the Vietnam war was displacement of many Laotian families. One of the pleasures of life is giving. I gave 5 years in the prime of my life as an Australian Volunteer Abroad. A poor but great experience. Try spending a time visiting orphanages near Vientianne. Check out accommodation and other facilities. Interact with orphans near Vientiane. You'll be inspired by the children of Vientiane.
Near Vientiane I met a Buddhist monk from Perth Australia.
We travelled over Friendship Bridge by bus into Thailand and tok-tok to
Khai border town. Gavin gave up a well paid boilder maker job in Australia to
do volunteer welding work at his forest monastery retreat in Thailand. Buddhist
monks there provide retreat accommodation and therapy for drug addicts.
Gavin hopes to set-up similar retreat accommodation and therapy in Perth. Forest
monks rarely travel and wear brown robes.
Photo of Monk from Perth Australia on a tuk tuk near the Thai Lao Friendship Bridge
The top of page photo of accommodation
near Vientiane was taken from our hotel room at the "Family Hotel"
close to the 5 star
Lao Plaza Hotel near the centre of Vientiane
Hotel Accommodation Near Vien Tiane CBD and office of Vietnam Airlines in Vientiane. Airline flight arrival time information in map below.
Videos Filmed Near Vientiane
Big Google Map of Vientiane
Map of Vientiane