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Laos: Vientiane



Vientiane is the largest and one of the most beautiful cities in Laos, boasting excellent views of the Mekong river and several breathtaking monuments. Vientiane is possibly the most laid back city in the world. Many locals can be seen sipping Beer Lao, the country's own beer brewed in Vientiane. It also has to be a contender for the most motorcycles per mile, even though the city's population is only around 750,000 compared to the capital city of neighbouring Vietnam, Hanoi which inhabits a staggering 6,500,000 people. There is a heavy Buddhist influence all over Laos, and especially in Vientiane, which ensures crime is kept to a minimum.

Accommodation is scarce in the peak season between August and February. Pre-booking a guest house or hotel is recommended. Prices range between 60,000 Laotian Kip ($7.5USD) for a basic guest house without air conditioning, to 1,000,000 ($125 USD) for a suite at Don Chan Palace situated next to the Mekong.

Western food is hard to come by with only a few places offering western style dishes. You should not worry though as the Laos cuisine is excellent. Many bars exist for tourists from all corners of the world. Beer Lao is about 13000( $1.6 USD) kip a bottle. Excellent wines are also served all over Vientiane, as well as the world famous Laotian coffee. Internet access is plentiful and available free at nearly any bar or guest house.

There is a very small sex industry compared to neighbouring Asian countries such as Thailand. There is only a handful of girls and ladyboys in Vientiane, and the police keep a very close eye on them and their activities.

Motorbikes can be rented for a small price and some form of identification so you can view the city's sights that are not in walking distance, such as Buddha park. Tuk-Tuks are also available. The drivers roam the streets day and night, willing to take you anywhere around the city for a small price. You should be cautious if travelling alone, but the police do a very good job in Vientiane and crime rates against farangs (tourists) are extremely low compared to other Asian countries.

The northern bus station is only 5km out of the centre allowing you to explore the rest of the country with ease. The airport is also almost adjacent to the bus station allowing you to travel by air to many other cities in Asia.

The climate in Vientiane is very hot, ranging from 20C to 35C depending on the season. Rain is scarce between late August and early March; but between late March and early August, it rains heavily for about 1 hour each afternoon, and then the normal weather returns. The sun rises between 5 and 6 in the morning depending on the time of year, and sets about 6 or 7 in the evening over the Mekong river, giving one of the most spectacular sights in Asia.

Vientiane is a hidden gem of Asia not discussed by many websites or other media. The people are genuinely friendly and tourism hasn't fully gripped the city like it has in many other Asian countries making it very relaxing and enjoyable for tourists young or old.

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