Vientiane is the capital and biggest city of Laos with over 200.000 people. It is not a lot of people but keep in mind that Laos is a small country with an estimated 6.5 million habitants. Vientiane is a blend of French architecture back from the colonial period and Buddhist spirituality. There are a few temples and statues to explore.
I have read nothing but bad reviews of Vientiane and I somehow agree to these reviews. It is not that bad but do not expect much of Vientiane! The night market is a bunch of fake clothes and electronics. It has absolutely no interest and the morning market is not much better.
A day will be enough to get around the city. The average commuting speed is around 30 kms/h in Laos. A stop in Vientiane can be a nice way to break a bus journey whether you are heading north or south of Laos!
Make sure to visit the COPE visitor center which stands for ‘Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise’. COPE was created for Laos PDR to act as a bridge between international opportunities and the needs of local services. Its main goal is to support UXO victims. The museum goes through UXO issues within Laos. It showcases stunning pictures and heartbreaking kids’ drawings during bombings.
Laos remains the most heavily bombed country in the world. From 1964 to 1973, the US dropped over 2 million tons of ordonance over Laos in 580.000 different bombing missions. This is the equivalent of one planeload every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day for 9 years! Up to 30% bombies failed to detonate. That is 80 million of unexplosed bombies ready to blow-up or 25% of villages in Laos still contaminated with UXO.
It is a reminder of war side effects on people’s lives. Sadly, looking at current war policies in the world sounds like nothing has changed. I wish the visitor center had more emphasis on how UXO issues affected and still affects Laos development as a country. Only for the COPE, Vientiane is worth a visit!