By Amanda Little
Explore the amazing land of Laos, a country where its history is rich, its temples are stunning, and its sights are unlike any other place on Earth. And even better, explore it for free! Or, mostly, at least.
1. Buddha Park
Wander through the winding paths of Xieng Khuan, or Buddha Park. Decorates with over 200 sculptures with Buddhist or Hindu influence, it was built by Luang Pu in 1958 to merge Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, mythology, and iconography, and it succeeded. Now, you’re free to wander through the stoic park and settle into its mystic atmosphere.
2. Sunset Aerobics
The entire community comes together as the sun sets. Find the boulevard off of the Mekong River where people are set up in groups, led by someone with a microphone. Join the group and take part in the public daily aerobics with the locals. While predominantly female, all are welcome to join.
3. National History Museum
Learn about the complex and intriguing history of Laos, from an entirely objective standpoint. The information is good, but it’s unusual to find a museum displaying opinions along with facts, including how they feel about Americans and the French.
4. Night Market
Right after Aerobics have waned, the Night market begins to bloom. Wander among the stalls that set up and pick along its tables, seeking out the perfect souvenir. It may be a treasure worth searching for among the nail polish, clothes, snacks, and personal care items that make up the rest of the market.
5. Mekong River
Look out over the Mekong River as the sun begins to set. You might enjoy a meal to go with such a scenic view, or simply watch the water run by. The vantage point from the streets of Vientiane provides amazing views of wildlife existing just beyond the city limits, a true blend of worlds.
6. Haw Phra Kaew
Another temple worth the visit, this one doesn’t quite live up to the god-like golden standard of Pha That Luang on the outside, its still impressive in displaying cultural opulence and the ancient treasures within are well worth the half-dollar admission fee. Statues of standing Buddhas line the interior, and the garden is even home to a few stone jars, but the biggest attraction is the Emerald Buddha that sits in its heart.
7. Temple visiting
Vientiane is full to bursting with temples, and while all of them are stunning, Pha That Luang stands a notch above the rest. Striking gold-covered spires against the sky in the center of the city, the breathtaking stupa is a marvel and even lights up at night. Make sure to snap a photo of this palace! You also might want to pay your respects as well, since it only costs about 60 cents to enter.
8. Lao Textile Museum
This little museum off the beaten path represents hundreds of years of culture for Laos. Weaving and dyeing were an integral part of all ancient societies, and this museum presents wooden looms and dyeing stations that were once used. Make sure you call in advance though, the hours are a bit unusual and you might find it closed.
9. Bike tour
One of the most popular ways to get around the entirety of Laos is by bike. Enjoy a tour through the highlights of Vientiane all by bike, for several days. While this isn’t free, renting the bike and the tour itself will only put you back about 50 cents a day.
10. COPE Visitor Center
A museum and medical center dedicated to providing artificial limbs to those in need is such a niche activity, you can’t pass up the opportunity to do it. You can make donations, wander through the free exhibit watching videos and learning about the hundreds of unexploded ordnance that plague Laos, or both. It’s an eye-opening and unique establishment.