Largest and most populous of Laos and its capital, but small enough to allow you to visit it with ease, Vientiane is a gem to be discovered slowly, savoring the taste of the old area along the Mekong, the long avenues flanked by trees and ancient temples, giving it a timeless atmosphere even in spite of the traffic. The name of the settlement can be translated either as “city of sandalwood” and as “the city of the moon” and should be pronounced Wieng Chan: “Wieng” in Lao means “city” or “place with walls” and “Chan” corresponds to the Laos pronunciation of Sanskrit terms “Chandana”, sandalwood, or “Chandra” moon. Vientiane is one of the three Indochinese city classic with Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Phnom Penh, names that evoke exotic Eurasian environments; largely Vientiane corresponds to this image and presents a fascinating mix of influences Laotian, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, French, American and Soviet, making it one of the three capitals of Indochina from the atmosphere more relaxed.
Several times in the course of the 10 centuries of its history Vientiane lost its status as a kingdom independent to pass under the control of the Burmese, Siamese, Vietnamese and Khmer. In the fourteenth century conqueror Fa Ngum, backed by the Khmer, created the kingdom of Lan Xang (Million Elephants) that initially had as its capital Muang Sawa (Luang Phabang) until the beginning of the sixteenth century, it was chosen as the capital Vientiane. When, in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the Laos became a French protectorate, the city was declared the capital and remained so even under the communist government.
The most important monument in Vientiane and all Laos is the Pha That Luang, the “Great Sacred Stupa”, a real national symbol of both the Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty of the nation. According to legend, the missionaries of Ashoka, from India, erected a stupa here as early as the third century BC to guard the breastbone of the Buddha, but there is no evidence to confirm or date of construction or the content of this monument. The Great Stupa is designed so that the faithful can go up there, so there are passages that make the rounds of all levels, connected by stairs, each level of the monument has several architectural features that need to express the Buddhist doctrine, while the four There are many sides haw wai, “gates of prayer”, through which you access the upper floors. At the top you can see the curved four-sided spire, which resembles a lotus bud elongated: it is said to symbolize the growth of a lotus, since it is a seed placed on the muddy bottom of a lake until it becomes flower that rises above water.
Near the Presidential Palace, the northeastern corner of Thanon Lan Xang and Thanon Setthathirat, is the Wat Si Saket, the oldest temple in Vientiane, built in 1818 by King Anouvong. Despite the influence of Siamese architecture, Wat Si Saket has several features decidedly peculiar, including the inner walls of the porch riddled with small niches that contain more than 2,000 Buddha images made of silver and ceramics. Under the niches there are long shelves on which rest more than 300 Buddha in sitting or standing position of various sizes and materials, in most cases carved or cast according to the characteristic style Lao. The sim is surrounded by a terrace with columns designed in the style of Bangkok and is surmounted by a roof five floors, while the interior walls are hundreds of niches with Buddha figures similar to those of the porch and wall paintings that jataka depicting the life of Buddha. In 1991, UNESCO has financed the restoration of these paintings, parts of which performed in the style of Bangkok were original and unrestored, while others had undergone restoration as early as 1913.
A short distance along Thanon Setthathirat a hundred meters from Wat Si Saket, stands the Haw Pha Kaew, in the past royal temple of the Lao monarchy, but has recently been transformed into a museum. Inside you can see some of the finest examples of Buddhist sculpture of Laos, so it’s worth a visit just for that reason. Other times not to be missed in the center of Vientiane are: Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan, built in the XVI century by King Setthathirat; Wat Hai Sok, in front of the previous one and is characterized by a massive roof five floors to nine if you count the roofs of the lower terrace, the Mixai Wat, located in the same street of Wat Ong Teu and Wat Hai Sok, within which there is a primary school Wat In Paeng, which has a sim finely decorated with stucco relief, the Wat Si Muang, the most revered of the city, and Wat Xieng Khuan, the “Temple of the Spirit of the City”, located 24 km south of the center.
Once the visits to the temples, you can browse other fascinating attractions almost all located in the heart of downtown. First, the Patuxai, a great monument built in the 60 to commemorate the fallen in the wars that preceded the revolution, whose shape closely resembles that of the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The bas-relief on the sides and the decoration similar to that of the temples on the top and on the frames are typically Laotian, while a staircase leads to the top of the monument, which for a small fee you can see the whole city. Another interesting tomb is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, whose structure is similar to a white thaat is located north of Pha That Luang, not far from Thanon Phon Kheng.
Finally, finally, a visit to the city, you can go to his only major museum: Phiphittaphan Patiwat Lao, or the “Museum of the Revolution in Laos”, housed in a classical building located in the rather run-down Thanon Samsenthai. The exhibition showcases a collection of artifacts and photographs that reflect the long power struggle led by the Pathet Lao, along with a rich display of historical weapons. To be precise, in the first room near the entrance you will see some small items of cultural and natural geographical and subsequent rooms are dedicated to the French colonial period lasted from 1893 to 1945, the struggle for independence lasted from 1945 to 1954, resistance against American imperialism that characterized the years between 1954 and 1963 and finally the interim government and the communist victory of the years between 1964 and 1969.
As well as that of the whole of mainland Southeast Asia, the climate of Vientiane is affected by monsoon cycles that determine the conditions of alternation between wet and dry periods, divided into three distinct seasons. The south-west monsoon arrives between May and July and lasts until November, causing abundant precipitation and average temperatures between 31 and 25 degrees. The north-west monsoon is followed by a dry period from November to May: in a first stage, which lasts until mid-February, the temperature drops a little thanks to the north-east monsoon which, although not directly passing on Laos and Vientiane, generates movements of cooler air and bring the minimum to below 20 degrees, while from March to May, recorded the highest temperatures of the year, with peaks up to 35 degrees.
With regard to transport, Vientiane is served by Wattay International Airport, connected to many destinations throughout Asia. The movements of the earth to the Thailand take place thanks to the futuristic Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, more or less parallel to the ferry route, with buses leave from the main terminal located near the market Matins. A very convenient way to get around Laos or along its shore are ferries, both rivers and sea.
Originally posted 2012-09-26 13:53:10.