What to Do in Vientiane
One of the Laos people's favourite pastimes – as will become apparent when you are there – is sitting and watching the time pass by. The French coined the phrase: ‘The Vietnamese plant the rice, the Cambodians watch it grow and the Laos listen to it grow’. Understandably, this is not in everyone’s nature, but a few hours of guzzling Beer Lao on the tranquil shores of the Mekong, is kind of mandatory for any Vientiane visitor.
Alternatively, the numerous educational sites, natural wonders and startling scenery should satisfy. For those who want to work up a sweat by other means than walking, trying taking an arranged hike, bike ride or working your way around one of the picturesque golf courses
Other Activities in Vientiane
Massage/Sauna in Vientiane
The sensory delights available in Southeast Asia are arguably amongst the best in the world. The ancient art of aromatherapy and massage have become somewhat synonymous with Asia’s tourism treats. Lao-style massage is a combination of Swedish oil and Thai acupressure, gentler than traditional Thai massage.
Choose from up-market luxury hotel spas to the more cost-effective streetside shop, where the massage experience is equally as invigorating. One thing is for sure; a good massage can be had cheap in this town.
Every Saturday local monks lead a walking and sitting meditation session at Wat Sok Pa Luang. Between 16:00 and 17:30, the sessions take place in pavilions and within the garden. Everyone is welcome, the session is, of course, free of charge and a translator is present for the after-period question time. Twice a year the Buddhist teacher holds intensive Vispassana meditation workshops at the monastery, open to all who wish to join.
Golf in Vientiane
Four Kilometers away from the bridge that links Thailand to Laos – the Friendship Bridge, The 18-hole Youth Garden Golf Course, was the first course to be established within the city and can be accessed by non members for about US$16 on weekdays and a little more on weekends, inclusive of the caddy fee. You can bring your own clubs, or rent a set. A quiet nine-hole course set in well-tended grounds, the KM 6 is considered the hub of expatriate golf activity in Vientiane. Members' tournaments feature regularly on the weekends; however you are guaranteed a quiet round on weekday afternoons.
Swimming is popular and easily accessible in Vientiane although you might want to think twice before jumping head first into the Mekong; currents are notoriously fast and dangerous. As you might imagine, the best swimming pools can be found in the better hotels and they usually allow outsiders in at charge.
The Settha Palace is a luxury boutique resort that has a swimming pool set in beautiful surroundings and charges US$7 a day. The kidney-shaped pool of the Lane Xang has a spring diving board and is well shaded by greenery and huge umbrellas. The Tai-Pan swimming pool and fitness centre is open to the public for US$6 a day.
The best value dip in Vientiane is the large public pool on Ky Houng Road (leading up between the National Museum and the Lao Plaza Hotel). Open daily from 08:00 to 19:00, it costs only US$1. The newly opened Nong Chan Water Park is great for both children and adults alike, with huge slides – a fairly new phenomenon to Laos – situated on Khouvieng Blvd, near the central bus station.
Weaving & Dying
For many years the country's ancient silk-weaving tradition was lost under the Communist regime. With the help of foreign influence and interest from the likes of American weaver Carol Cassidy who started Lao Textiles in 1990, the once elaborate and endangered art form is experiencing a renaissance. 'Spinning a yarn' in Laos is an inherent part of the culture; visitors can learn how to dye textiles using natural pigments and then weave them using a traditional loom. Weaving orientation is both an educational and practical exercise where visitors can learn about the process of weaving and improve their knowledge of various types.