Since the 16th century, Vientiane has been the capital of Laos and is situated in the heart of Indochina. The city originated at the point at which the first navigable section of the Mekong River joins with the Gulf of Thailand.
Vientiane was once a group of rural settlements and even today contains several village-like districts, each with its own temple and traditional marketplace.
At the end of the 19th century, the French began to renovate the city’s most important buildings and made Vientiane the administrative capital of their new colony and gave it a French look. There are some fascinating places to visit outside the city, such as the Cultural Park of the Laotian People, a large area on the banks of the Mekong River.
Historic Vientiane also has some fine reconstructed buildings, such as the Wat Inpeng on the western bank of Pagoda Street. Artistic wooden carvings on the windows and doors, along with the paintings and stucco work on the walls, feature various legends from the life of Buddha.
Some signs of affluence are beginning to appear and in future years, Vientiane may become yet another Asian metropolis with skyscrapers, smog and manic rush hours. It is now poised to leap into contemporary times, as it gradually emerges from its atmospheric curtain of bamboo.