With two days in Vientiane, you can enjoy a thorough overview of this quaint riverside city, as well as discovering traditional farming lifestyles and minority villages in Laos’ charming countryside. You can watch the sun set over the Mekong, enjoy a traditional Lao sauna and massage, and savor both fine food and street food. This is how.
Day 1: Buddhist Beauty
**Morning:**Start your Vientiane experience by orienting yourself on a city tour. Visit timeless temples such as Wat Si Saket, Ho Phra Keo, Wat Si Muang, or Wat Sok Pa Luang, check off Patuxai (Victory Monument), and stroll along the Mekong. Cycle tours are a great way to get a handle on Vientiane.
**Afternoon:**Get out of the city for the afternoon in Buddha Park, an eccentric extravaganza of gargantuan concrete sculptures drawn from Buddhist and Hindu mythology by a Thai mystic. Capture classic photographs as you enter a giant pumpkin through a demon’s head or pose with a 3-headed elephant.
**Night:**The Mekong is one of the world’s great rivers. Take a stroll along the water at sunset, then relax and soak up the colors with a cold Beer Lao. Devote the evening to a street-food feast, perhaps at Ban Anou Night Market, where melt-in-the-mouth roast duck hangs right beside plates of deep-fried crickets or insect larvae.
Day 2: Country Colors
**Morning:**It’s in the countryside, not the city, that you’ll discover the beating heart of Lao culture. Many will choose to spend the day cycling through unspoiled countryside and Hmong villages, cruising scenic Nam Ngum Lake, or even hiking Buffalo Mountain in Phou Khao Khouay National Park.
**Afternoon:**Take some time to delve deeper into Lao culture in the city. Discover the rich textile tradition of the nation’s many minority groups; learn about the toxic legacy of the Vietnam War at charities such as COPE; or shop for fine silks and charming handicrafts at street markets, workshops, and boutiques.
**Night:**Ease away any aches and pains with an authentic Lao herbal sauna and massage, then treat yourself to an indulgent night out. Consider dinner and a show in a colonial-era mansion; splurge on fine French cuisine at the best prices on the continent; or discover how modern chefs are reinventing Lao classics.