Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vientiane, Laos (November 4-6, 2008)

Compared to the bustling, sometimes frenetic, capitals of its neighboring countries, Laos' quiet capital of Vientiane can come as a welcome surprise. With a population of several hundred thousand people, it is the country's largest city, but it feels much more like a town than a major metropolis. The city center is easily (and quickly) covered on foot, there are no high-rise buildings to speak of, and the wide roads are often free of cars.

Despite its size, the diminutive capital has plenty to charm visitors: peaceful temples, beautiful river views and cozy restaurants. Watching the sunset over the Mekong River at one of Vientiane's many waterfront bars or cafes is a popular evening pursuit and a fitting introduction to a country that proudly proclaims its relaxed pace and laid-back attitude.
The Presidential Palace stands at the end of a wide, tree-lined street, with its back facing the Mekong River
The view from the Presidential Palace along Lan Xang Street to the Patuxai victory monument
Patuxai, Vientiane's version of the Arc de Triomphe, was built in 1969 to honor those who died in the pre-revolutionary wars
Photographers - armed with digital cameras and portable printers - sell photos to tourists posing in front of Patuxai
A woman grills yams and bananas near the morning market
The wide Mekong River marks the boundary between Laos and Thailand

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