Vientiane (/vjɛnˈtjɑːn/; French
pronunciation: [vjɛ̃ˈtjan]; Lao:
ບໍຣີຣົມຍ໌, Viang chan, IPA: [wíəŋ tɕàn])
is the capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong
River near the border with Thailand.
Vientiane became the capital in
1563 due to fears of a Burmese invasion but was later looted then
razed to the ground in 1827 by the Siamese (Thai).
the administrative capital during French rule and, due to economic
growth in recent times, is now the economic center of Laos.
Vientiane is noted as the home of the most significant national
monument in Laos: That Luang, which is a known symbol of
Laos and an
icon of Buddhism in Laos. Other significant Buddhist temples in Laos
can be found there as well, such as Haw Phra Kaew, which formerly
housed the Emerald Buddha.
The estimated population of the city is 760,000 (2015). The city
hosted the 25th
Southeast Asian Games
Southeast Asian Games in December 2009 celebrating the
50 years of Southeast Asian Games.
3 Geography and climate
5 Colleges and universities
8.1 Within Laos
8.2 From Thailand
8.3 To Thailand
8.4 From China
8.5 By air
10 Twin towns – Brother cities
11 See also
13 Further reading
14 External links
The name of the city is derived from Pali, the liturgical language of
Theravada Buddhism. Although the original meaning of the name of the
city is "city of sandalwood", as shown by ancient Lao inscription
which wrote according to etymology, unlike modern Lao which is written
phonetically, in modern Lao, the meaning of the name
Many, if not most,
Lao people claim that the city's name means "city
of the moon", while many also claim correctly that the city's name
means "city of sandalwood" because the words for "moon" (ຈັນ or
ຈັນທຣ໌ from chandra चन्द्र in Sanskrit) and
"sandalwood" (ຈັນ or ຈັນທນ໌ from chandana
चन्दन in Sanskrit) are written and pronounced identically as
"chan" in modern Lao. Most academic and historic Lao sources claim
that the city's name does in fact mean "city of sandalwood",
reinforced by the city's Thai (เวียงจันทน์) and
Khmer (វៀងចន្ទន៍) names both retain the etymological
spelling, which indicates "city of sandalwood".
The romanised spelling "Vientiane" is of French origin, and reflects
the difficulty the French had in pronouncing the /tɕ/ sound in the
Lao language. A common English-based spelling is "Viangchan", or
Buddha sculptures at Pha That Luang
Haw Phra Kaew
Haw Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Pha That Luang
The great Laotian epic, the Phra Lak Phra Lam, claims that Prince
Thattaradtha founded the city when he left the legendary Lao kingdom
of Muong Inthapatha Maha Nakhone because he was denied the throne in
favor of his younger brother. Thattaradtha founded a city called Maha
Thani Si Phan Phao on the western banks of the
Mekong River; this city
was said to have later become today's Udon Thani, Thailand. One day, a
seven-headed Naga told Thattaradtha to start a new city on the east
bank of the river opposite Maha Thani Si Phan Phao. The prince called
this city Chanthabuly Si Sattanakhanahud; which was said to be the
predecessor of modern Vientiane.
Contrary to the Phra Lak Phra Lam, most historians believe Vientiane
was an early Khmer settlement centered around a
Hindu temple, which
That Luang would later replace. In the 11th and 12th
centuries, the time when the Lao and
Thai people are believed to have
Southeast Asia from Southern China, the few remaining Khmers
in the area were either killed, removed, or assimilated into the Lao
civilization, which would soon overtake the area.
In 1354, when
Fa Ngum founded the kingdom of Lan Xang.:223
Viangchan became an important administrative city, even though it was
not made the capital. King
Setthathirath officially established it as
the capital of
Lan Xang in 1563, to avoid Burmese invasion. When
Lan Xang fell apart in 1707, it became an independent Kingdom of
Vientiane. In 1779, it was conquered by the Siamese general Phraya
Chakri and made a vassal of Siam.
Anouvong raised an unsuccessful rebellion, it was
obliterated by Siamese armies in 1827. The city was burned to the
ground and was looted of nearly all Laotian artifacts, including
Buddha statues and people. Viangchan was in great disrepair,
depopulated and disappearing into the forest, when the French arrived.
It eventually passed to French rule in 1893. It became the capital of
the French protectorate of
Laos in 1899. The French rebuilt the city
and rebuilt or repaired Buddhist temples such as Pha That Luang, Haw
Phra Kaew, and left many colonial buildings behind.
During World War II, Viangchan fell with little resistance and was
occupied by Japanese forces, under the command of Sako Masanori. On
9 March 1945 French paratroopers arrived, and reoccupied the city on
24 April 1945.
Laotian Civil War
Laotian Civil War broke out between the Royal Lao Government
and the Pathet Lao,
Vientiane became unstable. In August 1960, Kong Le
seized the capital and insisted that
Souvanna Phouma become prime
minister. In mid-December,
Phoumi Nosavan then seized the capital,
overthrew the Phouma Government, and installed
Boun Oum as prime
minister. In mid-1975,
Pathet Lao troops moved towards the city and
Americans began evacuating the capital. On 23 August 1975, a
contingent of 50
Pathet Lao women symbolically liberated the city.
On 2 December 1975, the communist party of the
Pathet Lao took over
Vientiane, defeated the Kingdom of Laos, and renamed the country the
Lao People's Democratic Republic, which ended the Laotian Civil War.
The next day, an Insurgency in
Laos began in the jungle, with the
Pathet Lao fighting factions of Hmong and royalists.
Vientiane was the host of the incident-free 2009 Southeast Asian
Games. Eighteen competitions were dropped from the previous games held
in Thailand, due to Laos' landlocked borders and the lack of adequate
facilities in Vientiane.
Geography and climate
Vientiane is on a bend of the
Mekong River, at which point it forms
the border with Thailand.
Vientiane features a tropical savanna climate (Köppen Aw) with a
distinct wet season and a dry season. Vientiane’s dry season spans
from November through March. April marks the onset of the wet season
Vientiane lasts about seven months.
Vientiane tends to be hot
and humid throughout the course of the year, though temperatures in
the city tend to be somewhat cooler during the dry season than the wet
Climate data for Vientiane
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average rainfall mm (inches)
Average rainy days
Average relative humidity (%)
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Source #1: World Meteorological Organization, Deutscher
Wetterdienst (extremes 1907–1990)
Source #2: NOAA (sun and humidity)
Wat Si Muang
Although still a small city, the capital experiences a major influx of
tourists. The city contains many temples and Buddhist monuments with
Pha That Luang, a Buddhist stupa, one of the most famous in Laos. It
is the most important national cultural monument and very popular
amongst foreign tourists. The original was built in 1566 by King
Setthathirath, and was restored in 1953. The golden stupa is
45 metres tall and is believed to contain a relic of the Lord
Another site that is also popular amongst tourists is Wat Si Muang.
The temple was built on the ruins of a Khmer
Hindu shrine, the remains
of which can be seen behind the ordination hall. It was built in
1563 and is believed to be guarded by the spirit of a local girl
called “Si". Legend says that Nang Si, who was pregnant at the time,
leapt to her death as a sacrifice, just as the pillar was being
lowered into the hole. In front of the temple stands a statue of King
The memorial monument, Patuxai, began construction in 1957 and
completed in 1968, is perhaps the most prominent landmark in the
city. While the
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe in
Paris inspired the
architecture, the design incorporates typical Lao motifs including
“Kinnari”, a mythical bird woman. Energetic visitors can climb to
the top of the monument, which reveals a panoramic view of the city.
Buddha Park was built in 1958 by
Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat
Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat and contains
a collection of Buddhist and
Hindu sculptures, scattered amongst
gardens and trees. The park was built about 28 kilometres south
Vientiane at the edge of the
Vientiane is home to one of the three bowling alleys in
other two are in
Luang Prabang and Pakse). There are many upper-class
hotels in Vientiane.
Other sites include:
Haw Phra Kaew, former temple, now museum and small shops
Lao National Museum
Talat Sao Morning market
That Dam, large stupa
Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan, Buddhist monastery
Wat Sri Chomphu Ong Tue, Buddhist temple
Wat Si Saket, Buddhist wat
Wat Sok Pa Luang, Buddhist temple
Settha Palace Hotel, Established 1932
The Sanjiang Market
Vientiane from Patuxai.
Colleges and universities
The National University of Laos, one of three universities in the
country, is in Vientiane.
Lao National Radio has a large mediumwave transmitter with a 277-metre
guyed mast at 18° 20' 33"N, 102° 27' 01"E
China Radio International (CRI) FM 93.0
Vientiane is the driving force behind economic change in Laos. In
recent years, the city has experienced rapid economic growth from
foreign investment. In 2011, the stock exchange opened with two
listed company stocks, with the cooperation of South Korea.
There are regular bus services connecting
Bus Station with
the rest of the country. In Vientiane, regular bus services around the
city are provided by
Vientiane Capital State
Wattay International Airport
Older taxis in
Vientiane are being replaced by newer Chinese-made
cars, like this
Thanaleng Train Station
The First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, built in the 1990s, crosses the
river 18 kilometres downstream of the city of
Nong Khai in
Thailand, and is the major crossing between the two countries. The
official name of the bridge was changed in 2007 by the addition of
"First", after the Second Friendship Bridge linking
Laos was opened early in 2007.
A metre gauge railway link over the bridge was formally inaugurated on
5 March 2009, ending at Thanaleng Railway Station, in Dongphosy
Vientiane Prefecture), 20 km east of Vientiane.
As of November 2010, Lao officials plan to convert the station into a
rail cargo terminal for freight trains, allowing cargo to be
Laos at a lower cost than would be
possible with road transport.
Daily non-stop bus services run between
Vientiane and Nong Khai, Udon
Thani, and Khon Kaen.
In October 2010, plans were announced for a 530 km high-speed
Vientiane to Xishuangbanna, in
Yunnan Province in
China. which was later modified to a high speed train from Boten
Vientiane with total distance of 421.243 km to be served by 21
stations including 5 major stations passing through 165 bridges (total
length of 92.6 km) and 69 tunnels (total length of
186.9 km) Construction on this line—as part of the
Kunming to Singapore Railway
Kunming to Singapore Railway began on 25 April 2011.
Vientiane is served by
Wattay International Airport
Wattay International Airport with international
connections to other Asian countries.
Lao Airlines has regular flights
to several domestic destinations in the country (including several
flights daily to Luang Prabang, plus a few flights weekly to other
local destinations). In Thailand,
Udon Thani International
Airport, one of Wattay's main connections, is less than 90 km
The "Centre Medical de l'Ambassade de France" is available to the
foreign community in Laos. The
Mahosot Hospital is an important local
hospital in treating and researching diseases and is connected with
the University of Oxford. In 2011 the Alliance Clinic opened near the
airport, with a connection to Thai hospitals. The Setthathirat
International Clinic has foreign doctors. A free, 24/7 ambulance
service is provided by
Vientiane Rescue, a volunteer-run rescue
service established in 2010. Saysaath pharmacy sells a wide
variety of prescription drugs and over the counter drugs, beauty
products, health care and medical equipment. Saysaath also provides
health care services and mutiple locations throughout Vientiane.
Twin towns – Brother cities
Vientiane is twinned with:
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Kingdom of Vientiane
National Library of Laos
^ Lonely Planet. "History of
Vientiane Province - Lonely Planet Travel
Information". Retrieved 18 July 2015.
^ "Vientiane". Farlex Encyclopedia. Retrieved 25 Nov 2010.
^ Coedès, George (1968). Walter F. Vella, ed. The Indianized States
of Southeast Asia. trans.Susan Brown Cowing. University of Hawaii
Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-0368-1.
Vientiane marks 450 years anniversary". Retrieved 18 July
^ "Far East and Australasia". Archived from the original on November
21, 2010. Retrieved 25 Nov 2010.
^ a b Far East and Australasia 2003 - Google Books
^ "World Weather Information Service -
Vientiane (1951-2000)". World
Meteorological Organization. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
^ "Klimatafel von
Vientiane (Viangchan) / Laos" (PDF). Baseline
climate means (1961-1990) from stations all over the world (in
German). Deutscher Wetterdienst. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
Vientiane Climate Normals 1961−1990". National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
^ a b Lao National Tourism Administration - Tourist Sites in Vientiane
Capital Archived July 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
^ a b "Wat Si Muang". Retrieved 18 July 2015.
Buddha Park -
Laos - Asia for Visitors". Retrieved 18
China Gives Southeast Asia's Poorest First Time Access to Consumer
China Briefing News".
China Briefing News.
^ "National University of
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China Radio International".
^ Work begins on major new
Vientiane shopping centre Lao Voices
Archived May 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
Laos stocks soar on debut – yes, both of them". Financial
Vientiane Capital State
Bus Enterprise. VCSBE.
^ Matthias Gasnier (2012-08-13). "
Laos 2012 Update: Chinese models
keep spreading". bestsellingcarsblog.com. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
^ "Inaugural train begins
Laos royal visit". Railway Gazette
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Laos rethinks rail project". TTR
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^ "中国铁路考察团对中老铁路进行全线考察 China
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Singapore High-Speed Railway begins construction". People's
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Askew, Marc, William Stewart Logan, and Colin Long. Vientiane:
Transformations of a Lao Landscape. London: Routledge, 2007.
Sharifi et al., Can master planning control and regulate urban growth
in Vientiane, Laos?. Landscape and Urban Planning, 2014. DOI:
Flores, Penelope V. Good-Bye, Vientiane: Untold Stories of Filipinos
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Inc, 2005. ISBN 978-0-9763316-1-2
Renaut, Thomas, and Arnaud Dubus. Eternal Vientiane. City heritage.
Hong Kong: Published by Fortune Image Ltd. for Les Editions
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Sok Pa Luang". Bangkok: Orchid Press, 2006.
Women's International Group (Viangchan, Laos).
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Vientiane travel guide from Wikivoyage
Media related to
Vientiane at Wikimedia Commons
Vientiane on Flickr
Map of Vientiane
Vientiane Travel Guide
Vientiane: Gourmet Grasshoppers - video report by Global Post
Vientiane on Google Maps
Districts of Laos
Pak Tha (
Ban Houayxay city)
Pak Sé (city)
Luang Namtha city)
Luang Prabang (city)
Boun Neua (
Kaysone Phomvihane (
La Mam (
Vientiane Capital City
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