Breakfast at Kung’s
Don’t miss this hidden gem down a ramshackle laneway close to the centre of town. This family-run courtyard eatery, complete with toy dogs and hanging pot plants, serves authentic Lao food with a twist. The sticky rice pancake with mango and honey is a favourite.
Lunch at Acqua
This is modern Italian food at its finest. Acqua does a great lunchtime buffet – try the oysters with sea perch and calamari black ravioli, and some macarons for dessert. No reason why you shouldn’t also delve into the excellent wine menu while you’re at it!
Sin dart at Sylom Yen
Try this Lao take on popular Korean barbeque. When done properly, “sin dart” is an interactive culinary journey, from the first sizzle of meat to the bubbling soup that increases in flavor as the meats cook and vegetables and condiments are added as the evening progresses. Best washed down with Beerlao.
Afternoon beer at Khop Chai Deu
There’s nothing like a mid-afternoon Beerlao on ice after a busy day of sightseeing. Head over to this Vientiane institution in the centre of town, kick back and do some fine people-watching on the main drag.
Beer, wine and spirits at Spirit House
An enduring staple of riverside hospitality in the centre of town, Spirit House has a relaxed ambiance and a great range of cocktails. You can watch the sunset from the front tables, or lounge inside when it’s raining.
Fancy cocktails at Pimenton
This impressive Spanish eaterie serves innovative tapas and classic cocktails, with a revolving menu of specials that continues to surprise. Go for the old-fashioned (but lately revived) negroni, the Perfect Storm, or, if you’re feeling adventurous and showy, go for the Spicy Cucumber, which is exactly what the name suggests, but boozy.
Unwind at Champa spa
To many, having a massage is a luxury, but in Laos, it’s more a part of everyday life – medicinal, rather than indulgent. Champa Spa, which has three branches, is one of many top quality massage spas in Vientiane. Go for the traditional Lao massage, or step it up with the full herbal treatment. Either way, you’ll come out a new you, and smelling amazing too.
Late night drinks at Walking Street
Time for a nightcap? Set in an empty shopping complex on the banks of the Mekong, Walking Street, which kicks off at 6.00pm and runs until 10-11pm every night, is an outdoor market dotted with food stalls, pop-up cocktail bars, and off-beat fashion. The laneway vibe is very Melbourne, the fashion is very Bangkok, but the whole experience is 100 percent modern Laos.
Take a tuk tuk safari
There are so many parts of Vientiane that are hidden away, and yet every bit as fascinating as the out-and-out tourist destinations. Tuk Tuk Safari offers small, curated tours of some of the city’s more off-the-beaten track locations, and is one way to experience the city more like a local.
Pha That Luang
When taking in views of the city, you might notice something glittering gold in the distance – the That Luang stupa. Covered in 500kg of gold leaf, the 45m-high stupa, which dates back to the 16th century, is considered the most important monument in Laos and a national symbol.
One of Vientiane’s main attractions, Patuxay is reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees in Paris, positioned one of the city’s wide city avenues. There are mixed narratives around the origin and meaning of the monument, built in the 1950s and 60s, using funds from the American government that were originally intended to build a new airport – hence the monument’s nickname, the ‘Vertical Runway’. Stroll around the fountains and gardens at its base, grab an icecream and climb the stairs in the central tower, for a magnificent panoramic view of the city.
Hor Pha Keo
This elegant ancient temple is in the centre of town close to the Presidential Palace. The site dates back to the 1500s, but the temple was rebuilt in the 1930s. Before then, it was the home of an Emerald Buddha figurine, which remained in the temple for 200 years until 1779, when it was seized by the Siamese General Chao Phraya Chakri. The Emerald Buddha now resides in Bangkok, and the newer temple structure in Vientiane was transformed in the 1970s into a museum that now houses a large collection of Buddhist statues and artefacts.