Tuesday, February 19, 2019


I still remember when I told my friends that I'm visiting Laos during Chinese New Year, they ask me: Where is Laos? Is it a country? I was like: LOL! You guys snooze during geography and history class is it? I bet all Laotian will cry when they hear you guys XD

Sad but it's true - Malaysians as a member of South East Asia country don't even know where Laos is.     

A "recommended" mobile wifi company reply me with this when I was trying to rent a mobile wifi 

So here's everything you need to know about Laos before visiting the country:

Laos' geographic location, surrounding by other countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and China.

Here are some facts about Laos:
  • Laos literally means "Lands of Million Elephants"
  • A communist state: The Lao People's Democratic Republic (safe for tourist)
  • Currency: Laotian Kip
  • World's most heavily bombed place (severely impacted by the Vietnam War)
  • Own one of the best beer in Asia - Beerlao (any drinkers wanna confirm this?)
  • Highest consumer of sticky rice - Khao Niaow
  • Coffee being the country's biggest export, they have one of the best coffee
  • Buddhism is the biggest religion

After reading all the facts about Laos, I guess you pretty much understand the general facts of Laos this country. So let me show you what you can do and where you can go in Vientiane for a day! 

red eye flight sees the best sunrise

Can someone tell me their secret of looking good after a 3am flight? Because I'm surely feeling super shitty after arrive in Laos early in the morning - messy hair, bad skin condition, don't even know what am I suppose to do! We booked our itinerary through Malaysia's travel agency hence everything has already well-arranged including transportations, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

I guess good thing about this arrangement is we don't have to plan the itinerary/do research about this trip - just follow our tour guide, down side is we don't have the leisure of exploring the city at our own pace/flexible schedule. Seeing that there are not much busses or taxis around, I guess it's pretty difficult for tourists to go around? 

Well anyways, while my brain is still feeling delirious and groggy from the flight, we've arrived the first sightseeing attraction: 

Wat Si Saket

Famous for housing more than 10,000 buddha statues that comes in different sizes and rows of seated buddhas date from 16th - 19th centuries, Wat Si Saket is an beautiful piece of Siamese style buddhist architecture that built in year 1818 on the order of Chao Anouvong - the last king of Lan Xang Kingdom and it may be the oldest temple in Vientiane. We might arrive Wat Si Saket slightly late or else we might able to catch the daily ceremony of locals praying and food offerings to the monks. 

Wat Si Saket famous cloister wall with buddha statues made from wood, stone and bronze.

As one of the few temples that survived from Siamese-Lao War in year 1823, it might be the unique architecture style that saves Wat Si Saket from being destroyed when Vientiane was burnt and looted during that war. This temple was used by the Siam armies as headquarter and lodging place during the war. Later on, The French colonial government restored Wat Si Saket in year 1924 and again in year 1930.

The buddha statues in this temple comes in different position and these positions are called Buddhist Mudras. Mudras, known as the way of training the mind and healing the body, Buddhist mudras are usually about training the mind in the ways of Dharma. One of the most important Buddhist Mudra is the Bhumisparsa Mudra, where Sidharta Guatama (Buddha) found enlightenment using this mudra. 

Bhumisparsa Mudra
"calling the earth to witness"

There's one glass storage room that house destroyed buddha statues where they were severely destroyed, some beheaded and broken during the war and were found underground during excavation works. That glass room kept me thinking. It really does serve as a reminder that regardless what we do or how we think, we need to respect each other's religion without condemning it. With respect, I think we will find more peace on earth than ever before. 

Wat Si Saket:

Entrance fee: 5000kip per person (RM2.40)
Opens daily from 8am - 12pm, 1pm - 4pm

After visiting Wat Si Saket, our tour guide lead us walking to the Presidential Palace that just located at the intersection outside of Wat Si Saket. Its elegant Beaux-Arts architecture style with tall colonnades and shaded balconies made this architecture stands out among the rest.

Wat Ho Phra Keo

Known as "The Temple of Emerald Buddha", Wat Ho Phra Keo located just right opposite of Wat Si Saket and can reach by foot within 3 minutes. This Bangkok-Rococo style architecture is no longer serve for religious purpose as it is now a museum, it was originally built in year 1565 as Lao's royal family private temple and home for the emerald buddha (which was snatched by Northern Siam). The emerald buddha was later reclaimed in year 1778 and now sits in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.

Wat Ho Phra Keo was destroyed by the Siamese armies in 1827 and then rebuilt and restored several times. The current building date from 1942, directed by Prince Souvanna Phouma. Usually photo takings inside museums and temples are not allowed in Laos as flash lights from camera will destroy the murals and the longevity of treasures and relics collected. 

While I was browsing through the treasures of Laos inside this museum, I can feel they told the fate of Laos - always struggling, to live, to make peace with others. Regardless how many time they have been brought down, they will always find the chance to stand back up. Sometimes to live in such harsh condition is much more difficult than leave everything behind, but this shows the never surrender spirit of Laotian.

Wat Ho Phra Keo

Entrance fee: 5000kip per person (RM2.40)
Opens daily from 8am - 12pm, 1pm - 4pm

Pha That Luang

Or commonly knowns as the "Great Stupa" is the most important Buddhist monument in Laos as the large golden stupa enshrine the breast bone of Buddha. There's a local legend that monks send by Indian King Ashoka to spread Buddhism arrived Vientiane in 3rd century BC and a stupa was erected to enshrine a sacred relic. In 12th century, the Khmer built temple around this spot where remains have been found. 

Standing at 148 feet tall, the highest and largest stupa is all covered in gold leaf.

lol I did not photoshop the birds into my photo

Surrounding Pha That Luang, there are a few temples and monuments you should check it out: 
  • Wat That Lang Neua 
  • Wat That Lang Tai
  • Reclining buddha
  • Hor Dhammasabha Buddhist Convention Hall
  • Statue of King Setthathirat

Due to time restriction, we do not have the chance to visit Pha That Luang ( I wonder why we didn't request too!) as we are rushing for lunch. I guess this is the down side of booking a complete tour - once you get a tour guide that think things aren't as interesting as it is, your trip is officially gone! lol. We just end up seeing Pha That Luang from the front with some brief explaining by the tour guide. Damn why tho!

Pha That Luang

Entrance fee: 5000kip per person
Opens daily from 8am - 12pm, 1pm - 4pm

After lunch, we head to the architecture that I love most in Vientiane:

Patuxai Victory Monument

This seven storeys tall monument is the pride of every Laotian as it was erected to commemorate Laos independence from France and dedicated to all the Laos that were killed during the fight of independence as well as from earlier wars with Siam and Japan. 

In Sanskrit, Patu means gate and Xai means victory, this victory monument reminds me of Arc de Triomphe in Paris but the architecture is decorated with traditional Laotian style. Right at the middle of the arc is the Kinnari - half bird half female figures, as well as other embellishment like lotus leaves and nagas. If you walk through the arc and look up, you will see ceiling paintings so beautiful which tells the story of gods, goddesses and elephants. 

interior of the monument
Surrounding Patuxai was the Patuxai Park which has a beautiful palm trees and lotus pond. A lot of tourists were around when we reach and even locals came here to rest and spend their free time here. There's this musical fountain donated by China which is very photogenic as well. I wonder when is the time the musical fountain start.

With just 3000kip (that's RM1.40!), we get to visit the seven storeys of Patuxai which has administrative offices, gift shops, museums and observation deck. Although it may seem beautiful from outside, each floors of Patuxai are not well renovated as the floors are full of dust from the cements and the air ventilation is quite bad.

After climbing 7 storeys, we finally reach the top of Patuxai where we can see the surroundings of this victory monument from high up. 

love this window grill, it brings peace to visitors

the panoramic view of Vientiane

There are not much to see as the sky wasn't clear and it is a bit hazy. We didn't spend a lot of time at the observation deck. As you can see from my photos, the building is rather old and I believe it hasn't had any refurbishment since 1957. But nonetheless its beauty is doubtless and it is even prettier to see during night time when the lights are up. 

Some photography tips: 

There are less people and tourists at the opposite side of the fountain hence you can get clear picture of you and Patuxai! There's where I went to take all my stunning photos as four side of the arc looks the same, hence it doesn't matter which side you're at, you still get some very beautiful pictures. 

Patuxai at daytime

Patuxai at night time 

Patuxai at night is like a piece of shiny jewel standing in the middle of Vientiane. Once again we don't have the luxury of time to explore Patuxai at night but the tour guide allow us to stop at the middle of the road and take some photos from afar. If you have time, do visit Patuxai at night, I tell you it's totally worth your time!

Patuxai Victory Monument

Patuxai park and the monuments surrounding are free to visit
Entrance fee to the observation deck: 3000kip (RM1.40)

Lao National Museum (NEW)

We went to this new Lao National Museum ( as the old one is permanently closed and relocated to this) and find that the museum isn't open for operation yet! LOL! This new national museum is located 6KM from the city centre and there's these stone jars that caught my attention:

If you did some research about Laos, you definitely will know about the Plain of Jars. Since we did not include visiting the Plain of Jars site, seeing these huge stone jars outside of Lao National Museum did somehow make me feel this car ride to National Museum worthy a bit. 

If you don't know about Plain of Jars, these stone jars are from megalithic archaeological landscape that's located outside of Vientiane. More than 90 jar sites has been discovered and each site has from 1 to 400 jars. Archaelogists say these jars are associated with prehistorical burial practices as human remains are discovered inside these jars as well as burial goods and ceramic around the jars.

The sites of stone jars remain one of the dangerous spot in Laos as it was heavily bombed by the U.S Air Force, they dropped more bombs at Plain of Jar sites more than the whole World War II combined. There are large quantity of unexploded bombs in the area hence tourists can only visit clearly marked and safe pathways. I bet it will be such a sight to see the Plain of Jars. 

Lao National Museum

Entrance fee: 10000kip per person

These very much concludes my first day in Vientiane, Laos. Although Laos is not a rich culture, but it surely has rich history and culture that can be seen in all architectures, temples and Laotian lifestyle. Can't wait to blog about my remaining days in Laos!

what I wore: Atelier Prive Melson
All photos taken using Olympus OMD EM10MK3 and EPL9