Thailand & Laos
Compared with other Asian capitals, Vientiane has a distinctly relaxed feel; colonial architecture mingles with Buddhist temples and statues in a city of wandering monks and tourists. Vientiane lies along a curve of the Mekong River, its most well-known monument probably being the reclining Buddha at Wat Pha That Luang. Prior to French occupation Vientiane was an important 16th C city to the kingdom of Lan Xang (million elephants). It is the largest city in Laos as well as the capital and home to the Lao National History Museum. Vientiane is actually pronounced “Wiang Jan” (the modern Romanized spelling is of French origin and reflects the difficulty the Gauls had pronouncing the hard "ch" syllable of the Lao word), wiang is Lao for a “settlement with a stockade”, and jan means “sandalwood”.
It is easy to navigate the city on foot or by tuk tuk. There are local riverside markets and an extensive sculpture park nearby where there are over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues, including a 40m-long reclining Buddha. Enjoy a coffee in one of the traditional bakeries or a cold beer Laos as the sun sets over the Mekong.
A short distance from Vientiane is the COPE organisation who provide prosthetic and orthotic devices to Lao people with mobility disabilities, many of whom are victims of UXO unexploded ordinance dating back to the Second Indochina War/Vietnam War.