Despite my love for Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, of all the Asian capital cities i visited, Vientiane left the best impression on me, especially when it comes to quality of life. For someone like me who prefers vegetarian food, of course it lacks the variety of bigger places but in return it can offer to the visitor the chance to experience a very genuine first encounter with Lao people and their culture.
Lao is a Buddhist countries, and the capital has its fair share of beautiful temples and golden pagodas.
Always a must for every travelling photographer, the orange monks who walk the streets of the capital, might not be as tired of snaphots as much as they colleagues in much more touristy Luang Prabang.
Being the capital of Laos, one can easily feel the power of this small city: foreign embassies are everywhere and beautiful palaces host several government offices.
Despite being the capital of the country, people seem quite relaxed compared to other main cities and taxi drivers are often found taking a nap in the hammocks they cleverly mounted in their tuk tuk.
As any other Asian city street food is sold everywhere and due the proximity with the Thai border, Laotians share their passion for the same sweets and desserts that are so popular in the Land Of Smiles.
Even those old building that seem run down and out of service are actually open. Some of them cater to a steady crowd of loyal customers and often offer just one single signature dish.
The messy electric cables and funny shape of some buildings is always an interesting subject for my shots!
The French influence is still tangible in the streets of Vientiane: large boulevards are lit by old fashioned lamp posts, some vintage cars still drive around and even the National Library has still got the charme of the good old days!
Croissants and baguettes are sold everywhere and some of them are the real thing.
Due to the high quality of Lao silk, many fashion designers had their studios and atelier in the old city, plus, just like neighboring Vietnam, tailors are very good and still work in their tiny workshops.
I love fabrics and fashion in general so i decided to get on a tuk tuk and go visiting the old central market. To my surprise, it lies just behind a brand new shopping mall that mainly sells modern brands.
I like the way some Asian cities incorporated modernity without giving up on old traditions.
Laotians take their music quite seriously and the hi-fi department was literally filled with thousands of cd’s and dvd’s and decorated with posters portraying all the most famous singers of the country.
Even in Vientiane one can admire some street art and some of these beautiful graffitis are legal and used to raise awareness on environmental issues, health and education.
Unlike Malaysia and Indonesia, Laos has a better distinction between seasons: as the fall is just started i could notice certain colours i missed in other Asian countries, plus in the morning it starts to get a bit chilly!
Vientiane lies on the banks of the majestic Mekong river and after a busy day walking around, a stroll down the riverside was in order. It’s the time of the day where the light gets magical and locals get out from work and start enjoying their own city. To me, the perfect chance to understand a culture is to observe the people in their free time.
Some of them enjoy watching the river and some other go paragliding!
Whilst food vendors get their goods ready!
City girl walk exotic dogs on the promenade with Thailand on the background.
As the sunset approaches i decide to celebrate my first day in Laos with a classic: Beerlao!
As the sun sets over the Mekong river the food stalls get busy: it’s been a long day for me so an early supper is in order.
If you don’t go crazy for pork, chicken and frogs, there’s not much left to choose from so i’ll go with another classic, papaya salad and sticky rice, spicy as hell!
Before i go back to my bed i enjoy watching the locals dancing in groups to some crazy music that sounds like an Indochinese version of late 80’s acid house!