Monumentally hideous but vaguely impressive, this cross-bred French-Laotian Roman arch was built by the French in nostalgic reminiscence of Paris. It has 4 arches, not 2. It was built in the 1960s with cement purchased by the USA with intentions to construct a new airport – hence it’s known locally as ‘the vertical runway’. Once you get closer, you realise it remains unfinished. And beware the thousands of t-shirts on sale as you wend your weary way up the stairs to the top to get a panorama of the city.
But I digress... Vientiane’s all rather French, with an Asian twang... all that’s lacking is the Tour Eiffel and a gendarme or two. But you do spot some voitures typiquement français like ziss vun:
Madame Marie la Belle falls in love and considers making an offer.
Note the animal horn, bottom left, clearly a coveted item.
Overall, Vientiane's not got the charm of Luangprabang, but it is a good spot to chill out and slow down. Find a restaurant on the bank of the Mekong and watch the sunset reflected in the river. There are some decent buffets along the river road too, particularly one upstairs place. The best coffee? Try the latté at the Jo-Ma Cafe or the Scandinavian Bakery, both near the Nam Phu fountain, but do check your change carefully - the Laotian 1 looks like our 9. Also, on Setthathirat Road near the That Dam ('Black Stupa') there's a new fresh fruit juice bar with good deals and NO MUZAK - woo-hoo!
Click here if you’d like to see more of our photos from Laos.