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From top, left to right: Patuxai; view of Vientiane from the Patuxai, Wat Si Saket; Pha That Luang
Vientiane is located in Laos
Vientiane is located in Southeast Asia
Vientiane is located in Asia
Coordinates: 17°58′N 102°36′E / 17.967°N 102.600°E / 17.967; 102.600
Country Laos
PrefectureVientiane Prefecture
Settled9th century[2]
 • MayorAthsphangthong Siphandone
 • Total3,920 km2 (1,510 sq mi)
174 m (570 ft)
 (2023 Estimate)
 • Total1,003,004[1]
Time zoneUTC+7 (ICT)

Vientiane (/viˌɛntiˈɑːn/ vee-EN-tee-AHN,[3] French: [vjɛ̃tjan]; Lao: ວຽງຈັນ, Viangchan, pronounced [wía̯ŋ t͡ɕàn]) is the capital and largest city of Laos. Comprising the five urban districts of Vientiane Prefecture, the city is located on the banks of the Mekong, right at the border with Thailand. Vientiane was the administrative capital during French rule and, due to economic growth in recent times, is now the economic center of Laos. The city had a population of 1,001,477 as of the 2023 Census.

Vientiane is noted as the home of the most significant national monuments in Laos – Pha That Luang – which is a known symbol of Laos and an icon of Buddhism in Laos. Other significant Buddhist temples in Laos can be found there as well, such as Haw Phra Kaew, which formerly housed the Emerald Buddha.

The city hosted the 25th Southeast Asian Games in December 2009, celebrating 50 years of the games.


'Vientiane' is the French spelling derived from the Lao Viangchan /ʋíːəŋ tɕan/.[4] The name was previously written 'ວຽງຈັນທນ໌' (in Thai, เวียงจันทน์) but now usually written 'ວຽງຈັນ'. In Lao, viang (ວຽງ) refers to a 'walled city' whereas chan (ຈັນ, previously ຈັນທນ໌) derives from Sanskrit candana (चन्दन, /t͡ɕand̪ana/), 'sandalwood' and can be translated as the 'walled city of sandalwood'. Some Laotians mistakenly believe it refers to the 'walled city of the moon' as chan can also represent 'moon', although this was previously distinguished in writing as 'ຈັນທຣ໌'.[4][5] Other romanisations include 'Viangchan' and 'Wiangchan'.[6]


Ban Tha Lat, Mon inscription (9th CE), was found in 1968, in an area where other pieces of archaeological evidence testified to an ancient Mon presence. It is now at Ho Phra Kaeo Museum, Vientiane, Laos[7][8]
Buddha sculptures at Pha That Luang
Haw Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Dvaravati city state kingdoms

By the 6th century in the Chao Phraya River Valley, Mon peoples had coalesced to create the Dvaravati kingdoms. In the north, Haripunjaya (Lamphun) emerged as a rival power to the Dvaravati. By the 8th century the Mon had pushed north to create city states, in Fa Daet (modern Kalasin, northeastern Thailand), Sri Gotapura (Sikhottabong) near modern Tha Khek, Laos, Muang Sua (Luang Prabang), and Chantaburi (Vientiane). In the 8th century CE, Sri Gotapura (Sikhottabong) was the strongest of these early city states, and controlled trade throughout the middle Mekong region. The city states were loosely bound politically, but were culturally similar and introduced Therevada Buddhism from Sri Lankan missionaries throughout the region.[9][10][11][12]: 6, 7 [13][14]


The great Laotian epic, the Phra Lak Phra Lam, claims that Prince Thattaradtha founded the city when he left the legendary Lao kingdom of Muong Inthapatha Maha Nakhone because he was denied the throne in favor of his younger brother. Thattaradtha founded a city called Maha Thani Si Phan Phao on the western banks of the Mekong River; this city was said to have later become today's Udon Thani, Thailand. One day, a seven-headed Naga told Thattaradtha to start a new city on the east bank of the river opposite Maha Thani Si Phan Phao. The prince called this city Chanthabuly Si Sattanakhanahud; which was said to be the predecessor of modern Vientiane.[citation needed]

Contrary to the Phra Lak Phra Lam, most historians believe Vientiane was an early Mon settlement, which later came under the domination of the Khmer Empire. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the time when the Lao and Thai people are believed to have entered Southeast Asia from Southern China, the few remaining Mon and Khmer in the area moved or assimilated into the Lao civilization, which would soon overtake the area.[citation needed]

Khmer domination

The earliest reference of the name Vientiane can be seen on a Vietnamese inscription of Duke Đỗ Anh Vũ, dated 1159 during the Khmer-Viet conflict. The inscription says that in 1135, Văn Đan (Vientiane), a vassal of Zhenla (Khmer Empire), invaded Nghe An, but was repelled by the Duke; the Duke led an army chased the invaders as far as Vũ Ôn? (unattested), and then returned with captives.[15]: 65  This name may have traced it origin to Wèndān, a supposedly kingdom located in the Khorat Plateau, mentioned by a ninth-century Chinese writer described a trade route which started at Hanoi and crossed the western mountains to Wèndān.

Lan Xang and French colonial rule

In 1354, when Fa Ngum founded the kingdom of Lan Xang.[16]: 223  Vientiane became an important administrative city, even though it was not made the capital. King Setthathirath officially established it as the capital of Lan Xang in 1563, to avoid Burmese invasion.[17] When Lan Xang fell apart in 1707, it became an independent Kingdom of Vientiane. In 1779, it was conquered by the Siamese general Phraya Chakri and made a vassal of Siam.

When King Anouvong raised an unsuccessful rebellion, it was obliterated by Siamese armies in 1827. The city was burned to the ground and was looted of nearly all Laotian artifacts, including Buddha statues and people. Vientiane was in great disrepair, depopulated and disappearing into the forest when the French arrived. It eventually passed to French rule in 1893. It became the capital of the French protectorate of Laos in 1899. During the French colonial period, the city was rebuilt and various Buddhist temples such as Pha That Luang, Haw Phra Kaew were repaired.

During French rule, the Vietnamese were encouraged to migrate to Laos, which resulted in 53% of the population of Vientiane being Vietnamese in the year 1943.[18] As late as 1945, the French drew up an ambitious plan to move massive Vietnamese population to three key areas (i.e. the Vientiane Plain, the Savannakhet region, and the Bolaven Plateau), which was only interrupted by the Japanese invasion of Indochina.[18] If this plan had been implemented, according to Martin Stuart-Fox, the Lao might well have lost control over their own country.[18]

During World War II, Vientiane fell with little resistance and was occupied by Japanese forces, under the command of Sako Masanori.[19] On 9 March 1945, French paratroopers arrived and reoccupied the city on 24 April 1945.[20]: 736 


The city became the national capital of the newly independent Lao state in 1953.

As the Laotian Civil War broke out between the Royal Lao Government and the Pathet Lao, Vientiane became unstable. In August 1960, Kong Le seized the capital and insisted that Souvanna Phouma become prime minister. In mid-December, Phoumi Nosavan then seized the capital, overthrew the Phouma Government, and installed Boun Oum as prime minister. In mid-1975, Pathet Lao troops moved towards the city and Americans began evacuating the capital. On 23 August 1975, a contingent of 50 Pathet Lao women symbolically liberated the city.[20] On 2 December 1975, the communist party of the Pathet Lao took over Vientiane, defeated the Kingdom of Laos, and renamed the country the Lao People's Democratic Republic, which ended the Laotian Civil War. The next day, an Insurgency in Laos began in the jungle, with the Pathet Lao fighting factions of Hmong and royalists.

Vientiane was the host of the incident-free 2009 Southeast Asian Games. Eighteen competitions were dropped from the previous games held in Thailand, due to Laos' landlocked borders and the lack of adequate facilities in Vientiane.


Vientiane is on a bend of the Mekong River, at which point it forms the border with Thailand. The city government administers the five urban districts of the Vientiane Prefecture.


Vientiane features a tropical savanna climate (Köppen Aw) with a distinct wet season and a dry season. Vientiane's dry season spans from November through March. April marks the onset of the wet season which in Vientiane lasts about seven months. Vientiane tends to be very hot and humid throughout the course of the year, though temperatures in the city tend to be somewhat cooler during the dry season than the wet season.

Climate data for Vientiane (1991–2020, extremes 1907–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 36.0
Average high °C (°F) 29.0
Daily mean °C (°F) 22.9
Average low °C (°F) 18.2
Record low °C (°F) 3.3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 7.4
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 2 2 5 7 15 18 20 21 17 8 2 1 119
Average relative humidity (%) 70 68 66 69 78 82 82 84 83 78 72 70 75
Mean monthly sunshine hours 221.0 214.7 209.2 213.9 188.8 140.7 116.0 124.3 157.7 209.5 225.3 224.9 2,246
Source 1: World Meteorological Organization,[21] Deutscher Wetterdienst (extremes 1907–1990),[22],[23] The Yearbook of Indochina (1939-1940)[24]
Source 2: NOAA (humidity 1961–1990)[25]


Wat Si Muang
Buddha Park

Although still a small city, the capital attracts many tourists. The city contains many temples and Buddhist monuments. A popular attraction for foreign visitors is Pha That Luang, an important national cultural monument of Laos and one of its best known stupas. It was originally built in 1566 by King Setthathirath and was restored in 1953. The golden stupa is 45 metres (148 ft) tall and is believed to contain a relic of the Buddha.[26]

Another site that is also popular amongst tourists is Wat Si Muang. The temple was built on the ruins of a Khmer Hindu shrine, the remains of which can be seen behind the ordination hall.[27] It was built in 1563 and is believed to be guarded by the spirit of a local girl, Nang Si. Legend tells that Nang Si, who was pregnant at the time, leapt to her death as a sacrifice, just as the pillar was being lowered into the hole. In front of the temple stands a statue of King Sisavang Vong.[27]

The memorial monument, Patuxai, built between 1957 and 1968, is perhaps the most prominent landmark in the city.[26] While the Arc de Triomphe in Paris inspired the architecture, the design incorporates typical Lao motifs including Kinnari, a mythical bird woman. Energetic visitors can climb to the top of the monument for a panoramic view of the city.

Buddha Park was built in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat and contains a collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculptures, scattered amongst gardens and trees. The park is 28 kilometres (17 mi) south of Vientiane at the edge of the Mekong River.[28]

Vientiane is home to one of the three bowling alleys in Laos (the other two are in Luang Prabang and Pakse).

Other sites include:

Vientiane from Patuxai


The National University of Laos, one of three universities in the country, is in Vientiane.[30]

International schools include:



Vientiane is the driving force behind economic change in Laos. In recent years, the city has experienced rapid economic growth from foreign investment.[33] In 2011, the stock exchange opened with two listed company stocks, with the cooperation of South Korea.[34]


Further information: Transportation in Laos

By bus

There are regular bus services connecting Vientiane Bus Station with the rest of the country. In Vientiane, regular bus services around the city are provided by Vientiane Capital State Bus Enterprise.[35]

Daily non-stop bus services run between Vientiane and Nong Khai, Udon Thani, and Khon Kaen in Thailand.

By rail

Wattay International Airport
Older taxis in Vientiane are being replaced by newer Chinese-made cars, like this Soueast Lioncel.[36]

The First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, built in the 1990s, crosses the river 18 kilometres downstream of the city of Nong Khai in Thailand, and is the major crossing between the two countries. The official name of the bridge was changed in 2007 by the addition of "First", after the Second Friendship Bridge linking Mukdahan in Thailand with Savannakhet in Laos was opened early in 2007.

A metre gauge railway link over the first bridge was formally inaugurated on 5 March 2009, ending at Thanaleng Railway Station, in Dongphosy village (Vientiane Prefecture), 20 km east of Vientiane.[37][38] As of November 2010, Lao officials plan to convert the station into a cargo rail terminal for freight trains, allowing cargo to be transported from Bangkok into Laos more cheaply than via road.[39] This rail link is being extended into Vientiane city, with the new Khamsavath Train Station scheduled to open in mid-2023.[40]

The Boten–Vientiane railway (sometimes referred to as the China–Laos railway or Laos–China railway) is an 414 kilometres (257 mi) 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge electrified railway in Laos, running between the capital Vientiane and the town of Boten on the border with China. The line was officially opened on 3 December 2021.[41]

By air

Vientiane is served by Wattay International Airport with international connections to other Asian countries. Lao Airlines has regular flights to several domestic destinations in the country (including several flights daily to Luang Prabang, plus a few flights weekly to other local destinations).[42] In Thailand, Udon Thani International Airport, one of Wattay's main connections, is less than 90 km distant.


The "Centre Medical de l'Ambassade de France" is available to the foreign community in Laos. The Mahosot Hospital is an important local hospital in treating and researching diseases and is connected with the University of Oxford. In 2011 the Alliance Clinic opened near the airport, with a connection to Thai hospitals. The Setthathirat International Clinic has foreign doctors. A free, 24/7 ambulance service is provided by Vientiane Rescue, a volunteer-run rescue service established in 2010.[43]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ Lao Statistics Bureau. "Vientiane Capital Statistics Center". Retrieved 16 November 2022.
  2. ^ Lao Statistics Bureau (21 October 2016). "Results of Population and Housing Census 2015" (PDF). Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  3. ^ Wells, John (3 April 2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.). Pearson Longman. ISBN 978-1-4058-8118-0.
  4. ^ a b Askew, Marc; Long, Colin; Logan, William (2006). Vientiane: Transformations of a Lao Landscape. Routledge. pp. 15, 46. ISBN 978-1-134-32365-4.
  5. ^ Goscha, Christopher E.; Ivarsson, Søren (2003). Contesting Visions of the Lao Past: Laos Historiography at the Crossroads. NIAS Press. pp. 34 n.62, 204 n.18. ISBN 978-87-91114-02-1.
  6. ^ "Definition of 'Viangchan'". Collins English Dictionary. Glasgow: HarperCollins. Archived from the original on 11 June 2019. Retrieved 11 June 2019. Viangchan in British. (ˌwiːɛŋˌtæn). noun: another spelling of Vientiane
  7. ^ Lorrillard, Michel (12 November 2019), The Diffusion of Lao Scripts (PDF), p. 6, retrieved 26 February 2021
  8. ^ Mon inscription in Laos, retrieved 26 February 2021
  9. ^ Maha Sila Viravond. "HISTORY OF LAOS" (PDF). Refugee Educators' Network. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  10. ^ M.L. Manich. "HISTORY OF LAOS (includlng the hlstory of Lonnathai, Chiangmai)" (PDF). Refugee Educators' Network. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  11. ^ Martin Stuart-Fox (6 February 2008), Historical Dictionary of Laos, p. 328, ISBN 9780810864115, retrieved 26 February 2021
  12. ^ Phra Thep Rattanamoli (1976). "The That Phanom chronicle : a shrine history and its interpretation". Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  13. ^ Kislenko, Arne (2009), Culture and Customs of Laos, p. 19, ISBN 9780313339776, retrieved 26 February 2021
  14. ^ "The Mon and Khmer Kingdoms". Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  15. ^ * Taylor, K. W. (1995). Essays Into Vietnamese Pasts. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-1-501-71899-1.
  16. ^ Coedès, George (1968). Walter F. Vella (ed.). The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. trans.Susan Brown Cowing. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-0368-1.
  17. ^ "Vientiane marks 450 years anniversary". Archived from the original on 16 August 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  18. ^ a b c Stuart-Fox, Martin (1997). A History of Laos. Cambridge University Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-521-59746-3.
  19. ^ "Far East and Australasia". Archived from the original on 21 November 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  20. ^ a b Stuart-Fox, Martin (2002). "Laos: History". The Far East and Australasia 2003. Regional surveys of the world. Psychology Press. pp. 735–742. ISBN 9781857431339. Retrieved 20 February 2023.
  21. ^ "World Meteorological Organization Climate Normals for 1991–2020". World Meteorological Organization. Archived from the original on 2 August 2023. Retrieved 2 August 2023. ((cite web)): |archive-date= / |archive-url= timestamp mismatch (help)
  22. ^ "Klimatafel von Vientiane (Viangchan) / Laos" (PDF). Baseline climate means (1961–1990) from stations all over the world (in German). Deutscher Wetterdienst. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  23. ^ КЛИМАТ УЛАН-БАТОРА (in Russian). Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  24. ^ The Yearbook of Indochina (1939-1940)
  25. ^ "Vientiane Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
  26. ^ a b Lao National Tourism Administration – Tourist Sites in Vientiane Capital Archived 23 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ a b "Wat Si Muang". Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  28. ^ "Buddha Park – Vientiane – Laos – Asia for Visitors". Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  29. ^ "China Gives Southeast Asia's Poorest First Time Access to Consumer Goods – China Briefing News". China Briefing News. 23 January 2008.
  30. ^ "National University of Laos (NUOL)". National University of Laos (NUOL). NUOL. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  31. ^ "Lycée français international de Vientiane Josué-Hoffet". AEFE. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  32. ^ "China Radio International".
  33. ^ Work begins on major new Vientiane shopping centre | Lao Voices Archived 3 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ "Laos stocks soar on debut – yes, both of them". Financial Times.
  35. ^ "Timetables". Vientiane Capital State Bus Enterprise. VCSBE. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  36. ^ Matthias Gasnier (13 August 2012). "Laos 2012 Update: Chinese models keep spreading". Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  37. ^ "Inaugural train begins Laos royal visit". Railway Gazette International. 5 March 2009.
  38. ^ Andrew Spooner (27 February 2009). "First train to Laos". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  39. ^ Rapeepat Mantanarat (9 November 2010). "Laos rethinks rail project". TTR Weekly. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  40. ^ Vongphachanh, Manyphone (25 July 2022). "Khamsavath Station in Vientiane Capital Ready to Operate Soon". Laotian Times. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  41. ^ "中老铁路今日通车-图片新闻-中华人民共和国交通运输部". Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  42. ^ "Route Map". Lao Airlines. Lao Airlines. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  43. ^ "About". Vientiane Rescue. Retrieved 11 October 2016.

Further reading