That Luang, Vientiane, Laos (Ingo Jezierski/PhotoDisc)

Nong khiaw river, Northern of Laos Vientiane (iStockphoto)

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What to do in Vientiane

Laos's quiet riverside capital, Vientiane, is a laid-back anomaly compared to most hectic and kitschy Southeast Asian hubs. Its gilded Buddhist temples, crumbling French mansions, and bougainvillea-lined streets are postcard-perfect, but Vientiane lacks the exhausting tourist infrastructure of its regional counterparts. There are a few iconic sites, including the gleaming Pha That Luang stupa and the 1824 built Wat Sisaket temple, but the best way to spend a day here is to do as the locals do. Browse the Talat Sao ("morning market") for French baguettes and croissants, or head to one of the thatched-roof bars along the banks of the toffee-colored Mekong River to have a Beerlao—the national brew—or two, just in time for sunset.

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