Vientiane, Laos' capital, is a city at the banks of the Mekong River. It lies on a huge plain. The majestic Mekong marks here the border between Laos and Thailand. Both countries are linked by a monumental bridge over the river some 18km riverdownwards of Vientiane at Nong Khai/Thailand. It's the 'First Thai/Laos Friendship Bridge', built in 1994 with Australian aid.
That Dam, an ancient stupa in Vientiane. There is an old popular believe that a seven-headed Naga is living in the tower. Image by Asienreisender, 11/2006
The inter- national known name 'Vientiane' roots in the colonial time; in Laotian the city is called 'Vieng Chan', or, officially 'Nakon Luang Vieng Chan', in difference to the prefecture and the province of the same name (Vientiane).
Just a few years ago Vientiane was maybe the most laid-back capital in the world. At least for a visitor from outside, who does not realize the tensions behind the scene. The whole infrastructure was run-down, old and simple. Little traffic run on the bad roads. Vientiane was (and still is) partially coined by French colonial architecture. It's population is roughly estimated 350,000 inhabitants in the city, in the wider catchment area it's roughly more than the double.
Vientiane is Laos commercial and economic center. Since the whole country, particularly the provincial cities, are undergoing a rapid process of economic development, there is much change happening in Vientiane as well. It seems to be a big building site, what is particularly apparent at the river banks, where a broad, soulless boulevard spreads now where before was simply a natural stripe of green embankment.