Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang meaning Great Stupa is a large Buddhist Stupa that is covered in gold and situated in the center of Vientiane. We spoke to a local Lao who said that Pha That Luang was formerly build as a Hindu temple and later Buddhist missionaries and Arahata monks bought a holy relic of Lord Buddha to the Stupa. The history of this place is pretty interesting. Each of the three levels of the Stupa mirrors a part of the Buddhist doctrine. This is not just a national symbol but is considered as a very important national monument in Laos and is 44 m high.
Floating down the Mekong River is perhaps the most scenic route into Laos. Traversing through mountain forests and gorges, it flows on the borders of Thailand and Laos. The 7th longest river in Asia, it shows you vistas of Laos' natural splendor, that few other places can. A boat trip on the Mekong can easily be booked on the piers at Huay Xai and Pakbeng. Another convenient but pricier option is to book a boating package at one of the guesthouses in Laos.
COPE Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic
A museum where you can learn about ‘The Secret War’ that America conducted against Laos a few decades ago. You also learn about the type of bombs that still remain in the country, hindering economic progress, and read/watch/listen to stories about people who have lost limbs and livelihoods thanks to these horrible bombs. COPE is a really awesome project that helps Laotians affected by unexploded ordnance (known as UXO) bombs or born with a physical disability such as missing limbs or clubfoot. The center makes prosthetic limbs and has a rehabilitation center to assist with mobility. They also have a nice little museum, free to the public, to educate people about the bombs that affected Laos during the Vietnam War, and that still affect Laotians today. There are also free documentaries that you can watch. We chose to watch an Australian Broadcasting production called Bomb Harvest, and a Canadian production from 2001 called Bombies. COPE is a very good way to spend an afternoon in Vientiane. It’s completely free, has a store where you can buy locally made knickknacks, a small cinema room where you can choose a documentary, and a well-thought-out museum with some very confronting photos and items.