Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, situated on the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. Vientiane became the capital in 1563 due to fears of a Burmese invasion. Vientiane was the administrative capital during French rule and, due to economic growth in recent times, is now the economic centre of Laos.
Compared to the hectic, bustling capitals in other Southeast Asian countries, Vientiane’s deliciously relaxing atmosphere makes it feel like the small town it is. After you’ve done the round of temples, the best thing to do here has always been to wander down to the riverside, relax with a cold Beerlao – the Lao national beer – and watch the sun set over the Mekong.
Of course, the booming tourism industry is changing this by slowly but surely bringing the excesses of Thailand and China to this formerly sleepy city. Just like any other Southeast Asian capital/major city, Vientiane is experiencing a building boom. Even its Presidential Palace is having a major makeover-addition and a new convention centre has been built.
Settled since at least 1000 AD, Vientiane became an important administrative city of the Kingdom of Lan Xang in 1545. Ransacked in 1828 by the Siamese, Vientiane sprung back in time to be again named the capital of the protectorate of Laos by the French, a position it kept after independence and after the communists took over in 1975. Today Vientiane is the largest city in Laos, with an estimated population of 210,000 in the city itself and some 700,000 in Vientiane Prefecture.
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