Bonjour Vientiane

From the very start, Laos took me by surprise. I stepped off the plane in Vientiane and discovered an idyllic city where European influence and Asian roots collide. Tuk-tuks whizzed through French streets.  Golden temples stood alongside European coffee shops and bistros. Locals conversed in a mixture of Lao and French. I didn't feel like I was in typical Southeast Asia anymore.  


We started our day at the beautiful Patuxai Arch located in the centre of town. Completed in 1968, this war monument is dedicated to those who fought for independence from France. 




I love this east meets west fusion. The European architecture surrounded by tropical palm trees was something you don't see everyday. 

Inside, the arch was adorned with Laotian mythical creatures. 


The arch was buzzing with activity as tourists and locals socialized inside its corridors. I spotted some stairs in the corner and immediately rushed to the top.


 At the end of the climb, I was greeted by a breathtaking view of the city.




After taking in my picturesque surroundings, we descended down the stairs and headed to our next destination. Wanting to experience authentic Laotian culture, we paid a visit to Pha That Luang. 



Covered in gold, this stunning stupa is said to have been built in the third century. Today, it is regarded as the most important monument in the country. We strolled through the timeworn walkways and admired the shiny decor and chiselled stonework.



Beside the pagoda was this gorgeous Buddhist complex. I had to take a peek inside.






The artwork on the ceiling was so vibrant. It was hard to look away! The architecture and decorations were also sublime. Asian architecture is just so different from the buildings we have in Canada. I wish we used more gold and bright colours! 

Once our explorations came to an end, our stomachs started grumbling. It was time for lunch. 


Streets were lined with welcoming French cafes. We stepped inside Joma Bakery Cafe and was hit with an array of heavenly scents. The smell of freshly baked bread and espresso beans wafted through the air. Rich pastries and pies filled the display cases while the sound of steaming milk echoed throughout the restaurant. I got so excited. It's been ages since I've indulged in this kind of food. 


Easter ham, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, dijon mustard on focaccia bread = perfection!



It was hands down, the best sandwich I've had in a long time. Who knew I would find amazing sandwiches in Laos? This country was full of surprises. 

After scarfing down lunch, the bf and I went to COPE Visitor Centre, which in my opinion, was the highlight of the day. 


Growing up in North America, you don't hear about the atrocities America has committed in the past. Laos is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, of all time. During the Vietnam War, there were more than 580,000 US bombing missions on the country. 


Today, up to 80 million undetonated cluster munitions are scattered throughout the country. This is a huge problem in Laos as these bombs are still killing civilians. 20,000 people were killed or injured from unexploded ordnance (UXO) accidents from 1974 to 2008. In fact, every year around 300 new causalities take place with 40 per cent of accidents happening to children. 

COPE is a fantastic organization that provides support and disability services to citizens who have been affected by UXOs. They also have this free visitor centre committed to educating travellers about the UXO dilemma.  




As I walked through the gallery, a rush of emotions flooded through me. Sadness for the victims, anger at war and a gratefulness for being able to live safely in Canada.

The small exhibit was very informative, educating and eye-opening. If you ever travel to Laos, I highly recommend visiting the COPE Visitor Centre. Not only will you leave with knowledge, you'll also have a better understanding of social issues and history in Laos. 

Melissa Li

I’m a Canadian girl on a quest to step foot in every continent before I’m 30. You’ll most likely find me chowing down on Japanese ramen, partying at a music festival, hiking to the top of a scenic lookout, cuddling with cats, or chilling out at the beach. I’ve visited over 60 countries so far and hope to inspire you to do the same.

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