Vientiane ( , Lao Viang-chan / Wiang-chan ) is the
capital city of Laos, situated in
the Mekong Valley.
It is also
Laos's largest city. The estimated population of the city is
200,000 (2005) while the number of people living in the Vientiane
metropolitan area (the entire Vientiane Prefecture
and parts of
) is believed
to be over 730,000. Vientiane is located at 17°58' North, 102°36'
East (17.9667, 102.6). The city will host for the first time the
25th Southeast Asian Games in December celebrating the 50 years of
, or Sisattanak
( ), is a former name
of Vientiane. It is often confused with Sri Sattanakanahut
, the Pali
name of Lan Xang
Kingdom of the Million Elephants
Sisattanak now is the name of one of the five districts
of the city Vientiane.
Origin of the name
The name of the city is derived from Pali
the liturgical language
. Its original
meaning is "royal sandalwood
"city of sandalwood", this tree being highly valued in classical
India for its fragrance. In modern Lao
the meaning of Vientiane is ambiguous, and is often mistakenly
believed to mean "city of the moon", because the words for 'moon
(candra in Sanskrit
)' and 'sandalwood
(candana in Sanskrit)' are written and pronounced identically as
'jan'. However, the name in Thai
เวียงจันทน์, retains the etymologically correct spelling, and
clearly indicates "city of sandalwood" as the meaning. The
romanized spelling "Vientiane" is of French
origin, and reflects the difficulty
the French had in pronouncing the hard "j" sound in the Lao word; a
common English-based spelling is "Viangchan", or occasionally
Patuxay was built on the capital's
main north-south avenue in the 1960s to celebrate the independence
The great Laotian epic, the Phra Lak
, claims that Prince Thattaradtha founded the city when
he left the legendary Lao kingdom of Muong Inthapatha Maha
because he was denied the throne in favor of his
younger brother. Thattaradtha founded a city called Maha
Thani Si Phan Phao on the western banks of the Mekong River; this city was told to have later
become today's Udon
day, a seven-headed Naga
Thattaradtha to start a new city on the eastern bank of the river
opposite Maha Thani Si Phan Phao
. The prince called this
city Chanthabuly Si Sattanakhanahud
; which was told to be
the predecessor of modern Vientiane.
Contrary to the Phra Lak Phra Ram, most historians believe
Vientiane was an early Khmer
centered around a Hindu
temple, which the Pha
That Luang would later replace.In the 11th and 12th centuries, the
time when the Lao
and Thai people
are believed to have entered
from Southern China
, the few remaining Khmers in
the area were either killed, removed, or assimilated into the Lao
civilization, which would soon overtake the area.
In 1354, when Fa Ngum
founded the kingdom of
, Vientiane became an important
administrative city, even though it was not made the capital.King
it as the capital of Lan Xang in 1560. When Lan Xang fell apart in
1707, it became an independent kingdom. In 1779, it was
conquered by the Siamese general Phraya Chakri and made a vassal of Siam.
When King Anouvong
raised an unsuccessful
rebellion, it was obliterated by Siamese
armies in 1827. It eventually passed to French rule in
It became the capital of the French protectorate of
Laos in 1899.
Vientiane will host the 2009
Southeast Asian Games
, with 18 disciplines being dropped from
the previous games held in Thailand due to Laos' landlocked state
and the lack of adequate facilities in Vientiane.
Vientiane is located in and is the capital of the Vientiane Prefecture
). There is also the Vientiane Province
— the prefecture was
split off from the province in 1989.
Vientiane city comprises the following districts:
Geography and climate
is situated on a bend of the Mekong river,
which forms the border with Thailand at this
is home to one of Laos's only bowling
alleys (the other bowling alley being in Luang Prabang) and its only mosques.
There are many upper-class hotels in Vientiane.
Colleges and universities
First Thai-Lao Friendship
Bridge, built in the 1990s, crosses the river 18
kilometers downstream of the city to Nong Khai in Thailand, and is the major crossing between the
Monk repainting a naga (mythical
dragon) at Pha That Luang
The bridge was built with provision for rail
services. Test trains began running on July 4 2008, and the railway
was formally inaugurated on March 5 2009. Surveys are underway to
continue to the line a further 12 km to Vientiane.
official name of the bridge was changed in 2007 by the addition of
"First", after the Second Friendship Bridge linking Mukdahan in Thailand with Savannakhet in Laos was opened early in
There are regular bus
Vientiane with the rest of the country.
is served by the Wattay International Airport with international connections to other Asian
countries. Lao Airlines has
regular flights to several domestic destinations (several flights
daily to Luang
Prabang; a few flights weekly to other
Morning market in Vientiane
The "Centre Medical de l’Ambassade de France" is available to the
foreign community in Laos in April 2007. Also the Mahosot Hospital is an important hospital
in treating and researching diseases and is in connection with the
- GNS: Country Files at the National
A Buddha statue in Vientiane.
- Askew, Marc, William Stewart Logan, and Colin Long.
Vientiane: Transformations of a Lao Landscape. London:
Routledge, 2007. ISBN 0415331412
- Flores, Penelope V. Good-Bye, Vientiane: Untold Stories of
Filipinos in Laos. San Francisco, CA: Philippine American
Writers and Artists, Inc, 2005. ISBN 0976331616
- Renaut, Thomas, and Arnaud Dubus. Eternal Vientiane.
City heritage. Hong Kong: Published by Fortune Image Ltd. for Les
Editions d'Indochine, 1995.
- Schrama, Ilse, and Birgit Schrama. Buddhist Temple Life in
Laos: Wat Sok Pa Luang". Bangkok: Orchid Press, 2006.
- Women's International Group (Viangchan, Laos). Vientiane
Guide. [Vientiane]: Women's International Group, 1993.