Life in Laos' modest capital flows along as languidly as the Mekong River, alongside which the city is situated. Visitors will find a sprawling series of villages rather than an interconnected urban metropolis. Laotian temples and crumbling French colonial buildings give Vientiane much of its personality. Paddy fields still dot the outlying suburbs and even penetrate the city centre, while narrow lanes, croissant-selling bakeries and noodle-soup vendors characterise the downtown area.
Most places of interest are concentrated in a small area in the commercial district, between the bamboo-and-thatch beer gardens on the riverbank and Talaat Sao (the morning market). The area is easy to explore on foot, and tourists can also visit some fine Wats (temples), such as Wat Si Saket.