Date Traveled, August 2012
Vientiane's long and wide waterfront promenade comes to full life in the weekend nights. There are crowds of people enjoying various activities on the promenade and its parks, from families enjoying an evening out to young couples enjoying a stroll and teenagers biking and skateboarding through. The night market right behind the promenade is also a major draw for the teeming crowds.
The promenade is apparently a recent renovation, replacing what was formerly a dirt road along the banks of the Mekong overlooking Thailand on the other side. There were many roadside stalls that would come up every evening selling food and it was also a popular place to sit by and watch the sunset over the Mekong. Naturally many people were upset over the construction ruining the natural undeveloped charm of the place. Having visited after the new promenade has been constructed I cannot comment on what was, but I found no particular fault with the promenade and enjoyed strolling across it at night. It was also a nice experience to see how the younger urban Lao seemed to hang out at the promenade. It is brightly lit and crowded well after dark and teenagers seemed to stay there quite late, just chilling out racing their bikes and skates up and down or playing soccer.
The promendade is a popular hangout for Vientiane's youth
Aerobics on the promenade
There was an interesting sight of a mass aerobics session on one of the parks by the promenade. There were maybe a couple of hundred people of all ages doing aerobics with a few instructors with microphones shouting out encouragement and demonstrating exercises from a little raised wooden platform in front of the crowd. Good for the urban Vientiane people looking out for their fitness. The other interesting sight to see is a large statue of Prince Fa Ngum overlooking the Mekong, founder of the Lan Xang kingdom, the kingdom of a million elephants, the ancient kingdom that Laos was a part of for much of its history.
The night market itself wasn't spectacular. It was like any other typical night market in cities in Asia if you have seen those. Stalls, street food, great to walk around and people watch but having just arrived from Luang Prabang with its truly unique and enjoyable night market, the one here wasn't impressive or exciting for me even though it was a lot bigger. The promenade was far more interesting to both stroll around and people watch.
The night market behind the promenade
It was big but not special, unlike the Luang Prabang night market
A visit to the promenade either to watch the sunset or just stroll around before dinner is a nice way to spend an evening if you are visiting Vientiane.