The Lao people, a branch of the Tai peoples, migrated into Laos from southern China after the 8th century AD, gradually displacing various indigenous tribes who are now known as the Kha. During the 12th and 13th centuries the principality of Muong Swa grew and in 1353, the Lan Xang kingdom was founded by Fa Ngum in Louang Prabang. In 1713 Lan Xang split into three states that became vassals of Siam until the French gained control of Siamese territories east of the Mekong.
The Japanese occupied the country during W.W.II. The French granted a limited form of autonomy in 1949 and the 1954 Geneva Conference recognised Laos as an independent buffer state between communist-aligned Vietnam and western-oriented Thailand. The communist Pathet Lao took control and established the Lao People's Democratic Republic in 1975 when the Americans were forced out of Vietnam. Laos gradually distanced itself from the communist bloc until free elections were held in 1989 and a new constitution was drafted in 1991. Finally, the "Friendship Bridge" between Vientiane in Laos and Nong Khai in Thailand, symbolising an overture to the west, was inaugurated in April 1994 only six months before my visit in October.
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I would have liked to go overland via Dien Bien Phu but that was not possible so I flew. It was only a one hour flight.
This is the Pratuxai or Victory Monument built in 1969 to honour the Lao who had died in pre-revolutionary wars.
Below left is the ancient, and neglected, That Dam or Black Stupa said to be inhabited by a seven headed dragon.
Below on the right, Wat Hai Sok with its multi-tiered roof.
On the other side of the street is Wat Ong Teu.
And a little further west is Wat In Paeng
Inside Wat In Paeng
Back towards the centre is Wat Mixai with a surrounding veranda
This is the famous Haan Kheuang Deum Mixai or Mixai Drink Shop also known as the Russian Club where soviet expats used to hang out in the communist era.
When I got there it was full of Australians who were putting the finishing touches of the Friendship Bridge between Vientiane and Nong Khai, that had just opened a few months before.