My first taste of Laos came from it’s little capitol city, Vientiane. By the third day of exploring the city I had come to see how much the French had influenced the architecture and culture. Although the city seems to be trying to develop into a modern capitol, some of the older buildings have kept that French colonial style, sometimes mixed with Lao architecture. One great example of this is Patuxai.
Built between 1957 and 1968, Patuxai was constructed as a war monument in dedication to those that fought for Laos’ independence. “Patuxai” translates to “Victory Gate” and it definitely resembles the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
From the Presidential Palace I walked my way along Avenue Lang Xang, a long straight road that leads up to Patuxai. I have yet to visit Paris, but I know exactly what the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe look like (doesn’t everyone?), and Avenue Lang Xang leading up to Patuxai looks very similar.
As I got close to Patuxai the true size of the monument became apparent. It really is quite a huge symbol, something that definitely could stand for victory. Getting close to the arch I could also make out some of the details, where I could see the Lao style come into the design. There are a lot of Buddha images on the monument and on the top are five towers, shaped like stupas.
The monument is very symmetrical and as I entered the arch I realized that it is square with an entrance on each side. The ceiling in the center is covered in beautiful artwork, and stairs lead up to the top of the monument. It costs 3000kip to enter.
As I climbed the stairs I was surprised to find that the rooms within the building are set up as a marketplace selling all kinds of souvenirs.
From the top of Patuxai you get sweeping views across the city, well worth the exertion from climbing up all of the stairs in the heat of the day. I could see right down Avenue Lang Xang, which I walked down to get there, and I could look down on the surrounding parkland and all of the governmental buildings that surround the monument. I could also look down to the end of Singha Road, where the majestic That Luang stands tall and golden, shining in the sunlight.
On the other side of the monument from Avenue Lang Xang there is a “musical” fountain surrounded by well maintained gardens. It seems to be a popular gathering place for locals as the fountain spurts water in a certain sequence.
Although Patuxai seems to be a copy of the Arc de Triomphe, it stands on it’s own as a symbol of Laos’ independence. It is definitely worth a visit if you are travelling to Vientiane.