Laos' capital. Compared the Luang Prabang, the buildings are taller, the roads are wider, and the construction sites more numerous.

The trucks are bigger as well.

A day in the capital

All of the hostels downtown are booked to capacity to my surprise. I spend an hour looking for lodging before settling on a pricier hotel.

There's no time to spare so I rent a bike from next door and dash off to see as much as I can.

On the main avenue I inevitably come upon Patuxai. It's decorated with Laotian motifs painted with images of Laotian mythological creatures on the inside. Patuxai's dedicated to those who fought for the country's independence from France, which runs counter to what I would expect. After all, this monument bears a strong resemblance to the Arc de Triomphe.

Patuxai, dedicated to those who fought for independence from France.

The courtyard of Wat Pha That Luang

A good part of my day is spent pedaling from one temple, shrine, or garden to the next. These places are a delight to wander and photograph.

I start at Pha That Luang, a temple remarkable for its radiant gold coloring.

Pha That Luang.

Pha Thatluang Neua is adjacent to Pha That Luang, another splendid temple.

The stairway leading up to Pha Thatluang Neua.

Inside Pha Thatluang Neua.

A modest study desk in Pha Thatluang Neua.

And across Pha Thatluang Neua is That Luang Tai, a temple surrounded by beautiful gardens. Its open layout is unique—there are no walls. The whole structure's held together by an array of columns.

That Luang Tai is an open air temple propped up by rows of columns.

There's a reclining Buddha not too far away at the edge of the courtyard to check out as well.

Wat Sisaket

I bike across town down the main avenue to Wat Sisaket. Like Pha That Luang, this temple has its own courtyard with a garden. There are many Buddha statues and figurines inside the main temple.

Siamese style rooftop, five tiers in all.

Damaged figures.

Gold cloth.

Buddha shrine.

Haw Pha Kaew

My last stop is this temple-turned-museum. Its main building is surrounded on all four sides by a large, carefully manicured, garden.

It's minutes away from closing time. I can't enter the building, but I ask to buy a ticket to walk through the gardens.

Hat Don Chan

Sunset arrives and I pedal over to Hat Don Chan. This is a long plaza along the Mekong that's popular for hanging out and watching sunsets.

At night I leave my camera behind for a ride from one end of the paved road to the other. It takes about 25 minutes to cover the length of Hat Don Chan.

Hat Don Chan, taken an hour before I took the header image for this post.

Mekong Sunset—Thailand is across the river.