Capital, largest city, and chief port of Laos, lying in the north on the Mekong River, on the border with Thailand; population (2002 est) 189,600, conurbation 528,100. Though the Mekong is navigable only by small vessels, Vientiane's strategic position on one of the main waterways of southeast Asia has helped it to become a centre for government, commerce, and religion for over a millennium. Noted for its pagodas, canals, and houses on stilts, it is situated in a rich agricultural area and is a trading centre for forest products and textiles.
History In 1563 Vientiane became the capital of Laos due to a threat from Myanmar (then Burma) to the former capital, Luang Prabang. The city was devastated through an attack by the Thais in 1828, but the French made it the capital again in 1899, a status it has retained since.
Features The city is home to the Temple of the Heavy Buddha, the Pratuxai triumphal arch, and the Black Stupa. The Great Sacred Stupa to the northeast of the city is the most important national monument in Laos. The Sisavangvong University was founded in 1958 and a number of colleges, as well as Pali and Sanskrit institutes, are affiliated to it. The city is also home to Ho Phakeo, the national museum, and to the Dongsaphangmeuk Library and the National Library.
Economy Industries include processed food, footwear, textiles, and forest products, including hardwoods, such as teak, and gum benzoin, used in medicines and perfumes. Trade with Thailand was increased considerably by the opening of the Friendship Bridge with Nong Khangli, on the opposite bank of the Mekong, in 1974. Tourism is growing in importance and the city has an international airport, with regular services to Bangkok, Thailand, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
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