As far as Southeast Asian capital cities go, Vientiane, although somewhat disheveled, is nice and compact and holds plenty of intrigue for tourists. It sits on the banks of the Mekong River, beyond which Thai territory sits a whisker away across to the south.
This is one of the safer Southeast Asian countries to visit and its capital is decidedly laid-back. Crime levels are low although travelers should always be aware of pickpockets and busy roads. Reading up on the social conventions of the country is a must before traveling here.
Owing to the French colonizing Laos, much of their wealth of culinary knowledge has rubbed off and you will find numerous French-style eateries in all of the districts. The best thing is that you can dine on the street with typical Lao rice and noodle dishes for next to nothing or go gourmet in the city's best hotel restaurants.
Although not comparable to other Southeast Asian centers for entertainment, Vientiane has a surprising number of options for getting active. The Mekong River is the focus for cyclists and tubers being dropped off upstream and floating toward town with a beer onboard is hard to beat.
Vientiane has a decent amount of shopping for tourists. Like any Southeast Asian center, it has an abundance of markets with myriad local arts, crafts and textiles on offer. Hand-woven silk is a good buy, with scarves and all manner of clothes being particularly popular.
Vientiane is mainly home to old temples and monuments and there are many high profile ones to check out. In addition, most are located in the downtown Vientiane area and can be seen on foot.