Vientian turned out to be an absolutely beautiful place. The waterfront is an amazing stretch of boardwalk that looks out onto the Mekong River and Thailand just beyond the waters. It is beautiful, so long as the viewer can ignore the cost of development. While development is a necessary process, especially in Laos, the cost for the waterfront was oddly negotiated. The stipulation China made for funding was to give Chinese citizens property to then rent to Laotian residents, effectively preventing Lao citizens from owning property in specific parts of the city.
This is at least one version of the story. I haven't had the opportunity to research this subject because I have been engaged in a slightly less important research topic: a bronze statue of Laos' final king Chao Anouvong, arm outstretched waiting for a friendly gesture and eyes looking longingly at the Thailand boarder.
The story I was told is a bit depressing. A once upon king of Laos looks to Thailand for peace and economic partnership. When the Laos was ready to take the next step and was prepared to start a life long friendship with her neighbor, Thailand abruptly stops, turns away and leaves the Laos king on his shore waiting. A few hundred years later, Vientian erects a statue in honor of this king. The statue is to forever face Thailand waiting for his counterpart to accept his friendship. Maybe one day, Thailand will put up a statue on their shore with the king accepting.
Well this is how the story goes anyway. After a few quick searches, I found absolutely zero to corroborate it. The true story, has more to do with conquering, rebellions, and a sad tragic death. Read Marc Albert's story of the statue. According to the research, it is more correct than mine. Click here for his blog
Anyway, the statue is magnificent really. And while I may never live in Laos, I will gladly be your friend King Chao Anouvong... if my retelling of the story were true anyway.