It is the most pleasant surprise to see a great number of colonial buildings, one of the French cultural influence in Laos. The French lifestyle made such a great influence in the Lao urban elite in the Colonial period that it still exists in this day. Let’s imagine how amazing when you can enjoy a breakfast of croissant and café au lait in the back-in-time Vientiane. Lunch may even comprise baked baguettes and pâté accompanied with some wine.
During your Laos tours, the most notable memorial to the French influence will be its architecture. There are many mansions and small residences with the former colonial style along the Quai Fa Ngum riverside.
Furthermore, in the vicinity of That Dam and along the Lane Xang Avenue, travelers can see shaded boulevards – fine colonial French architecture with shutter and red-tiled roofs. Even though many of the former private residences are in stages of advanced decay, others have been painstaking restored.
Gallic influence can also be felt in other towns and cities around the country, with colonial buildings, villas and a number of pleasant French restaurants in Luang Prabang.
Prior to the arrival of the French, most cities comprised ramshackle collections of mainly wooden or bamboo stilted houses with thatched roofs, grouped around the overgrown ruins of former temples and palaces.
At the early 20th century, French started to build government buildings, as the Royal Palace (1904), which was aiming at symbolizing union between the French and the Lao people.
In addition to government colonial buildings, the French also built two-storey brick and stucco villas with pitched tile roofs and wooden shuttered windows to accommodate the colonial administrators and their families.
However, as elsewhere in the Indochinese colonies, provincial French design was modified to suit the hot and humid tropical climate through the addition of balconies, verandahs and internal corridors. Construction was entrusted mainly to migrant Vietnamese labourers, who also built their own two-storey shop-houses in designated areas.
The design of the colonial villa began to influence subtle changes in the design of Lao urban dwellings, and from the 1930s, inventive architectural hybrids appeared, such as European-style villas on stilts, or stilted wooden houses with their lower levels enclosed by masonry walls.
Last but not least, to observe the inventive colonial buildings, you can take a walk in Luang Prabang, except the Royal Palace and the Centre Culturel Français. Even though there is not much to visit, but it is a good way to discover the city, and why not getting lost?!