City (pop., 2003 est.: city, 194,200; 2005 est.: urban agglom., 702,000), capital of Laos. It is located northeast of the Mekong River. Founded in the late 13th century, it was made the administrative centre of an early Laotian kingdom in the mid-16th century. In 1778 it came under Siamese (Thai) control; in 1828 it was destroyed when the Laotian king revolted against the Siamese. The French made it the capital of their colony on their takeover of the region in the 1890s; it remained the administrative centre after Laos gained independence in 1953. It is the commercial centre of the region and Laos's principal port of entry.
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Sri Sattanak, or Sisattanak (ສີສັດຕະນາກ), is a former name of Vientiane. It is often confused with Sri Sattanakanahut, the Pali name of Lan Xang, the Kingdom of the Million Elephants. Sisattanak now is the name of one of the five districts of the city Vientiane.
The great Laotian epic, the Phra Lak Phra Lam, claims that Prince Thattaradtha founded the city when he left the legendary Lao kingdom of Muong Inthapatha Maha Nakhone because he was denied the throne in favor of his younger brother. Thattaradtha founded a city called Maha Thani Si Phan Phao on the western banks of the Mekong River; this city was told to have later become today's Udon Thani, Thailand. One day, a seven-headed Naga told Thattaradtha to start a new city on the eastern bank of the river opposite Maha Thani Si Phan Phao. The prince called this city Chanthabuly Si Sattanakhanahud; which was told to be the predecessor of modern Vientiane.
Contrary to the Phra Lak Phra Lam, most historians believe Vientiane was an early Khmer settlement centered around a Hindu temple, which the Pha That Luang would later replace. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the time when the Lao and Thai people are believed to have entered Southeast Asia from Southern China, the few remaining Khmers in the area were either killed, removed, or assimilated into the Lao civilization, which would soon overtake the area.
In 1354, when Fa Ngum founded the kingdom of Lan Xang, Vientiane became an important administrative city, even though it was not made the capital. King Setthathirath officially established it as the capital of Lan Xang in 1560. When Lan Xang fell apart in 1707, it became an independent kingdom. In 1779, it was conquered by the Siamese general Phraya Chakri and made a vassal of Siam.
When King Anouvong raised an unsuccessful rebellion, it was obliterated by Siamese armies in 1827. It eventually passed to French rule in 1893. It became the capital of the French protectorate of Laos in 1899.
Vientiane will host the 2009 Southeast Asian Games, with 18 disciplines being dropped from the previous games held in Thailand due to Laos' landlocked state and the lack of adequate facilities in Vientiane.
Vientiane city comprises the following districts:
The First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, built in the 1990s, crosses the river 18 kilometers downstream of the city to Nong Khai in Thailand, and is the major crossing between the two countries. Rails for an international railway link run on to the bridge, but service terminates several kilometers south of the river on the Thai side. Construction on an extension of the line to the Lao border post was begun in 2007 and is expected to be completed in the course of 2008. There are plans to extend the line further to Vientiane itself. Eventually it will be possible to travel by train from Bangkok to Vientiane.
The "Centre Medical de l’Ambassade de France" is available to the foreign community in Laos in April 2007. Also the Mahosot Hospital is an important hospital in treating and researching diseases and is in connection with the University of Oxford. The Australian Embassy has a resident doctor available for appointments.