With its crenellated upper level topped with five ornate towers in the traditional Laos style, the Patuxai Victory Monument cuts a distinctive figure on the Vientiane skyline. It forms the centrepiece of Patuxai Park, and is dedicated to the Laos who were killed in the fight to gain independence from France, as well as from the nation’s earlier occupiers, Siam and Japan. Situated at the end of one of the capital’s grand avenues, the large, square arch is reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. However, as a monument to Laos’ resilience and eventual independence, Patuxai was designed to pay homage to its national culture and traditions. Its exterior embellishments feature both Buddhist religious symbols such as lotus leaves and the stupa-shaped towers, and statues of animist kinnari (half-female and half-bird figures) and nagas (dragons). The interior of the monument is also richly decorated with painted walls and ceilings depicting gods, goddesses and elephants. For a small fee, you can climb to the top to enjoy the panoramic view of the charming, old-fashioned city of Vientiane with its many trees, low-rise buildings and temples, and all the way across the Mekong River to Thailand.