Tim and I checked out Vientiane's big golden stupa, Pha That Luang, which was originally built in the 3rd century, but has been refurbished multiple times after being damaged and plundered during invasions over the years.
An image of the stupa is on the Laos national seal and its considered the most significant religious and nation monument in Laos (although the front desk lady at our hotel downplayed it somewhat, saying, "Oh, tourists like that temple."). Apparently, when it was originally built, the stupa was said to contain a piece of Buddha's breastbone.
A view into 2 of the 4 prayer gates surrounding the stupa:
In the parking lot of the stupa, there are several women selling birds in tiny bamboo cages- there are 3 or 4 little birds in each of those boxes. They seemed to sense that Tim and I weren't feeling it, but they pounced (successfully) on this tour group below:
We saw this woman who had purchased a box o' birds saying a quick prayer and then subsequently releasing the birds within the stupa grounds. Disturbingly, she was shaking the box quite a bit to get the birds out. Not sure I'm on board with this practice:
In front of the stupa is this statue of a seated King Setthathirat, a Lao leader from the 1500s. We saw several people praying in front of the statue while we were walking around the stupa.