Reading Comprehension Text and Exercises


The Buddhist Gem

Laos, a small landlocked country in Southeast Asia, has increasingly become popular as a tourist destination. Its capital, Vientiane, will charm you with its beautiful riverside, sunsets and hospitable locals.

Due to its turbulent history and various past occupations, Vientiane is home to many different styles of architecture. Separated from Thailand by the Mekong River, Vientiane is a perfect choice for any tourist who wants to learn more about Buddhism and Southeast Asian cultures.

Patuxai Monument

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A Brief History of Vientiane

  • According to a great Laotian epic, Prince Thattaradtha founded a new city on the east bank of the Mekong River. This ancient city later became Vientiane.
  • Historians, on the other hand, claim Vientiane started as a settlement of the Khmer people.
  • In 1563, the Lan Xang kingdom chose Vientiane as their capital in order to avoid an invasion by Burma.
  • The city was burned to the ground by Siamese armies in early 19th century. Nearly all Buddha statues and other important artifacts were stolen.
  • Eventually, the city was passed to the French, who rebuilt the city and its important monuments.
  • During World War II, Vientiane was occupied by Japanese forces, until the French occupied it again in 1945. A long civil war followed.
  • Nowadays, Vientiane is a developing and very peaceful city.

Laos Vientiane


Pha That Luang

Pha That Lung is the most important national monument and the symbol of Laos. Covered in gold, this large structure represents a Buddhist stupa, a place used for meditation. Originating in the 1st century as a Hindu temple, the Great Stupa was ruined and rebuilt several times.

Today, Pha That Luang consists of three levels, each reflecting an important part of the Buddhist teachings. It is a place where you can enjoy some quiet time in the city, since any traffic in and around the complex is prohibited.

Pha That Luang temple


In Lao, Patuxai means Victory Gate, and it is a perfect name to describe this stunning war monument dedicated to the people who fought for independence from France.

The monument is beautifully decorated with mythological creatures like the kinnari (half-female, half-bird). Patuxai was built during an unstable period in Laotian history using American funds which were originally given to build a new airport.

Patuxai arch monument

Wat Si Saket

Built in 1818, Wat Si Saket has served as an important Buddhist temple in Vientiane. Due to its distinct Siamese style of Buddhist architecture, the Siamese armies used it as their headquarters during the occupation. Following the 1827 rebellion, many buildings in the city were destroyed, but Wat Si Saket kept standing.

For this reason, it is believed to be the oldest temple that exists in its original form in Vientiane. Another reason to visit this temple is its remarkable collection of more than 2,000 ceramic and silver images of Buddha.

Wat Si Saket

Buddha Park

If you are interested to see how modern ideas interact with traditions, Buddha Park is the place to be. This park hosts an outdoor collection of over 200 huge sculptures of both Buddhist and Hindu gods, as well as of some imaginary beasts.

Built just outside Vientiane, the Buddha Park is also very close to the Friendship Bridge which connects Laos and Thailand over the Mekong River.

Buddha park

Things to do in Vientiane

Besides visiting these tourist attractions, there are a number of other interesting things you might want to try out in Vientiane.

  • Take a stroll by the Mekong River in the evening and enjoy watching the sunset. You will surely come across the Night Market, where Lao locals try to sell pretty much everything you might need.
  • If you really want to understand the Laotian culture, you should sign up for one of the numerous yoga or meditation classes. In case you prefer something more energetic, Muay Lao, or Lao kickboxing, is worth checking out.
  • After a long day of walking, consider visiting a local spa for one of the traditional Lao herbal steam saunas and massages, to help you relax and prepare for more sightseeing.

Lao girl with national costumes

Comprehension Exercises

Vocabulary Questions

  1. What does "sign up" mean?
    1. to give up something
    2. to write down your name
    3. to register or to join something

  2. What does "mythological" mean?
    1. appearing in a legend or a fairytale
    2. of historical value
    3. coming from ancient Greece

  3. What does "rebellion" mean?
    1. starting a great fire by accident
    2. armed opposition to the government
    3. joining the army voluntarily

  4. What does "independence" mean?
    1. being governed by an outside force
    2. being governed by the people of the country, not by any outside forces
    3. being a part of another country's army

  5. What does "turbulent" mean?
    1. a stable and peaceful period
    2. a part of the engine
    3. not stable but with much disorder and conflict

Collocation Questions

  1. After a long day of walking, ____________ visiting a local spa.
    1. consider
    2. examine
    3. contemplate

  2. American funds were ____________ to be used to build a new airport.
    1. promised
    2. guaranteed
    3. agreed

  3. Lao kickboxing is definitely worth ____________ out.
    1. checking
    2. working
    3. trying

  4. Wat Si Saket is the oldest temple that still exists in its ____________ form.
    1. authentic
    2. native
    3. original
  1. With its growing industry and population, Vientiane is ____________ city.
    1. a progressing
    2. a developing
    3. an evolving
  1. The monument is dedicated to those who ____________ for independence from France.
    1. battled
    2. fought
    3. made war
  1. At the market, you will see locals trying to sell ____________ much everything.
    1. very
    2. pretty
    3. so

  2. After the Siamese rule, Vientiane was ____________ to the French.
    1. passed
    2. given
    3. surrendered

  3. In the evening, you should ____________ a stroll by the Mekong River.
    1. have
    2. make
    3. take

  4. Vientiane is ____________ to different styles of architecture.
    1. home
    2. mother
    3. host

Wh Questions

  1. What are Buddhist stupas?
    1. People who live in the mountains.
    2. Places used for meditation.
    3. Ancient scripts read by students.

  2. Why did Vientiane become the capital city of Lax Xang in 1563?
    1. Because the prince was born there.
    2. To avoid the flood.
    3. To avoid Burmese occupation.

  3. Who occupied Vientiane during World War II?
    1. The Chinese.
    2. The Japanese.
    3. The French.

  4. Which countries does the Friendship Bridge connect?
    1. Laos and Thailand.
    2. Laos and Vietnam.
    3. Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
  1. Where is the Buddha Park located?
    1. In the center of Vientiane.
    2. In Thailand over the Mekong river.
    3. Outside Vientiane.

Evaluating Statements

  1. Based on the information in this lesson, which statement is true?
    1. Wat Si Saket is the oldest temple in the city because it was the first temple to be built in Vientiane.
    2. Wat Si Saket is the oldest temple in the city because many older ones were destroyed during the Siamese rule.

  2. Based on the information in this lesson, which statement is false?
    1. The national symbol of Laos is an eagle.
    2. The national symbol of Laos is Pha That Luang.

True or False?

  1. Based on the information in this lesson, is the following statement true or false?

    "When it comes to the origins of Vientiane, most historians disagree with the Laotian epic."
    1. True
    2. False

  2. Based on the information in this lesson, is the following statement true or false?

    "Every day, over 10,000 cars come in and out of the Pha That Lung."
    1. True
    2. False

Answer Key

1. C | 2. A | 3. B | 4. B | 5. C | 6. C | 7. A | 8. A | 9. C | 10. C | 11. B| 12. B | 13. A | 14. C | 15. A | 16. B | 17. C | 18. B | 19. A | 20. C | 21. B | 22. A | 23. A | 24. B

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