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Laos' sleepy capital awakens to a construction boom

Cranes tower over the construction site for one of about 20 malls going up in Vientiane. (Photo by Simon Roughneen)

VIENTIANE   The capital of Laos is a low-rise, low-key city, especially when compared with the hulking high-rises and bustling streets of better-known Southeast Asian cities such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

     But this once-sleepy city is fast shedding its sedate reputation due to a building boom ahead of international summits that will bring U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and a host of other world leaders to visit in 2016.

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