Vientiane (vēˌəntyĕnˈ, vyăNtyänˈ) [key], city (1990 est. pop. 140,000), administrative capital and largest city of Laos, N central Laos, on the Mekong River, c.130 mi (210 km) southeast of the former royal capital of Luang Phabang. Vientiane possesses diverse light industry and is a trading center for forest products, textiles, and hides. Many commodities are ferried across the Mekong to Thailand, where they are transported by rail to Bangkok. Chinese and Vietnamese minorities dominate retailing and commerce in Vientiane. The city is noted for its canals, its houses built on stilts, and its numerous pagodas, one of which now houses an architectural museum. There is an international airport. Vientiane was the capital of a Lao kingdom from 1707. It was sacked by the Siamese in 1827. It passed under French rule in 1893 and became the capital of the French protectorate of Laos in 1899. The ruins of the old capital are near the modern city.