We travelled through Laos four years ago and fell in love with it. I recently returned with a chef to show him the country and we spent a good few days getting under the skin of the Laos capital city. All I can say is throw away the Lonely Planet and any other guidebook as they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on. They are all wrong.
This is your essential drinking guide to Vientiane.
Why is this top of the list of places for a drink? Mainly because of their outstanding signature cocktail – the Tom Yum Martini. This is a beast of a dirty drink. The barman here has steeped the gin/vodka in essential Thai herbs such as lemongrass, ginger and birds eye chilli to name a few and it sure had a bite too it (like a proper tom yum should). And a martini for only 20,000 kip (AU$2.50)? Damn straight you will order a few.
Sticky Fingers Bar – four years ago – was a pumping bar that people jam packed in happy hour. On this visit there were only ever a tiny handful of people, so not really sure what happened. All I know is that the menu is exactly the same the the price of the drinks remained steady.
Contact: 103/3 Francois Nginn St, Vientiane, Laos.
4 Sisters Bar & Namkhong Karaoke Bar
These two bars/drinking shacks on the waterfront are the place to get away from it all after you have had your fill of wandering the streets of Vientiane or when the sun has reached its peak and you need to duck away from the elements. The bar next to 4 Sisters is literally the only place you can try Laos Namkhong Beer because Beer laos is owned by the government and there must be a law in place that you have to sell it. So you will be able to spot this place with it’s blue and white awning.
The best way to find these places is to get on the waterfront road and turn right and walk. Just on the outskirts of town you will find a few shacks filled just with Laos who are belting out a few local classics on the Karaoke machine. Be prepared to write down a few english songs that they will try to find on their system for you to join in.
Contact: Along Quai Fa Ngum, walk to your right when facing the Mekong. Don’t expect anything fancy.
The Jazzy Brick is a dress-up venue serving a cool selection of cocktails to a classy crowd that again has diminished since my last visit. Chilled music and an expensive drinks menu, this is the bar for those who have a more refined taste. The décor is stylish and the cocktails are varied and well made (when they have the right ingredients). Beer is available but this is not really the place to come to for ale. A dress code of no shorts or sleeveless shirts is supposed to be enforced but with a dwindling clientele they can no longer turn people away.
Contact: 34/01 Setthathirat Road, Vientiane.
If there was a cafe that has completely ripped off an espresso bar concept from Melbourne and moved it to Vientiane – it would be Naked Espresso. This is the one and only hipster cafe in Vientiane thus far and with what it does it does well. Coffee is 17,000 Kip (AU$2), the owner studied in Melbourne and wanted to bring good coffee to Laos. The head barista has been trained by Toby’s Estate and the menu is the closest thing to a Melbourne cafe that I have encountered in Laos.
It’s just a shame that they have copied the name, colours and many other elements from what at onetime was one of my favourite cafes in Melbourne.
Contact: Dongpayna Rd, Vientiane, Laos. Facebook.
I’m including this because you might be the kind of person who would select a $9 glass of wine over a $1 large bottle of Beer Lao. We were going to have a splurge night but rocked up to find this wine bar closed its doors at 7.30pm every night. Completely useless and not sure how you run a bar with that timetable, but it’s still open since my last visit 4 years ago so something must be going right for them. Not the most atmospheric place in Laos but it does stock a more adventurous wine list that 99.9% of the restaurants out there.
Contact: 354 Th Samsenthai , Vientiane.
Moon The Night
This is one hell of a MegaBar. If you keep on putting past 4 Sistters you will see this bar that I now understand is pumping with locals on a Saturday night. We were out on a Saturday and there were dozens of locals dressed to the tens on scooters all heading down this way but from town you have no clue what’s sitting out this way. There must be 1000 seats over about 4 levels all overlooking the Mekong to Thailand.
This is not the place you take mom and the kids for Easter. But if you’re a real traveler, you’ll be glad to tried it. And you might even go back.
Contact: 143 10 Souphanouvong Ave, Vientiane
I have no clue the name of this bar but it is on the corner of Quai Fa Ngum and Sithane Rd. All I know is that there is a huge N on ground level with the wooden bar sitting above. This place has a live band/singer each night and is frequented by only locals. It’s a nice perch and the locals love a bit of chat with someone who has the balls to drop in on one of their favourite places.
Contact: Corner of Quai Fa Ngum and Sithane Rd.
Not yet open for our visit but I see this bar being THE cafe once it opens its doors. Fitting right on the centre of Vientiane (unlike Naked Espresso which you will have to travel for) this looks like it will be a third wave coffee venture. The sign was hipster, the interior (from where it was at) looks spot on hipster, I just hope they can back it up with some great coffee. Should be open in November all going we’ll.
Contact: Setthathirath Road | On the Opposite of Lao Development Bank, Vientiane 01000, Laos