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 guide to the best things to do in Vientiane.
Laos Shooting Federation
Muay Lao Kickboxing
Take this as gospel as I asked every Laos local I met about how to go and see a Muay Lao kickboxing match and they all looked at me like I was talking about a sport they had never heard of. We were lucky enough to see kick boxers from Laos challenging muay Thai kick boxers across the border in Thailand.
Matches are held every saturday from around 7pm. I say every saturday as it was the same night as when I was there 4 years ago. It’s 50,000 kip entry (AU$7) but you also score a beer by the sponsors (this time it was Changi from across the Mekong). It’s televised and you get to see 6 different fights from 35kg kids through to the main match which happens right in the middle of the linkup of fights.
Again this was something that has not a single tourist watching so it’s well worth heading out by scooter and teeing dinner up at the best fried chicken joint in Laos.
Contact: Follow Rue Thadeua until you see a lake – then take the lane on the right next to the lake. You will see the stadium just just on the corner of the lake.
Barefoot 10 Pin Bowling
There’s two bowling alleys in Vientiane but this one in the centre of town is the only one you need to bother with. It’s not really easy to find but it’s worth the hunt as there’s not too much to do once the sun goes down other than sit and drink – which you can also do while bowling. Amazingly the bowling only costs 13,000 kip (AU$1.50) each and you can still get large Beer Laos for a dollar. The computers look like Soviet relics (and probably are) but you can bowl barefoot and catch up with all the other backpackers who have had the same brilliant idea as you.
Contact: Th Khun Bulom – opposite the night food market.
Scooter hire is a must. Don’t be an old bag and come up with excuses like “it’s not allowed under my travel insurance” or other crap like that. Scooter hire is about 70,000 Kip (AU$9) and can be bargained for at any backpackers or hotel.
You will then have full access to the city and attractions while not wasting your time haggling for a good price with tuk tuk drivers. It costs only $2 to fill up. You will need it if you decide to visit anything that not within the centre of town – and I warn you it’s addictive. After scootering like this around Asia I ended up buying a scooter when getting back to Melbourne – and it changed my world.
6 hour Wat walking tour by scooter
If you do need a Lonely Planet guided tour, use your scooter to cut down the 6 hour walking tour of the city’s Wats and do it by scooter. If you get up early like we did you can beat every single tourist bus unloading the lemmings into each of the sites and get some great serene photos while you’re at it.
Be warned – a decent Laos massage gives you the beating your father never gave you. You can find Laos massage parlours all over Vientiane and will usually cost you around 60,000 Kip (AU$6). We hit up the massage place right next to The Drop Zone (a bar you just keep walking past) on Chao Anou Road. If you’re a dude – watch out for ‘wandering hands’.
Beer Lao Tour
The Mythical Beer Lao Tour… Went we were in town 4 years ago we showed up and asked for a tour… again we were received with blank stares. We then just let ourselves into the reception and did our own tour, eventually right at the end were escorted by security to the marketing department where they gave us each a few Beer Laos and put on a video for us to watch about the bottling plant.
Beer Lao Tours now officially happen on Mondays and Fridays between 1.30pm and 4.30pm and on Wednesdays at 9.30-10.30am & 1.30pm and 4.30pm. It costs 40,000 Kip for the tour (AU$0.50).
Contact: Km 12 Thadeua Road, Hatsayfong District, Vientiane.
Sunday Mekong Night Market
This market is brand new but is nothing to get your knickers in a twist over if you can’t make it as it seems it’s just the stallholders from the main Vientiane Market who just bring their wares to sell on to the tourist crowd who may be too scared to do some haggling in the main marketplace.
Mind you there are a tiny amount of places doing something original so head on down for that or to just fulfil your quota of holiday tat.
Contact: On the riverbank of the Mekong in tourist central
If you’re a gym junkie that needs to work out while looking at yourself in the mirror then I suggest this gym on the outskirts of Vientiane. It seems perfect for the expat crowd and the price of a visit is good for what you get. For 120,000 Kip (AU$12) you get full use of the gym that’s doing it’s best to be the closes thing to Virgin Active, the pool, and a fantastic 1 hour massage after your workout. Post workout you are just a few doors down from Naked Espresso.
Contact: Dongpalan Rd, Vientiane