Vientiane, Laos travel tips

Where we ate:

  • Morning Market – We’re pretty sure we didn’t find the actual Morning Market, known for it’s street food, but we did find a lady on Lane Xiang Ave near Hatsady Rd making fresh rice paper rolls with mushrooms, which were fantastic: YEH
  • Grill place across from ‘Intercity Hotel’ sign, maybe called Naga or mekong-aka-Nam Khong – A string of nearly identical riverside restaurants hang a bamboo and thatch open-air dining room over the Mekong River, grill up fish and chicken, and mix up some other dishes. Go for the view of the sunset over a beer, because the service sucks and the meals are: MEH
  • Capital Food Court, in the Morning Market mall – Grab some coupons (you can return the ones you don’t use on your way out), and pick some fresh made food from one of the stalls that looks like they just moved some street vendors indoors. We enjoyed fresh spring rolls and some sort of coconut soup, all for a pittance: YEH
  • Waffle Cool, in the Morning Market mall – Fresh made waffles filled with sweet pastes are an outstanding idea. Todd got custard-filled: YEH
  • Soup place on Chao Anou Road across from Swedish Pizza and Baking House – Made by a cute old lady manning a massive steaming cauldron out front, this was one of the best soups we’ve ever had, because the meat was tender and broth was so flavorful. Unfortunately the flavor comes from a bucket of MSG, which sent me into a migraine hell and even Todd felt some unwanted aftereffects. If you are MSG-immune, you’ll love it, otherwise: NAH
  • Vieng Nem Neung, Heng Boud Rd near Khoun Boulom Rd across from Thawee Guesthouse – We stopped in for lunch because it was packed, only to realize that it was Vietnamese food. It was still cheap and tasty: YEH
  • Makphet, across from Wat Ong Teu on small road connecting Chou Anou Rd and Francois Nginn Rd – Every listing and ad we saw for this place had their old address and hours. They are now open for lunch and dinner. Another wonderful restaurant training street youth. Portions are huge and dishes are creatively scrumptious, so the value is high. We could have shared just the pumpkin soup since it came with an entire plate filled with rice noodles and vegetables. The gift shop is a nice place to pick up reasonably priced fair trade made-in-Laos gifts: YEH!
  • Croissant D’Or, Nokeo Koummane Rd – A convenient, if unremarkable place for a French-ish brunch. The cream puff was excellent, the sandwiches much less so: MEH
  • Osaka Sushi – We were tempted in by their Vientiane Roll, which was loaded up with local ingredients like papaya, and sake, since we were sick of pissy Asian beers: YEH

Where we stayed:

  • Orchid Hotel – Though by far not the worst value in Vientiane, our room in the old wing was dark and damp. Good location, but we stayed one night then moved on: MEH
  • Mixay Gueshouse – Recently remodeled with new beds, paint, and everything else, this is the best budget place in Vientiane (yes, we looked at most of them). Unfortunately they don’t take reservations, so show up early in the morning if you can. It’s worth it: YEH
  • Souk Chaleun Guesthouse, 121 Ban Mixay across from Wat Mixay – When we passed through Vientiane again and our bus was hours late, Mixay Guesthouse was already full so we got stuck here. Nothing special and overpriced, but you could be worse off. Oddly, they make you take your shoes off but then have dog hair covering the floors: MEH

What we saw:

  • Morning Market Mall – We loved this very local experience, a rinky dink mall packed with people, even on a weekday. You might be lucky enough to see a live concert too. Bicycle parking available in the lot: YEH
  • Patouxi a.k.a. ‘Monument’ – Not nearly as ugly as the Lonely Planet Laos makes it out to be. Splurge on the 3 kip admission to go to the top for the city view: YEH
  • That Louang – The star attraction of Vientiane, we spent over an hour at this gold-covered stupa, just appreciating it’s shininess against the blue Lao sky. A decently long but manageable bicycle ride from the center of town: YEH
  • Laos Bowling Center Khoun Boulom Rd at Ky Huong Rd – Strangely, it was difficult to find anyone who knew where to find this dozen-lane bowling alley. We had to bike around a “Street Closed” barricade then down a pitch-black street. We’d heard it was the best late night place in Vientiane, staying open until 2 am and selling beer that you can drink at your lane. Lies. It closed at 11pm on a Saturday: YEH
  • National Museum – As small, unimpressive museums go, this one was a winner. If you’re a fan of unskilled mural painting and jenky dioramas, you’ll love it. Biggest drawback is that they don’t allow photo taking: MEH
  • Wat Sisaket, Wat Simuang, Wat Chanthabouli, Wat Ong Teu, Wat Inpeng, Wat Mai Sok – Grab a bicycle and bike around to any and every wat in Vientiane. It’s a leisurely afternoon because you don’t need to get off your bike, just pedal around the outside of the building, the insides are much the same, if they’re even open: YEH
  • Stay Another Day guide – Available everywhere throughout Laos and online too, it pays to pick one up as soon as you arrive. Nice listings of sustainable tourism including restaurants, shopping, and volunteering: YEH