One of the Laos people's favourite pastimes â€“ as will become apparent when you are there â€“ is sitting and watching the time pass by. The French coined the phrase: â€˜The Vietnamese plant the rice, the Cambodians watch it grow and the Laos listen to it growâ€™. Understandably, this is not in everyoneâ€™s nature, but a few hours of guzzling Beer Lao on the tranquil shores of the Mekong, is kind of mandatory for any Vientiane visitor
Every Saturday local monks lead a walking and sitting meditation session at Wat Sok Pa Luang. Between 16:00 and 17:30, the sessions take place in pavilions and within the garden. Everyone is welcome, the session is, of course, free of charge and a translator is present for the after-period question time. Twice a year the Buddhist teacher holds intensive Vispassana meditation workshops at the monastery, open to all who wish to join.
Four Kilometers away from the bridge that links Thailand to Laos â€“ the Friendship Bridge, The 18-hole Youth Garden Golf Course, was the first course to be established within the city and can be accessed by non members for about US$16 on weekdays and a little more on weekends, inclusive of the caddy fee. You can bring your own clubs, or rent a set. A quiet nine-hole course set in well-tended grounds, the KM 6 is considered the hub of expatriate golf activity in Vientiane. Members' tournaments feature regularly on the weekends; however you are guaranteed a quiet round on weekday afternoons.
Weaving & Dying
For many years the country's ancient silk-weaving tradition was lost under the Communist regime. With the help of foreign influence and interest from the likes of American weaver Carol Cassidy who started Lao Textiles in 1990, the once elaborate and endangered art form is experiencing a renaissance. 'Spinning a yarn' in Laos is an inherent part of the culture; visitors can learn how to dye textiles using natural pigments and then weave them using a traditional loom. Weaving orientation is both an educational and practical exercise where visitors can learn about the process of weaving and improve their knowledge of various types.
Vientiane has less than a dozen bars outside of the hotels. One might say quality will always triumph over quantity, and in the case of Vientiane this is definitely true. The Samlo Pub is a great place to watch sport and enjoy a few jugs of beer, before heading on down to the four-storey Blue Sky Bar that promises a memorable sunset accompanied by cheap beer and tasty bar snacks. DÃ©jÃ Vu on Nam Phu is one of the cityâ€™s more chic establishments, serving an array of zesty cocktails in a typically Laos chilled out environment. Anyone who wants to knock back a few jars in a European-inspired bar should go to Bar Namphu; (also on Namphu) has a broad drinks-and-dining menu, topped off by warm service.
The many beer gardens that once fringed the banks of the Mekong have long been closed down by the government, who felt them too unruly and likely to attract an undesirable crowd. However, the timber-built Sala Sunset Khounta boat still remains intact, alongside a handful of riverside drinking venues, providing the perfect spot for Beer Lao-laden sunsets. To drink the national beer as fresh as it comes, head on down to the Salakham Beer Garden 12 km outside of central Vientiane. This is where the Government Brewery resides, equipped with its very own thatched-roof beer garden.
The handful of discos that feature in Vientiane often include live music and DJs so clubbers are treated to an eclectic mix of cover Western songs, traditional Laos folk music, the latest Thai releases and cheesy western pop both on record and stage. By law clubs are supposed to close by 23:30 hours but this is not always the case. Vienglatry May, on Thanon Lan Xang is open until midnight and is the most popular club in town at the time of writing. Close to the airport is Marina, where you can listen to some Thai techno until the wee hours, in front of this club is Superbowl which has been known to serve beer all night long. The Chess CafÃ© is a favourite amongst backpackers, probably due to the fact that it is one of the few joints in town playing â€˜red hot rock n rollâ€™ , considered as an after hours venue that is often frequented by the expat community.
Live Music Venues
On The Rock Pub is recommended with its intimate, no- thrills vibe. Those who venture in will be within arms reach of the band playing a range of western, Thai and Laos covers. This is a good opportunity to hook up with Vientianeâ€™s alternative crowd and become suitably nostalgic over a few bottles of beer. The US-style, Wild West features Lao-style folk which can be enjoyable over a bite to eat. Be sure to pay a visit to Vientiane's Jazz bar - Snow White & One Dwarf. Drinks are more expensive than your average riverside bar but it's worth it, the door man is indeed a dwarf and the walls are of course white, fitting quite nicely with the chosen jazz of the evening.