Water purified for drinking purposes is simply called nam deum (drinking water), whether it is boiled or filtered. All water offered to customers in restaurants or hotels will be purified, so one needn't fret about the safety of taking a sip (for more information on water safety, see the Health section earlier in this chapter). Luang Prabang is famous for a type of light rice wine called khao kam, a red tinted, somewhat sweet beverage made from sticky rice. It can be quite tasty when properly prepared and stored, but rather moldy-tasting if not.
Nonalcoholic Drinks Water
Water purified for drinking purposes is simply called nam deum (drinking water), whether it is boiled or filtered. All water offered to customers in restaurants or hotels will be purified, so one needn't fret about the safety of taking a sip (for more information on water safety, see the Health section earlier in this chapter). In restaurants you can ask For nam pao (plain water, which is always either boiled or taken from a purified source) served by the glass at no charge, or order by the bottle. A bottle of carbonated or soda water costs about the same as a bottle of plain purified water but the bottles are smaller.
Lao-grown coffee, is known to be one of the world's best. Unlike the Thai, the Lao tend to brew coffee without adding ground tamarind seed as a flavoring or filler. Traditionally, pure Lao coffee is roasted by wholesalers, ground by vendors and filtered just before serving. On the other hand many Lao restaurants - especially in hotels, guesthouses and other tourist oriented establishments - serve instant coffee with packets of artificial cream, On occasion, restaurants or vendors with the proper accoutrements for making traditional filtered coffee keep a supply of Nescafe just for foreigners. To get authentic Lao coffee ask for kaa-feh thong (literally, bag coffee), which refers to the traditional method of preparing a cup of coffee by filtering the hot water through a bag-shaped cloth filter. Another phrase used on occasion is k(1a-feh 10m (boiled coffee).
The usual brewed coffee is served mixed with sugar and sweetened condensed milk if you don't want either be sure to specify kaa-feh dam (black coffee) followed with baw sai nam-taan (without sugar).
In Central and Southern Laos coffee is almost always served, with a chaser of hot nam saa (weak Chinese tea), while in the north it's typically served with a glass of plain hot water.
Both Indian-style (black) and Chinese style (green or semi-cured) teas an: served in Laos. The latter predominates in Chinese restaurants and is also the usual ingredient in nam saa , the weak, often lukewarm, tea traditionally served in restaurants for free. The teapots commonly seen on tables in. Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants are filled with nam saa: ask for a jawk pao (glass) and you can drink as much as you'd like at no charge. For iced nam saa ask for a glass of nam kawn (ice) and pour your own; for stronger fresh Chinese tea, request saa jiin.
Black tea, both imported and locally grown, is usually available in the same restaurants or food stalls that serve real coffee. An order of saa hawn (hot tea) almost always results in a cup (or glass) of black tea with sugar and condensed milk. As with coffee you must specify beforehand if you want black tea without milk and/or sugar.
Beer Lao Brewery Co (LBC), located on the outskirts of Vientiane, produces the very drinkable Bia Lao, the Romanized name for which is 'Beerlao' (sometimes , spelt 'Beer Lao'). A draught version (bia sot: fresh beer) is so far available only in bars in Vientiane, and like all Beerlao contains 5% alcohol.
Beerlao also comes in glass bottles for a standard US$0.35 to US$0.45 for a 630mL bottle (prices can be much higher in tourist hotels or restaurants). Look for the tiger's head on the label. A smaller 330mL Beerlao is also available in bottles or cans. Heineken and Tiger beer from Singapore come in 330mL cans, costing the same as a 660mL bottle of Beerlao.
In the northern provinces bordering China, various Chinese brands of beer are available - these generally cost about 40% less than Beerlao (but are about 80% less drinkable!).
Rice whisky (lao-lao) is a popular drink among lowland Lao. The best kinds of 111O-lao, are said to come from Phongsali and Don Khong, the northern and southern extremes of the country, but are available virtually everywhere, at around US$0.15 to US$0.30 per 750mL bottle. Strictly speaking, lao-lao is not legal but no-one seems to care. The government distils its own brand, Sticky Rice, which costs around US$I a bottle.
Lao-lao is usually drunk neat, with a plain water chaser. In a Lao home the pouring and drinking of lao-lao at the evening meal takes on ritual characteristics. Usually towards the end of the meal, but occasionally beforehand, the hosts bring out a bottle of the stuff to treat their guests. The usual procedure is for the host to pour one jigger of Lao onto the floor or a used dinner plate first, to appease the house spirits. The host then pours another jigger and downs it in one gulp. Jiggers for each guest are poured in turn; guests must take at least one offered drink or risk offending the house spirits.
In rural provinces, a weaker version of lao-lao known as lao-hai (jar liquor) is fermented by households or villages. Lao-hai is usually drunk from a communal jar using long reed straws. It's not always safe to drink, however, since unbolted water is often added to it during and after the fermentation process. Tourist hotel bars in the larger cities carry the standard variety of liquors.
In Vientiane there are decent French and Italian wines abundantly available at restaurants, in shops specializing in imported foods and in a few shops which sell nothing but wine. You will also find a limited selection in Luang Probang, Savannakhet and Pakse. Wines of Australian . American, South African, Chilean and other origins are so far sadly neglected. Whatever the origin, wines in Laos are much less expensive than in neighboring Thailand be cause the import tax is much lower.
Luang Prabang is famous for a type of light rice wine called khao kam, a red tinted, somewhat sweet beverage made from sticky rice. It can be quite tasty when properly prepared and stored, but rather moldy-tasting if not.