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Vientiane, Laos

(Mid-2023, 1 MONTH)

Laos (pronounced LAO) is not lousy...he he.

Vientiane’s city centre is laid out in a grid of one-way streets bordered by the Mekong river and Quai Fa Ngum to the south, Samsenthai Road to the north, Chou Anou Road in the west and the Presidential Palace on the eastern edge. Everything here is easy walking distance to the Mekong and night market.

Let's compare Phnom Penh to Vientiane: Phnom Penh is larger and more expensive except for the TukTuks. Vientiane has a tranquil, almost town-like vibe, fewer tourists, and a nice climate (both cooler and less humid). Phnom Penh has more nightlife options including Bassac, a walking street. Both border the Mekong River. Both have alien languages that don't really work with common translation apps. Phnom Penh has a workout culture, while Vientiane has nice, but mostly empty gyms.

  • Laos is the 'most bombed country' in the world per capita, as a result of heavy aerial attacks in the 60s and 70s during the Vietnam War.
  • No country will accept Laotian currency.
  • Best Coffee Shop: Naked Espresso
  • Best restaurant: 525 (unheard of 4.9 rating for a restaurant with almost 200 reviews)
  • Lao people add an insane amount of spices to already spiced and flavorful food: ginger, fish sauce, 3 types of spicy sauce, lime juice, oyster sauce
  • Look up: Naga fireballs or 'ghost lights'. Things that shoot upwards from the Mekong river.
  • Neither a morning nor evening city. In the mornings, not many out walking, few in cafe's or coworking spots, no one in gym's. At night, you can find a bar, but it's quite calm.
  • No traffic! No horns!
  • Neat experiences, day, and weekend trips
    • Gibbon Experience (13hrs from Vientiane): stay in a treehouse for 2-nights for Gibbon viewing in Nam Kan National Park
    • Luang Prabang (6hrs from Vientiane): 2nd biggest city w/ Kuang Si Waterfall
  • Many places do NOT accept credit card including high-end restaurants, modern coffee shops, even larger purchases like my 1M KIP ($50) electric scooter rental
  • One of five communist nations including China, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea.
    • Interestingly, I asked various Laotians 'what makes Laos communist' and all of them had no idea. Neither do I. It's not a main focus of their lives, neither is politics.
  • The KFC of Laos: Khouvieng Fried Chicken
  • Fanciest restaurant with an unobstructed view of the Mekong: 360 @ Eleven
  • Unlike many countries across the globe, usually no problem paying with the largest bill (100k kip)
  • Sepak Takraw is the national sport of Laos and also the most popular one
  • The level of barbers in the Asian countries, even if you pay Western prices, is really low. Even they don't straight trim your beard the same length. Ask for a 2, they go over it once and call it a day.
  • Fun fact: don't touch someone on the top of the head as it's considered sacred.
  • In the 18th century, the king died with no clear heir splitting the country into three kingdoms

Basic Laotian Language Guide

Hello - Sa-Bye-Dee

Yes - Dai

OMG! - Ba-Ti-Thoo

Thank You - Khop-Chai

You're Welcome - Bo-Pen-Yang

Good Morning - Sa-Bye-Dee Thon-Saow

Comparison of two similar cities, Vientiane and Phnom Penh, both of which I spent one month.
Known For: Larb, communism
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CITY IMPRESSIONS

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I choose the items below as they’re generally available everywhere. Thus, easy for comparison. The prices reflect the cheapest option given my standard. In any estination you can find slightly cheaper prices if you wanted to sacrifice convenience (ie going to local market or out-of-town grocery store).
ITEM
  • Airbnb Nightly Rate
  • Coworking Day Pass
  • 1-Hour Massage
  • 1-Month Gym
  • Beard Trim
  • 16.9oz Water
  • 2KG Wash+Fold
  • Expresso
  • Salmon
  • Chicken Breast
  • Almonds
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Red Wine
LAOTIAN KIPS (LAK)
  • 1,832,470
  • 100,000
  • 150,000
  • 980,000
  • 30,000
  • 3,000
  • 15,000/KG
  • 20,000
  • 440,000/KG
  • 98,000/KG
  • 392,000/KG
  • 400/KG
  • -/KG
US DOLLARS ($)
  • 83
  • 4.53
  • 6.79
  • 44
  • 1.36
  • 0.14
  • 0.31/LB
  • 0.91
  • 9/LB
  • 2.06/LB
  • 8.07/LB
  • 8.24/LB
  • 0.00/LB
  • 0
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