The ‘Bamboo Lounge’ cafe in Laos is looking for some help to keep them financially viable over the tourist low season.

Visited Luang Namtha a long time ago, and went on a trek there. I remember the night markets being very nice, and it otherwise being a very quiet town. I remember they had a very simple museum with some old artifacts. It’s definitely somewhere I would like to return to.

Having a look at the campaign I’m quite intrigued what Laos is like seven years after I first visited, and the challenges of running a business there. They included some figures in their campaign and it seems that the total running costs are $24,370 for the four months of the off season. The revenue during this time is only $10,000, with my estimates being only $100 in sales a day at the slowest periods. This results in a net loss of $15,000, which they say they don’t make enough to cover in the high season.

It seems like this business is really struggling with the drop off in tourism as impacted by the political instability in Thailand, a gateway to visiting the country. It must be the same of any individuals whose livelihoods rely on tourism.

I think this example shows the challenges of starting a business in Laos, and building a sustainable business. Like anywhere, the restaurant business is difficult, but one reliant on tourism is also heavily dependent on the political stability in Laos and its neighbours. I admire and wish luck to those trying to succeed.

I have just started reading the opening of the latest edition of Brett Dakin‘s Another Quiet American.

There first few pages are about his recent return to Laos, and are a reflection on the changes since he arrived. I feel I would share some of his sentiments, such as the disgust that Swensens and The Pizza Company chains are now apparently in the city.

Apparently the National Museum has been sold to a developer and may be demolished.

I strongly recommend any recently departed expats download the kindle sample to read the opening few pages.

A few things I learned were that the average age is Laos is less than 20, making it the youngest country in Asia. This really shouldn’t be too surprising in a country whose life expectancy is barely about 50 though.

I recently watched a documentary on Laos called The Most Secret Place on Earth.

It was about how Laos was used by the Americans in the war, and in particular how an airstrip set up just outside Vientiane was at one point in time the busiest airport in the world with planes continually landing every 2 minutes on bombing runs.

One of the most sickening things they mentioned was how the bombers would drop their bombs indiscriminately if they could not reach their target as they could not land with them.

Another fascinating part of the story is how some journalists uncovered where some Hmong people were living and hiding since the end of the war. There are images of these people in tears, thinking that these journalists were finally the Americans had come back to rescue them.

Interesting stuff, and it reveals how naive I still am about the history of the country.

The author of Food from Northern Laos has pointed me to their excellent blog. They have some great photos and stories of Lao food. I can’t wait to go back and try some of these things.

They have a new book available which I will be ordering a copy off.

JoJo in Laos is another Lao food blog I’ve discovered. I’ve learned that Koreans originally used car hub caps to create “Korean BBQs” in South East Asia. What ingenuity. Korean BBQ, or sin-dat is very popular in Vientiane, especially among Lao people. It’s usually buffet style and good value for money.

I have a good friend heading to Laos. They’ve asked me for advice on what to do. I thought what I tell them might be worth sharing with the internet.

My expertise is in Vientiane, having lived there for one year.

Things to do in Vientiane off the top of my head:
– Going for a bike ride along the river. Rent a bicycle, the best you can afford, and take it for a ride. Find some dirt roads. Keep a reference of where the river is. Bring a helmet, sunscreen and some water. Bring the card of your guesthouse. You know you’re out of town when the kids start yelling “Hello, Sabaidee!” and waving.
– Lao Traditional Massage. It’s cheap compared to Western countries, and really good.
– National Museum. Interesting to check it out on a hot day.
– Shooting range, for something different, and if you have a spare $5.
– Fruit shakes, from the fruit shake stands.

TOP 10 Place to eat in Vientiane:
– Kulao: The fanciest and best Lao food in town. I highly recommend going here. The set menu is a stupidly huge amount of food so you’re better off ordering on your own. They do a live show here every night, but tour groups usually take the tables with the best views of the stage. Not that expensive so it’s good value for money.
– Tyna’s Crepes: Really nice dessert crepes. The owner seems pretty friendly. When I was last there some Frenchys were playing poker downstairs.
– Yulala: Contemporary Japanese food. The couple that run it are really nice at attentive. The desserts are divine.
– Sticky Fingers: Australian restaurant serving western food. Always busy, diverse menu, happy hour has cheap drinks on Wednesdays and Fridays.
– La Bennaton: Upmarket version of Croissant D’or but next door. Nice sandwiches but considerably dearer.
– Moon the night: Massive menu of Lao food that is really popular among locals. Might need your accommodation to help you get there. If you want to go to a restaurant people in town would head to, check it out.
– La Terrasse: French-European food, great desserts, good family restaurant, very popular with expats, excellent bread. I really rate this place.
– Chateaux De Cave: French food, nice setting, outdoor BBQ, friendly staff, extensive specials board, quite romantic, relatively expensive.
– Le Central: Excellent French food. Nice setting. Relatively expensive but have a lunch set menu for about $6.
– La Silapa. Worthy of hosting an Australian head of state.

Going to the top of Patu Xai is probably not as good as seeing it from the ground. The french restaurant, Na Dao, is near here and very good.

You can go check out That Luang, but it’s probably more interesting for locals than foreigners.

Wat Sisaket is probably the most worthwhile thing to check out, as far as site seeing is concerned.

It’s a great place to relax, eat good food, and generally chill out. Go to Talat Sao, the morning market, and buy some nice textiles. You could probably bargain 35% off, as a rough guess.

Check out Green Discovery Travel for adventure stuff to do out of town.

Links:
Travelfish Vientiane
Wikitravel Vientiane

Care Australia with Channel 10 ran a fundraising cycling trip to Laos. I think Laos is a pretty awesome place to cycle through. Just driving from Vientiane, to Luang Prabang was pretty amazing. I’m going to add it to my to do before I die list.

CARE Cycle Challenge from CARE Australia on Vimeo.

Here is a Bangkok Post news article regarding music in Vientiane. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but I think it will interest anyone interested in Vientiane or Lao music.

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