It’s the most prominent building in the downtown Vientiane skyline, the tallest and biggest building in Laos. You can seem it from 5km away, jutting up from the banks of the Mekong. It’s Vientiane’s other concrete monstrosity, after Patuxay. Like the sun, it hurts your eyes if you look straight at it. It’s website describes its location as being “strategically located along the infamous Mekong River”.

Don Chan Palace

Lao people say that it is haunted and don’t want to stay overnight there. They say that a water dragon (Naga) lived in the area it was built and it’s construction has made it angry. I’ve was told in Luang Prabang a Naga lives in certain parts of the river which makes people reluctant to swim there. I’ve was also told that several people died during the construction of the building and that their ghosts now haunt the building.

The story behind why Don Chan has to do with a Malaysian money laundering scheme. Apparently the Don Chan project was just a way to clean money. This explains why such a hideous and inappropriately large building has been constructed.

Don Chan sounds like a the name of the Lao equivilant of a mafia godfather. The real story is rather dull. Don just means island, and Chan is the name of the island. Don Chan is a small sand island on the banks of the Mekong where the building is located. I really wonder how strong the foundations of the building are. As far as I can tell, it must have been built over sand.

It’s the last place to close in town, somehow avoiding the curfew imposed on other establishments and remaining open until 3:30am.

The music is, to put it bluntly, f**king terrible. Other volunteers have told me they have heard the same song played 3 times while they’ve been there. An Italian volunteer I met was so annoyed by the ordinary quality of the music that she pushed her way into the DJ booth. What she found was a computer with winamp on shuffle and a mp3 play list. This probably explains why things bounce between Thai Pop to US Hip Hop seemingly without reason. They really need a volunteer there to do some capacity building.