July 2007


I’ve just found an internet site that claims there is a shooting range in Vientiane, next to the national stadium. They are open every day from 09:00 till 17:00. I’ve read it’s “through a small doorway into the National Stadium opposite the swimming pool”.

One to check out on the weekend.

On Friday night I had the honour of attending the world’s largest Baci ceremony. A Baci is a traditional Lao ceremony in which guardian souls are called back to the body for good luck and good health. They’re held at many different types of special occasions such as house warmings, weddings, funerals and births.

The Baci ornament, called a  pha khuan, looks like a Xmas tree. Its an upside down ice-cream cone like shape, covered with banana leaves. Off it hang orange marigold flowers (800 kg of them for this one) and white cotton strings. People take the white cotton strings off the ornament and tie them on to people’s wrist to wish them good luck and good health.

This Baci ornament was 10m high, 6m wide and had a structure composed of bamboo and steel. It took 10 people two weeks to build it.  Nine boiled chickens were arranged as a offering under the ornament. A ordinary Baci ornament is usually only 1m high.

In addition to the big Baci ornament were 35 local or provincial restaurants all serving free food and alcohol. That’s right, it was all free! One restaurant was pouring out free Johnny Reds and Soda. Another had a tank full of live crayfish that they were BBQ’ing. There was a crushing line surging around that restaurant. It seemed surreal to find such a generous free food and drink festival here in Laos.

The most astounding beverage at the food festival was a massive jar of rice whisky with two straws sticking out from it. On it was the sign “Free Alcohol from Udomxai province. Please try”. I saw quite a few Lao people take up the free booze offer.

A volunteer friend managed to bring a smaller jar of rice whisky back from the northern provinces on a Lao Airlines airplane. He took it on as carry on luggage, all 3 litres , and sat with the massive jar of alcohol on his lap. It’s an interesting contrast to all the other airlines that will interrogate you over an undeclared tube of toothpaste.

He brought the jar to a house party at my house on the weekend. Most of the foreigners were too scared to try more than a smidgen of it, but the Lao people there loved it. They polished off the jar then refilled it with beer.

http://laobumpkin.blogspot.com

http://www.laoyp.com/

http://thai-laos-food.blogspot.com/ 

I’ve returned from my Thailand holiday to Phuket and Bangkok. I’ll start this post with a brief summary of the trip.

The first half of my trip was spent visiting the Phi Phi islands off Phuket with three friends from Australia. We stayed on the island of Phi Phi Don, meters from the beach. Apart from run ins with poisonous snakes and giant scorpions, it was a really nice place to stay. Phi Phi Leh is a nearby national park where we made a day trip to. It is arguably the most beautiful beach in the world. So beautiful in fact that they made a movie there called “The Beach”.

The second half of my trip was in Bangkok watching the Socceroos play against Iraq and Thailand.  They played abyssmally against Iraq. My friends and I were really close to where the players left the stadium which gave us a great opportunity to scream abuse at the Australian team.

The game against Thailand was much better. We had to win by 3-0 to qualify. We ended winning 4-0. I’ve got some good photos of the celebrating and will post them shortly.

Bangkok is a pretty cool city. They have awesome markets and really awesome food courts. I managed to buy a whole live crab in a food court for only $16 AUD. I visited one market at bought about 10 shirts and tshirts, that’s the equivalent of 5 years clothes shopping for me.

My family visited me this week for four days. We managed to visit quite a number of Vientiane’s finest restaurants. They were impressed by the quality of food available for such a low price.

Le Central is a French restaurant that has a 3 course set lunch for only $6.5. It’s one of the nicest restaurants in Vientiane. I have also been there for dinner and found the menu to be good value for money. The average mains are $8 to $10. The construction taking place outside the restaurant will certainly have hurt the restaurant’s business.

Chateaux De La Cave (or something like that) is another restaurant near Nam Phu (the water fountain). You can get a set menu with steak there for only $6, even for dinner.

Just away from the water fountaine is a Crepe restaurant. I’ve tried the dessert crepes here and thought they were very nice. It’s rather pricey though, at about $3.5 to $5.5 for a dessert crepe.

Ku Lao is the nicest looking Lao restaurant I’ve been to in Vientiane. The menu is very extensive but not too expensive. It’s probably double what you would pay at the lower end Lao restaurants, but they have a free performance of musicians and dancers every night. The mains seemed to be about $3 to $5 on average.

I visited Xyaoh cafe for the first time. They have a range of western and lao food. On Sundays they are a British roast, which is $5.5 and includes a beer lao. You get Yorkshire pudding,  a load of roast vegetables and a just adequate serving of roast meat. It’s a pretty good meal and good value for money.

I am going to try and keep my restaurant bills and put up scanned images of them on this blog. This will give a better idea of the prices and food available at various restaurants in Vientiane.

There is a Lao Cultural show in Vientiane. It’s pretty good. For $7 you get a 1 hour show with about a dozen performers and a dozen different performances. Some are dances, some a songs. The costumes are quite interesting. The lonely planet guide describes the show as “professional” and I agree. At the end the audience even gets the chance to get up on stage and dance with the performers. Just another tourist thing to do in Vientiane.

http://www.hosman.com/photoslaos/

Here’s a really interesting blog site of a couple that got married in Laos. It has good general information about Laos for any upcoming visitors.

http://stickyrice.wordpress.com/

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