no longer the illicit pleasure palace it was when Paul Theroux described
it, in his 1975 book The Great Railway Bazaar, as a place
in which ‘The brothels are cleaner than the hotels, marijuana
is cheaper than pipe tobacco and opium easier to find than a cold
glass of beer’. Nowadays, brothels are strictly prohibited,
Talat Sao’s marijuana stands have been removed from prominent
display and cold glass of beer has definitely replaced opium as
the nightly drug of choice. Most of the bars, restaurants and discos
close by 11.30 pm or midnight at the latest.
Vientiane has at least six ‘discos’, though the
tern is rather a misnomer because often the music is live. Although
a younger Lao crowd tends to predominate, there is usually a mix
of generations and the bands or disc jockeys play everything from
electrified Lao folk to quasi-Western pop. By law, all entertainment
places are supposed to close by 11.30 pm and most clubs obey.
Vienglatry May, on Thanon Lan Xang is open until midnight.
Still the most popular place in town, the large Vienglatry May lies
a bit north of Talat Sao. Basically a dance floor surrounded on
there sides by padded sofas and tables, the club features live Lao
bands nightly and also serves food, beer and liquor; by 10.30 pm
the cavernous room is usually packed.
A couple of other Lao nightclubs, past the Novotel between Km 2
and Km 5, with live bands, whirling lights and romantically dark
sitting areas, are Blue Star and Marina, on Thanon
Luang Prabang. The Blue Star has the best Lao house band in town,
and has become the most popular dance spot for upper crust Lao.
The following all have nightly Lao-style discos that are considerably
smaller than the Vienglatry May. At some of these places a charge
will be tacked onto your bill if you are male and one of the female
staff comes and sits at your table.
on Cnr Thanon Heng Boun & Thanon Chao Anou. On the ground floor
of the hotel, Anou Cabaret has maintained its popularity
over many years.
Victory Discotheque, on Thanon
Chao Anou is on the ground floor of The Saysana Hotel. It
is a little more downscale than the Anou Cabaret.
Plaza Hotel, on Thanon Samsenthai has Le Club Disco,
which is the most modern in Laos and has gained loyal local following,
especially among government workers.
Thanon Samsenthai is popular among the Asian business visitors,
and one of the only dance spots likely to get away with staying
open beyond 11.30 pm.
Other nightclubs cab be found at the New Apollo Hotel, on
Thanon Luang Prabang and Royal Dokmaideng Hotel on Thanon
For a city its size Vientiane has fewer bars than one might expect,
less than half a dozen outside of the hotels.
Pub, on Thanon Setthathilat, opposite Wat In Paeng is open 4.00
pm-11.30 pm daily. This well stocked bar has draught Beerlao on
Restaurant-Bar Namphu, on Foutain Circle, is
a tiny, well-serviced watering hole. It is the closest Vientiane
comes to approximating a European style bar.
If you are looking for something with more of a local flavour, and
less expensive than the expat bars, your best bet is one the many
bia sot bars (selling draught beer) around town. These are
usually nondescript rooms filled with wooden tables at the bottom
of a shophouse-look for plastic jugs of beer on the tables.
Cinema & Video
Lao cinema houses died out in the video shop tidal wave of the last
decade or so. However, there are a few non-traditional venues where
films are screened.
Langue Francaise (CLF)
On Thanon Lan Xang. Film titles for the following week are usually
listed in the weekly Vientiane Times or call and check with the
information center. It also has a video rental library.
- US$ 1.10
Screenings – Tuesdays at 7.30 pm, Wednesdays
at 8.00 pm and Saturdays at 3.00 pm.
Embassy Recreation Club
On Thanon Tha Deua. Shows videos on a wide-screen TV. Non-members
Costs for nonmember: US$ 2
for members: US$ 1
Screenings: Sunday at 6.00 pm.
On Thanon Sok Pa Luang. Needs no admission. German-language films
are the focus here.
There are various private video shops around town that hire out
Thai and English language videotapes or video CDs for US$ 0.30 to
US$ 0.80 per night.
On Thanon Setthathilat, opposite Wat Ong Teu, has good selection
of English language videos.