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Discover why Laos is the world’s next great foodie destination


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Laos-2500x1406.jpeg

 

BY ANDREW NELSON

 

Flavorful. Soulful. Beautiful. Head to Louangphabang to taste the best of Southeast Asia.

 

Sometimes a portal isn’t a door. It’s a bowl of soup.

 

Raise a spoonful of tom kha kai, a traditional Laotian coconut chicken soup, to your lips, and a tantalizing perfume of lemongrass, lime, and galangal wafts upward. Its scent is sublime and earthy, hot and sour. The fragrant plume comes with a peppery kick. The sensation is vivid, somehow poignant, and utterly transporting.

 

The memory brings a smile as I stand in a line of passengers at Louangphabang airport, in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. I’ve traveled 9,000 miles to Southeast Asia inspired by Van Nolintha, a charismatic 32-year-old Laotian-American restaurateur in Raleigh, North Carolina, whose inventive renditions of his childhood dishes from his native land have earned the acclaim of diners and food critics alike.

 

Now I’ve come for a taste of the real thing. Upon leaving the airport, my first views of Laos are the Phou Thao and Phou Nang mountain ranges, which surround the ancient royal city of Louangphabang like an embrace. The slopes are lush with trees that comb and catch the low-lying clouds. As I enter the city, a cluster of motorbikes overtakes my taxi, trailing fumes and impatience. A teenage girl, sitting sidesaddle in a Laotian silk tube skirt called a sinh, flashes past. Her face is inches from her smartphone. She’s texting furiously, oblivious to her young driver and the pushy traffic puddling up behind us, which includes four Toyota vans packed with Chinese tourists. Their wide-brimmed sun hats curl against the steamy windows. 

 

Continue reading: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/what-to-eat-and-where-in-luang-prabang

 

-- National Geographic

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have only been once but I loved the place, the people and the food.   Once the pandemic is over I will be visiting again.  I have been wondering if I might rather live in Louangphabang rather than Thailand.

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"Laos is the world’s next great foodie destination"

Whenever I went, there was hardly any food available, and that was usually purchased in Makro over the border in Thailand. I dread to imagine the food shortages with all the borders closed.

 

Great place to eat if you want a bread roll and a bag of oddly flavoured crisps.

Edited by BritManToo
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9 minutes ago, Adelphi said:

I have only been once but I loved the place, the people and the food.   Once the pandemic is over I will be visiting again.  I have been wondering if I might rather live in Louangphabang rather than Thailand.

Luang Prabang isn’t Laos. IMHO just some overpriced tourist attraction - I know some people like it, that’s fair play -

 

I only went once, during Chinese New Year, the place was packed, I had never seen so many people in all the months of traveling solo on a bike in Laos. I couldn’t get to an ATM, the police kept on telling me I couldn’t park places but Chinese tour buses could, I paid 3x the amount for rice congee and accused of not paying for a coffee that I ordered and didn’t receive. Vowed never to return, there and Van Vieng. 

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2 hours ago, Adelphi said:

I have only been once but I loved the place, the people and the food.   Once the pandemic is over I will be visiting again.  I have been wondering if I might rather live in Louangphabang rather than Thailand.

We had plans to travel throughout Laos in our new SUV.

Then the pandemic hit.

 

Hopefully in a year or so.

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15 hours ago, Adelphi said:

I have only been once but I loved the place, the people and the food.   Once the pandemic is over I will be visiting again.  I have been wondering if I might rather live in Louangphabang rather than Thailand.

I've been settled in Luang Prabang for almost 3 years.  There is an excellent choice of food - Lao, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, French etc. I've lived in Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos - the latter (Luang Prabang, not Vientiane or any other Lao locations), wins hands down.

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15 hours ago, BritManToo said:

"Laos is the world’s next great foodie destination"

Whenever I went, there was hardly any food available, and that was usually purchased in Makro over the border in Thailand. I dread to imagine the food shortages with all the borders closed.

 

Great place to eat if you want a bread roll and a bag of oddly flavoured crisps.

Where were you?  Vientiane seems on par with Nong Khai, certainly not my ideal place!

 

But you are correct about food shortages of basic foodstuffs.  Here in Luang Prabang, there are regular shortages of basic products in the supermarkets, but the street market usually has them.

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15 hours ago, recom273 said:

Luang Prabang isn’t Laos. IMHO just some overpriced tourist attraction - I know some people like it, that’s fair play -

 

I only went once, during Chinese New Year, the place was packed, I had never seen so many people in all the months of traveling solo on a bike in Laos. I couldn’t get to an ATM, the police kept on telling me I couldn’t park places but Chinese tour buses could, I paid 3x the amount for rice congee and accused of not paying for a coffee that I ordered and didn’t receive. Vowed never to return, there and Van Vieng. 

Lol, I think they saw you coming!  I am one of the most miserly, tight-fisted expats that exists.  If I say that living in Luang Prabang is cheap, then it must be true :)My 10,000 baht/month  house just 100 metres from the Mekong, water bill is $3/month, electricity $30/month, fresh salad every day from an upmarket restaurant in town is $3.  I have never even spoken with a policeman in 3 years.  Some people seem to attract problems - maybe that's you 🙂

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On my only trip to Laos, I DID very much like the people. Even the police were friendly. I don't know what I expected from a Communist country, but Laos was nothing like China or North Korea. A taxi driver walked me through the entire visa process at the Thai consulate. I was amazed at the efficiency. I don't think I would want to live there because it is a bit too "laid back" for me and there are laws against cohabiting with the local women. I much preferred the "wild west" atmosphere of Cambodia.

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1 hour ago, simon43 said:

Where were you?  Vientiane seems on par with Nong Khai, certainly not my ideal place!

 

But you are correct about food shortages of basic foodstuffs.  Here in Luang Prabang, there are regular shortages of basic products in the supermarkets, but the street market usually has them.

Suvannakhet VISA runs ..........

I started going for a week, but there was nothing to do, nothing to see and nothing to eat. After 4-5 visits I'd got it down to one night (2 days), just enough time for 2 trips to immigration. Then I discovered the same VISA was available for the same price in Saigon, and never returned. 

 

I remember breakfast was a bread roll and a fried egg, but they didn't know how to cook fried eggs without breaking the yolk, and couldn't do scrambled eggs. I thought of showing the girl how to cook eggs, but decided life was too short.

 

It sure was a foodie paradise!

 

It seems to me, if you're gonna publish travel stories, it might be a good idea to find a writer that's actually been to these places, and not a guy that just makes up a story after watching some bloggers Youtube video or reading an entry in Lonely Planet.

Edited by BritManToo
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58 minutes ago, simon43 said:

Lol, I think they saw you coming!  I am one of the most miserly, tight-fisted expats that exists.  If I say that living in Luang Prabang is cheap, then it must be true :)My 10,000 baht/month  house just 100 metres from the Mekong, water bill is $3/month, electricity $30/month, fresh salad every day from an upmarket restaurant in town is $3.  I have never even spoken with a policeman in 3 years.  Some people seem to attract problems - maybe that's you 🙂


Err no .. maybe it was the location. I pulled off the road at around 5 the night before and stayed in a guest house, I say guest house, but it’s the usual concrete block set of rooms for $3 a night in a village about an hour out from LP and rode in at first light.

 

I needed some cash, to get something to eat - I stopped off at a couple of ATM around the temple and around some nice hotels. I was told I couldn’t stop there, no markings on the floor, just some police officers along with security guards ushering in the coaches upon coaches of Chinese. 
 

I guess it’s the same if you tried the same around any big tourist attraction or big hotel, but I can recall everywhere I wanted to stop was a painted curb or security guard, it wasn’t the Laos that I knew. 
 

Of course, anywhere will be cheaper if you live and understand how it works.

 

But to me It’s just a tourist bubble, and to believe anything this travel writer says, you must be born yesterday. 

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6 minutes ago, recom273 said:


Err no .. maybe it was the location. I pulled off the road at around 5 the night before and stayed in a guest house, I say guest house, but it’s the usual concrete block set of rooms for $3 a night in a village about an hour out from LP and rode in at first light.

 

I needed some cash, to get something to eat - I stopped off at a couple of ATM around the temple and around some nice hotels. I was told I couldn’t stop there, no markings on the floor, just some police officers along with security guards ushering in the coaches upon coaches of Chinese. 
 

I guess it’s the same if you tried the same around any big tourist attraction or big hotel, but I can recall everywhere I wanted to stop was a painted curb or security guard, it wasn’t the Laos that I knew. 
 

Of course, anywhere will be cheaper if you live and understand how it works.

 

But to me It’s just a tourist bubble, and to believe anything this travel writer says, you must be born yesterday. 

Do the Chinese run Laos? Loads of Chinese tourists is where the money is at. Why would they care about you parking? Sad. The Chinese are hardly "laid back".

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1 hour ago, Nickelbeer said:

but Laos was nothing like China or North Korea.

Have you been to China?

 

Sounds like you haven't, because China is a lot more open and friendly (but weird) than Laos. Nobody in China cared if I had a local woman in my room, or where I was going or what I was doing. Agree that the food in China was (surprisingly) as bad as the food in Laos.

 

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7 minutes ago, BritManToo said:

Suvannakhet VISA runs ..........

I started going for a week, but there was nothing to do, nothing to see and nothing to eat.

After 4-5 visits I'd got it down to one night (2 days), just enough time for 2 trips to immigration.

 

I remember breakfast was a bread roll and a fried egg, but they didn't know how to cook fried eggs without breaking the yolk, and couldn't do scrambled eggs. I though of showing the girl how to cook eggs, but decided life was too short.

 

It sure was a foodie paradise!

LOL - you are talking about eggs in Sav, not LP. But you would think that they could make a French omelette, they can manage it in VN.

 

That place must be dead as these days, but yeah, there are some nice places to eat around the square, but when compared to CNX, they are nothing, there used to be a crispy pork and char su place on the high street - they used to give you warm ketchup as the sauce. Blurghh! 

Over the years I have ordered the duck breast in the French restaurant on the square and it came from the microwave, had a pizza from chez Bruce that tasted like tomato paste on a rich tea biscuit.

 

But anyway, we are getting lost, it’s not Laos cuisine, it’s International - but totally agree, all those ingredients came from Thailand and used none of the techniques passed down from their colonial heritage.

 

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1 minute ago, elgenon said:

Do the Chinese run Laos? Loads of Chinese tourists is where the money is at. Why would they care about you parking? Sad. The Chinese are hardly "laid back".

Yes, they do now .. with the belt and road, high speed link. 
 

It was the time of year, that time I rode up from Pakse, and went all the way up to the Botan border with China. Spending time in Sam Nua, there were some excellent mountain roads in Udomxai then came back to Thailand into Nan. Every corner I turned after Vientiane (slight exaggeration) there was an oncoming car with blue plates flashing his lights at me, a lot were in some rally, they just treat Laos as a tourist zoo. 
 

Yeah, why would they worry about me running to the ATM for 30 seconds? But it was like a factory, one coach load after another offloading the hoards to visit the temple, going to hotel or visiting the gift shops.

 

 

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I'll be quite honest and say that although I have visited Vientiane on may occasions, also Savannakhet, Pakse etc, I would never, ever consider them as a place to live in Laos!  The only place meets my requirements is Luang Prabang.  If I couldn't live there, then it's likely that I would move countries 🙂

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10 hours ago, simon43 said:

Lol, I think they saw you coming!  I am one of the most miserly, tight-fisted expats that exists.  If I say that living in Luang Prabang is cheap, then it must be true :)My 10,000 baht/month  house just 100 metres from the Mekong, water bill is $3/month, electricity $30/month, fresh salad every day from an upmarket restaurant in town is $3.  I have never even spoken with a policeman in 3 years.  Some people seem to attract problems - maybe that's you 🙂

I wonder how your electric is so cheap.  Nice!

 

Electric here Thailand always seems so darned expensive.  Especially for the terrible wages they earn here.

 

 

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10 hours ago, MrJ2U said:

I wonder how your electric is so cheap.  Nice!

 

Electric here Thailand always seems so darned expensive.  Especially for the terrible wages they earn here.

 

 

I can get a 30 USD a month electric bill, as long as I use only fans and don't run the aircon.

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6 hours ago, Nickelbeer said:

I can get a 30 USD a month electric bill, as long as I use only fans and don't run the aircon.

I live on my own, running 2 powerful studio lights about 8 hours/day for my online teaching, fan and aircon when I need it, (which isn't often - my house is naturally cool).

 

As I said, I find living in Luang Prabang VERY cheap if one is happy with a modest lifestyle.  Give me 'nice nature'  over 'naughty nipples' any day 🙂

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7 hours ago, Nickelbeer said:

I can get a 30 USD a month electric bill, as long as I use only fans and don't run the aircon.

I think its a bit cooler in Laos at night, right?

 

We're using two aircons and a pool pump all day.

Still better than the USA as water is very cheap

 

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