Explore the mighty Mekong on the Bounmi, a private, retrofitted Lao slow boat strewn with plush beanbags and cushions. On board, you’ll be supplied with plenty of alcohol, along with tales about the historic waterway. Private itineraries can be tailored, too.
SEE & DO
This quirky little space, dedicated to promoting the works of artists born or based in Laos, is where you can rub shoulders with the local creative community. Opening hours are irregular, so phone ahead to confirm.
Kua Din Market
Get a taste of daily life in Vientiane at this bustling market. Get there early though, as it tends to wind down by 8am.
Pha Tad Ke Botanical Gardens
Laced around the base of the Pha Tad Ke cliffs, this botanical complex and organic farm is the first of its kind in Laos. Check out its ethno-botanic gardens that highlight how flora are used in local medicine, handicrafts and spiritual ceremonies.
Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre
The centre’s new exhibition, Seeds of Culture: From Living Plants to Handicrafts, showcases traditional headdresses and costumes decorated with mak dueay (Job’s Tears) seeds. Discover how nature has always been intertwined with culture, and how cultural practices have changed over time.
It takes some effort to get to this Buddha park located 25km south of the city, but it’s worth the trip. Created in 1958 by a shaman priest called Bounleua Sulilat, it’s full of massive, surreal sculptures that combine elements of Buddhism and Hinduism.
EAT & DRINK
3 Nagas Restaurant & Bar
This charming venue is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in town. Dine al fresco in the courtyard, where you can feast on authentic Lao fare like mee gouy phan (eggplant puree wrapped with fresh rice noodles and vegetables) under the canopy of trees.
Located on Ban That Luang’s leafy streets, this watering hole is housed in a restored mid-century bungalow. With its leather banquettes and art-covered walls, it’s a stylish spot to sip concoctions like the lychee-and-cranberry-infused Pink Lotus.
Doi Ka Noi
Situated in a rustic 1960s house, this colourful restaurant offers a small menu of Lao food that changes daily, depending on the result of the chef’s morning visit to the market.
This cosy wine and tapas bar gets really busy on weekends, thanks to its excellent live music offerings.
Housed in a striking colonial building, this elegant resto is best known for its refined degustation menus. Recently, it has also been putting its own spin on the raw food movement, featuring native herbs and flowers in new dishes.
Le Trio Coffee
This café is the first in the city to source, roast and brew coffee grown in the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos. You’ll find a huge mechanical roaster at the rear of the open-fronted shophouse and an incredible aroma of coffee in the air.
Manda De Laos
This is one of the prettiest outdoor restaurants in the city, with decks, patios and paths laced around striking gardens and lotus ponds. The kitchen team whips up traditional Laotian cuisine with a twist, such as wok-fried buffalo flambéed and served with a shot of lao-lao rice whisky.
Artisans experiment with traditional Lao patterns at this screen-printing studio. Akka, Lanten and Hmong influences are evident on bags, scarves and sarongs. the dainty hemp and leather clutch bags adorned with Hmong motifs are especially popular.
Vientiane Organic Market
If you’re in town on a Wednesday or a Saturday, head to the city’s lovely little organic market, where Lao farmers sell a wide range of fresh and processed foods, rice, coffee and much more. Open from 6am to 12pm.
3 Nagas Luang Prabang MGallery by Sofitel
Set across three restored heritage houses, this elegant boutique hotel melds French architecture with Lao design seamlessly. Its 15 rooms feature dark wood furnishings and four-poster beds, while its address in the heart of town makes it the perfect base from which to explore the charms of Luang Prabang.
This bolthole on the banks of the Nam Khan River fuses the friendliness of a B&B with the polished service of a boutique hotel. Its chic guestrooms are decorated with artworks from the nearby Passa Paa gallery.
Mandala Boutique Hotel
Dating back to the 1960s, this former private home and international school has been converted into a hotel. With just five stylish suites, it offers a genuine boutique experience. There’s also a casual restaurant and a lovely garden on site.
Sofitel Luang Prabang
This century-old French colonial mansion has 25 sublime suites with private terraces, outdoor bathtubs and grand canopy beds, set amid lush tropical gardens. Alfresco restaurant Governor’s Grill serves up lesser-known local dishes such as grilled buffalo meat.
Doi Ka Noi
I:CAT 画廊(I:CAT Gallery)
Le Trio Coffee
夸丁市场 (Kua Din Market)