Culture, Food

Nightlife in Laos – Eating at a Beer bar

21 Jan , 2017  

Steamed fish

So what do local restaurants in Luang Prabang look like? Here is your intro to a local “Beer bar”.

I enjoy the odd night out to a local restaurant to enjoy a meal and sometimes a few beers. The food is usually excellent and one of my favourites – sweet and sour whole fish (usually covered in large amounts of chillies) is delicious.

You start with ordering  a few beers or a crate of there are a few people. Some places even allow you to ‘store’ your beer for a week to continue it next time. The idea is you buy 6 and get 6 free. Most of the time I find it expires before I get back to finish it!

Beerlao is served in yellow crates

Beerlao is usually the only alcoholic drink available at these local places. It’s what everyone drinks and very acceptable. Non-alcoholic ice tea and Pepsi is available too. Drunk with large amounts of ice, Beerlao is a saviour on a hot day.

Beerlao crates are used for all sorts of things in Laos and you very often see them stacked up outside homes and shops. They are used as concrete filled weights for umbrella stands, chairs and serve many other purposes.

Most bars have wooden floors which adds to the relaxed charm. All the rubbish from the previous person is simple swept up and away you do, okay that’s not always so charming. Toilet paper is placed on the plastic Beerlao tablecloth as tissues and you are handed a menu and asked how much beer you want.

The menu is all in Lao so luckily I am usually able to tell a friend what I feel like. usually what really happens is something is ordered and I just eat what comes. Sometimes that can be a bit of a surprise but i have grown to enjoy Buffalo lips and “special bile dipping sauce”, a bitter but highly prized liquid. It’s quite edible and as I have discovered in recent years, features in quite a few local dishes.

Charging your mobile phone Lao style

Most places kindly supply mobile phone charging stations as it is compulsory to take selfies and post to Facebook and Instgram with a washed out face and pouty lips – regardless if you are a girl or boy.

It’s a great, relaxed atmosphere. It is not unusual for people to come over to your table and say hi and share a beer. It is customary to refill their glass a number of times but people don’t outstay their welcome and it is a great way to learn a lot about the culture and goings on.

Another custom is to take a birthday cake on your birthday with a table of friends. During the evening the overly-loud music stops, the lights go out and on comes a Happy Birthday song as a birthday cake and candles is paraded to the table of the lucky person. It’s always the same Birthday song, it must be number one on some download website. Some evenings this can occur a number of times. Sometimes singing Happy Birthday is the only English I speak all night.

So that’s an evening at a local restaurant / bar. It is great fun and I highly recommend you go sometime.


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