I have been reading Stickman's readers' submissions for well over a year now and have not seen many reports on Laos. The ones I have read are interesting and I thoroughly enjoy them, but they do not cover the Laos I know.
So, reading the submission from Sawadee2000, I have decided I should submit my own. Upfront I apologise for my English skills, they should be sufficient, but I might lack in vocabulary.
Context, I am a 27 year old European male, at first going to Laos as part of a South-East Asia trip. Fell in love with Laos, and have been back many times.
To my advantage is the fact that I have western expat family in Vientiane that guides me in my exploration of this beautiful city and its people.
Due to my family link in Vientiane, I had the luck of being introduced to locals that introduced me to the nightlife… was I in for a surprise…
My submissions on Laos will involve the nightlife, a topic that hasn't been widely discussed on Stickman, but also something that is beyond what the guide books say.
Guide books vs. reality:
Guide book says 11 pm closing times.
Reality says leave club/bar around 5am.
Guide book says Mekong river is the place.
Reality says Mekong river just has beer bars and restaurants.
Guide book talks about the locals and how to treat them.
Reality says forget about everything when drinking with the locals.
I have been to many places in Vientiane and some others in “city's” around Laos and I will describe all of them. For this submission I will stick to my all time favourite hangout in Vientiane… Marina
The Marina is located on Luang Prabang Road. This means if you take Yoma (every guide book mentions it) and go towards Novotel you will reach it after about 10 minutes on a motorbike. Every tuk-tuk driver knows it, just shout maaaa-leee-naa. Marina is a big bowling centre, and a big night club. Marina is actually strict on following closing times so this might mean you will be on the street again around 2 am. (To set things straight, official closing times are 1 am in Vientiane). What makes me love Marina is the interior and the people that come there. Marina is a night club for everyone, Lao, Thai, Falang, rich, poor, everyone is there, and no one seems to care, everyone is looking for fun.
To give you a mental picture, think Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy enters the strip club. Completely wrong but at the same time good music is playing, loads of neon lighting, and the only way I can interpret the décor 'an actual effort to resemble the Beverly Hills Cop night club'. Think softly shaped tables, loads of chrome, bar stools with leather seats, too much neon for a human being to acknowledge, and a toilet where a lovely man hands out warm towels while trying to practise English.
The music: From start to around 12 it is RmB with the occasional Karaoke in between, from 12 on it is House music.
The people: On our left rich Thai going on a cheap booze cruise with their (yes paid) ladies dressed in nothing but hotpants and bras.
On our right a group of Lao guys sharing a bottle of Johnny Walker.
Behind them some expats drinking more Beer Lao than they should, and they should.
For us a typical evening consists of finding a nice table, ordering a bunch of Beer Lao and Tiger (who can refuse these beer girls) and singing some karaoke songs. Paying the bill can be as you wish, per drink or at the end of the evening. They have never padded my bill and the group I go with prefers the following method. Order a few bottles and pay for them giving a tip, 1 dollar. This ensures that one of the serving staff will stay at the table and pour your drinks. Ask for an extra glass and let the person pouring your drinks join which ensures they will never leave again. Then order as you wish and pay the whole bill when leaving, tip the person that poured the drinks! But don't tip as a Farang would, at least not when with Lao. They do not think you are cool when you tip 5 dollars, they work really hard to earn 5 dollars, 1 dollar is more then enough. Even less would be ok, 5000 KIP would be enough and that is under a dollar.
Having said all of that, nothing is left but really enjoying an evening filled with music and the occasional Karaoke pause. Drinking loads of Beer Lao and having completely weird discussions with Lao / Thai people that you don't know but that are friendly and love a chat with a Farang. The girls are open for chit chat and love to drink and dance. PvP wise I can't really comment, they never asked for money, but… some of them obviously scream “me hooker” from a mile away.
The next submission will be “Night Fever”. A big night club, open late, has a big user manual.
Sounds like a most intriguing venue!