Places to Eat in Vang Vieng
For many travellers and backpackers in Southeast Asia, the cheap, delicious food is one of the best parts of their travel experience. Vang Vieng, however, is somewhat of an anomaly; many travellers here are disappointed by the underwhelming restaurant selection.
The menus from restaurant to restaurant are widely the same, offering limited traditional Lao food and less-than-stellar Western food. This is not to say that you’ll eat poorly while in Vang Vieng, but simply that this is not the place to come if you’re looking to satisfy a gourmet palate through fine dining.
What to eat in Vang Vieng
Having said that, there are still plenty of great foods and restaurants to check out in Vang Vieng. You’ll find plenty of “pancake” stalls around town, featuring the famous fried treats throughout Southeast Asia for which the banana pancake trail is named.
One of the traditional Lao dishes that you’ll want to try is laap, which is a type of delicious, spicy salad made of minced meat (usually chicken or pork, but can also be made with other meats), and usually served with sticky rice. (You’ll also find laap in Thailand, though the different herbs and spices used between the two countries make for slightly different tastes in Thai laap vs. Lao laap).
Soups are also common in Laos, either rice or noodle soups that are flavoured with various spices and herbs. As tourism to Vang Vieng from other Asian countries increases, the restaurant selection has become a bit more diverse with some places offering Korean or Indian food to help cater to tourists from those countries.
In keeping with Vang Vieng’s party reputation, another item that you’ll be seeing on some menus around Vang Vieng are “happy” foods, such as ”happy shakes” or “happy pizzas.” These items aren’t “happy” because they’re so delicious—the “happy” part refers to the psilocybin mushrooms or marijuana in these food items. So order these items with care, and be aware that drug use is illegal in Laos!
Because Vang Vieng is so small, there is really only one central area of the town where most of the restaurants and accommodations are located—so most of the places talked about here are relatively close to each other, and in easy walking distance of each other.
For budget local eats do not go further than the main street. The string of low-key Lao restaurants with traditional seating areas on the floor around the low table are quite a good choice. You’ll be treated for some popular Lao or Thai dishes which you can wash down with arguably the best local beer in the whole region. We recommend opting for dark Beerlao – it definitely deserves recognition.
Kangaroo Sunset Restaurant and Bar is one of Vang Vieng’s better known restaurants (especially known for their burgers), with a lovely pavilion area that makes the perfect spot for watching the sunset with dinner and a beer.
Luang Prabang Bakery is another popular spot in Vang Vieng, especially for breakfast—the array of Western-style baked goods is appealing to Western tourists who don’t want savoury foods for breakfast.
Vang Vieng Organic Farm is located a bit further away from the central backpacker area, north of the town. Because it’s not in easy walking distance, that means it’s a lot less busy than many of the spots in town, but the food here is fresh and delicious. It’s close to the starting point for most of the tubing trips in town, so you could always eat here before starting a tubing trip—or you could make the trip up here just for the restaurant itself.
The two spots in Vang Vieng that cater to the nightlife scene are Sakura and Gary’s Irish Bar, located across the street from each other on a corner down the road from Central Backpackers Hostel. Gary’s offers a lot of the traditional European pub style food, in the form of burgers, chips, potatoes, gravy, etc, so this is the place to go if you’re looking for a bit of comfort food from home. Sakura is more well-known for its drinks and late-night party vibes rather than an extensive food menu, and this is where you’ll find the alcohol flowing freely into the night.
Despite its somewhat mediocre reputation in terms of food, there’s plenty to eat in Vang Vieng; a casual stroll through the town will present you with several options in the form of restaurants or food stalls.