While most urban locals bask in the air-con until dusk, the traditional rural Lao way to cool down is to hop into the nearest river, usually fully clothed. While urban dwellers are less likely to jump in for a dip, it happens from time to time on an unusually hot day and no one will mind if you decide to hop into the Mekong on the Vientiane waterfront or go for a dip in Pakse; just be considerate of fishermen, ferry crossings and riverside establishments.
Also, be aware that Laotians are still fairly conservative about showing skin, and prancing around in wet undergarments is not really the best way to show etiquette. Finally, don’t go for a night-time swim in the Mekong, as it’s guarded after sundown to prevent illegal migration between Laos and Thailand. Of course, arguably the best spot in Laos for some river relaxation is Vang Vieng.
If rivers don’t float your boat and you’re in Vientiane, several swimming pools might do the trick instead. At 15,000 kip for adults and 10,000 for children, the Vientiane public swimming pool is the cheapest choice, with the biggest pool and also the most people. Weekends get crowded, and swimmers may struggle to manoeuvre around children jumping into the lap-pool. Weekdays are quieter, and while school groups come on some days for classes, some lanes are reserved for swimmers. Facilities are basic, so don’t forget to bring a towel.
Sengdara Fitness Centre is a popular spot to go for a swim, with a lap pool and a jacuzzi. It tends to fill up with children on evenings and weekends, but is usually fairly quiet mornings and mid-daytime during the week. A day pass for Sengdara costs 45,000 kip and also grants access to the gym, sauna and steam rooms. Towels are free, but require a 50,000 deposit.
Several hotels have swimming pools and offer day passes to access their facilities, which we’ll cover in our next post.
Vientiane Public Swimming Pool
Rue Phainam, at Rue Lekyhuong
T: (021) 214 894
Open daily 08:00-19:00
Sengdara Fitness Centre
5/77 Th Dong Palan
T: (021) 414061
Open daily 06:00-22:00
Born in Aarhus Denmark, Ivana got her first passport at 6 months old and moved to Southeast Asia in 2009 to work as an English teacher and find new cultural windows in which to peep.