Photo: Plain of Jars.

Eat and meet

The menu is limited at Keo Kong. The laap has a little kick and a lot of zest, the spring rolls are fresh and tasty, and the curry is creamy with well balanced flavours. The atmosphere is pretty cool, with a wooden balcony in the front garden offering cushion seating on the floor. Old bomb casings and war remnants decorate the garden, and one particularly large example serves as the fireplace for a small open fire on busy evenings. At night they often screen a documentary about the war and its effects, particularly focusing on the local devastation. It’s a good place to meet other backpackers, particularly if you’re looking to join a group tour of the Plain of Jars the next day.

Opening early and serving a decent Western breakfast, Craters Pub and Restaurant offers an extensive Western and Lao menu. There are also well done Thai favourites. Located across from the MAG museum/information point, this central location means that Craters sees a great deal of trade. The craters theme runs through the entire bar, from the large bomb shells at its entrance to the photo history on the walls of mine clearing in and around the area. Prices are reasonable, but a little higher than shop restaurants in the neighbourhood; however the food is served to a high quality. Give the burgers a miss though.

One of the best places in town to have a meal and a drink in a laidback vibe is Bamboozle! Restaurant and Bar. It has a menu of Lao and Western food including yummy mulberry pancakes, very respectable fruit and yogurt, tasty and good quality pad thai and fantastic omelettes and baguettes. Prices here are very competitive and accordingly the place is often packed to the rafters with not a seat available. The best time to come for dinner is after the rush at about 21:00 – before this you may have to wait a while for your meal. If you need a stiff drink after the long bus ride into town, the bar is open quite late and offers international spirits for around 25,000 kip. This is a top spot and has free WiFi. Located across from Nice Hotel and next to Nisha Restuarant.

Simmaly Restuarant is on the main road between the main intersection and Dok Khoune Hotel and is a favourite among locals. And so it should be with massive portions, low prices and delicious food. Simple fried noodles come piled high and are accompanied by veggies and half a lime. The lemon juice is refreshing on those days when the sun is blisteringly hot. Try this place at least once when you’re in town. A side note is that over the past few years when we’ve been here, we’ve seen some local street kids grow up fed on the food of customers who can’t finish their dishes. Often they will hang around until customers leave and then grab their plates before the staff have time to take them away. They’re friendly, but hungry and we can only assume that this sort of depressing thing will go on for them. A truly sad side to a great restaurant.

Nisha Restaurant is another fantastic restaurant in Phonsavan. Sometimes it’s packed, sometimes it’s empty. Do not let the fact that it might be empty put you off as the food is fresh – perhaps a rush of customers was in there at lunch time or just before you arrived. The Indian food here is stunning and the prices are fair for the quality. A full range of curries and breads are on offer -- we’ve tried quite a few of them and every single one has been extremely tasty. The chicken tikka masala is highly recommended as is the Indian chai tea. There’s some good tourist information on the walls and it’s worth checking out before you leave town otherwise you may just end up seeing the jars and nothing else. Be aware that in the high season the kitchen can become snowed under and meal service can be slow, but the wait is worth it. Nisha is highly recommended.

The name of this restaurant says it all and is somewhat off-putting, but there is nothing to fear about Lao-Falang Restaurant as it’s a top spot. A menu of Lao and Western food with delicious if pricey pizzas being a highlight. The restaurant screens fascinating documentaries every night about the secret war and many enjoy a beer and meal in front of the big screen surprised at the new knowledge they’re gaining about what happened in the local area just 40 years ago. The restaurant can also organise minibuses and motorbikes and also exchanges foreign currency. Located on the side road across from Nice Guesthouse and next to White Orchid Guesthouse, Lao-Falang Restaurant is another good eating option in town. Free WiFi.

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Phonsavan? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Laos.

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