People watching riverside
Great coffee and croissants are never far away in Vientiane, with more than a dozen cafes all vying for business in the few blocks that front the river near Wat Ong Theu. One of the best spots for people-watching is Cafe Sinouk, which serves its own brand of coffee grown on their plantations in the Bolaven Plateau, southern Laos.
With its French writing on wide glass windows and line of tables set on a terrace facing a bustling street corner, Cafe Sinouk captures the feel of a Parisian cafe better than any other in the Lao capital. Considering that the Lao owner, Sinouk himself, lived in France for decades, this comes as no surprise.
We dig the tables with glass tops covering partitions of coffee beans, some roasted and others fresh, allowing you to see the sorts of beans from which the coffee in your hand was brewed. If you don’t want to hear the chatter of the tuk tuk drivers who hang around the corner, grab a seat in the air-conditioned interior with tasteful black-and-white photos of old Paris street scenes on the walls.
Sinouk is a Lao coffee producer, so the Arabica brew served here comes straight from their own plantations in southern Laos. Pouches of the coffee, including a mild and light Scandinavian blend, and a dark, robust Italian blend, can be purchased by the cup or by the bag. Sinouk also produces some very good Lao teas, including smoked green and oolong.
The food is casual French cafe style, with quality salads and baguettes displayed alongside irresistible croissants — go for the almond variety. After a long day of sightseeing, treat yourself to a delicious creme brulee, lemon tart or slice of flan. Classic coffee shop standards like brownies and chocolate chip cookies are also available. If caffeine isn’t your thing, go for a cold Beer Lao or fresh squeezed lime juice.
Though prices are a tad higher than some cafes — 20,000 kip for an Americano and 12,000 for a croissant — the atmosphere and quality makes it worth it. The WiFi also works better than most places in Vientiane, though the cafe is really more suited to casual conversation than doing work.
Sinouk also has locations on Samsenthai Road as well as near Vientiane’s morning market, and they run a cafe/resort down in Pakse. If you’re in the coffee business, their fresh beans can be purchased in wholesale quantities for export.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 7th July, 2015.