Photo: Pick your poison.

Ban Xang Hai

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At Ban Xang Hai, a Mekong village north of Luang Prabang, visitors can see the process of making lao-Lao, the country’s beloved rice whiskey, second only to BeerLao in popularity. A visit is usually included on boat trips to Pak Ou Cave. The village is very touristy but can be enjoyable as a short stop that’s part of a bigger trip.

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Lao-Lao is an integral part of Lao culture. It’s used in blessing ceremonies, and as a guest in any village, don’t be surprised if you are offered a shot of the firewater (or a large glass!) no matter what time of day. Accepting a shot or even a sip is a sure way to make fast friends with the locals. It’s also a sure way of instantly growing chest hairs—the stuff is potent.

Lao moonshine. Photo taken in or around Ban Xang Hai, Luang Prabang, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Lao moonshine. Photo: Cindy Fan

The village is located on the banks of the Mekong River, 1-1.5 hours upriver from Luang Prabang, by road 20 kilometres. The method is surprisingly rudimentary and traditional, still made using an open fire and earthen jars made in “the pottery village” Ban Chan, another Mekong village downriver from Luang Prabang. There’s only a few lao-Lao makers in the village, find them scattered along the river.

A roughly drawn sign explains the set up like a chemistry experiment—kids, don’t try this at home. Alcohol content should be around 40%—“should” being the operative word, who really knows what the end result is. The flavour is fairly neutral but boy, you feel it going down. In case you are wondering about the name, the first word “lao” means “alcohol.” The second “Lao” is a different word, spoken in a different tone; it refers to the country. Samples are given out liberally and of course, bottles are for sale. We found Mr Kham Dee very entertaining. Find his whiskey “factory” at the top of rough stairs upriver from the main boat ... Travelfish members only (Around 500 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
The best time to visit is on the way to or from Pak Ou, but if that's not on the itinerary you can hire a boat at the pier.

Ban Xang Hai
Around 20km from Luang Prabang by road

Location map for Ban Xang Hai

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