The Lao French Institute, or L’Institut francais du Laos was established in 1993 and was initially focused on promoting the French language. The centre has since become a hub for cultural exchange, with its primary focus on France and Laos but other cultures as well – though programming is Francophone-centric. Francophiles will enjoy the multimedia library, a theatre that’s also used as a cinema and the cafe. They have a branch in Luang Prabang as well.
The airy and lushly gardened compound lends itself well to outdoor performances and exhibitions. Its grassy courtyard and outside corridors frequently feature collections of Lao-centred art or photography. The institute hosts a number of projects with local organisations promoting contemporary Lao art and performance, often through international collaborations. This brings a new flavour to the Lao art forms that, while steeped in Lao traditions, are skilfully fused with poignant themes of identity and modern Laos.
The multimedia library (Mon-Fri, 09:30-18:30, admission free) has 25,000+ books, magazines, DVDs and CDs in line with their ethos of promoting French culture and knowledge. French films are shown once or twice a week, open to the public. The centre also occasionally organises festivals with local and international musicians, artists and food. Check their website or visit to find out about upcoming events.
La Cantine serves French cafe fare and tasty French desserts – not surprising, it’s a popular spot with the French crowd. It serves delicious made-in-Vientiane artisan ice cream of local ingredients like passion fruit, pomelo and cashew. At 25,000 kip for two scoops, it’s a bit pricey but definitely a treat.
By Cindy Fan.