There are many many restaurants in this town – most catering to the backpackers. One restaurant I found serves only authentic Lao food and is not known by the tourists at all. I had about 6 meals here and never once saw another tourist. Not having been able to determine the name of this restaurant a location description will have to do. From the Bus station located along the gravel airstrip walk west toward the town of Vang Vieng.
Almost directly across the airstrip from the bus station is a road that runs perpendicular to the air strip. The restaurant in question is located on the right side of this road as you walk west toward the limestone karsts (towards the Nam Song river) – just past first cross street (for reference the cross street parallels the airstrip).
This restaurant was recommended to me by the owner of The Viengvilay Guesthouse. They have incredible fresh fruit shakes and awesome food. The only downside to this restaurant is that the service is slow as the food seems to be prepared entirely from scratch. After the first few meals here, I would order and then go run a few errands and return within 30-35 minutes.
The Xayoh Cyber Restaurant is a modern looking restaurant in a corner location. Its quite touristy and is a popular place at night for drinking. They have a pool table and indoor and outdoor seating.
Bats are sold on the street by local street vendors. Dave sampled one of these – they taste like duckling. They are roasted entirely whole – so you see the bared fangs, head, eyes, and all the fur is still on the body. The best part of the bat to eat is right under the wing next to the body. If you sample one of these, be sure to get one that is well cooked, or better yet, one that you watch the street vendor cook on their grill in front of you. If you are unsure how to eat them, buy 2, and give one to the vendor to eat first.
There are many street vendors and there are several food/vegetable/fruit markets held in the mornings. These markets are a good source of local cuisine and rarely will you see another “farang” at one of these markets. Dave sampled several dishes at these markets on more than one occasion and never had a problem with getting sick. If in season, be sure to try the dragon fruit – an exotic fruit (red and green a somewhat oval fruit about the size of a softball) imported from Vietnam – yet originally grown in Central America. This fruit is very good – whitish inside with small black seeds…it sort of tastes like a kiwi but much much more mild tasting.
As a side note its probably not a good idea to sample dairy products including ice creams and milks. The reason being is that the power does go out sporadically – sometimes for many hours at a time. Needless to say this severely hampers proper refrigeration. An excellent alternative to dairy milk is soy milk. The soy milk in SE Asia is full bodied, not watered down and has an excellent sweet taste.