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Whisky Village in Luang Prabang, Laos

Whiskey Village Luang Prabang
Whisky village or Ban Xang Hai village in Luang Prabang is one of the attractions when visiting the Pak Ou Caves. All long boats ferrying you to the caves will make a stop here for you to experience the lifestyle of the Lao people in this 3 craft village.

Meaning, there are a total of 3 main attractions at this village. Whisky making, Silk Weaving and Sa Paper Making.

Ban Xang Hai or Lek means Jar Maker Village in Lao. However most people would call this place Whisky Village due to the star attraction of local Lao whisky or Lao Lao which is made and sold here.

The beauty about this moonshine is that they marry the whisky with all kinds of creepy crawlies, from scorpions, geckos, centipedes and snakes. You would know them as snake wines but it is the other bugs bring it to another level.

Luang Prabang Whisky VillageWhisky Village Bamboo jetty to walk in

On your journey to the Pak Ou Caves, the long boat or tour bus will stop you here to make a visit to this interesting village which actually is also well known for their Sa Paper making and also their woven silk craft.

On arriving at the banks of the great Mekong River, you proceed to the Whisky Village via a bamboo jetty and then up to the village entrance. The first thing that greets you will be the whisky station.

Me with the Lao Lao (before)

Here you will see a display of the famous self made Lao Lao whisky bottles put in intricate weaved casings. The person in charge will invite you to test out the famous Lao Lao whisky in a small shot glass.

Me with the Lao Lao (after)

Well, me being the occasional drinker, was first in line to try this local Lao Lao. I think from the picture above, you can tell how powerful it was.

If I lit a lighter in front of my mouth, I would probably be able to blow flames! Serious, this was some potent stuff! Much stronger than most whiskys I have tasted in my life.

Lao Lao making process

Then a demonstration on how the Lao Lao whisky is made there. A traditional technique which involves an old drum, some pipes here and there, a wooden fire under the drum and a outlet pipe into a old jar.

I ain't no rocket scientist but that looks lethal. Apparently the whisky is distilled to about 55% proof.

Snake wines or should I say Scorpion Wine sold in bottles

Anyway, as you move on inside, you start to see the real stuff being sold on open tables outside the homes cum shops. Bottles of snake wine or critter wines are available. From your average Coke bottle size to the one liter bottle.

Stuffed with critters and ginseng, probably some other herbs, these look really odd. Gross to some people, exciting to others, like me. Without hesitation, the price was asked and I the next thing, I had 2 bottles in my bag, all for a mere US$10.00.

Silk spinning wheel

Then only you start to see the touristy stuff being sold. Seems they pay attention to the Lao Lao instead of their silk weaving and other handicraft. Maybe it is because the foreigner enjoys drinking?

Anyway, a variety of houses in the village are selling traditional hand woven Lao silk. Made by the locals there they are priced pretty reasonable and are great souvenirs to get. The quality of the silk there is pretty impressive too.

Silk Weaving in Laos

Lao Silk Making Video

Walking around the village, I came across a local Lao lady weaving a piece of silk. I asked her how long does it take to make one piece and she told me that depending on the design, it could be from 3 days to a month. So prices are based on the design.

The more details, the more expensive. You can bargain with them too, but be reasonable please. They work really hard from what I observed.

Me at the Silk village

One thing I must say is that the Lao people are not persuasive, meaning they do not force you to buy their goods. Asking them how much and then moving along, they would simply smile at you.

A variety of finished Lao silk materials being sold

A number of homes which are converted into shops sell these lovely woven silk materials which are made into sarongs to table runners or even as wall decorations. Again, great souvenirs if you plan to get some.

Little Lao trader

Something caught my eye as I was walking around the village, a little Lao girl was also seen attempting to sell some toy dolls. She was absolutely adorable as I watched her set up her tiny stall in the Whisky Village. Her mother was just next to her while she arranges the little toy dolls. Too cute.

Boy monk attending to some chores

At the Whisky Village, there is also a small temple with a few monks. Nothing special as it is for the locals at the village. I saw a young monk doing his duty painting the temple walls. It was quite nice as his orange robe was really shouting against the white painted walls.

Close up of the boy monk painting the temple

Local Lao house

Exploring deeper into the Whisky Village, I passed a number of homes, some about to fall apart an mostly all wooden and run down. Take a look at the picture above. A strong gust of wind would easily topple that home.

Paper Village - Xang Khong Posa

When you get to the main village road, you will see a sign that welcomes you to Xang Khong Posa also known as the Paper Village. Here is where they make the famous Sa Paper which is a thick kind of paper made from the bark of the Mulberry tree.

Finishing the Sa Paper

From the Sa Paper, cards, photo albums, lanterns, writing paper and paper crafts are made. Even umbrellas and lampshades are made from the amazing Sa Paper.

You can see that this village is producing a lot of it and most of it is sent to the main town of Luang Prabang. Shop and stalls in the night markets also sell these products if you don't make it to this Paper Village.

Traditional Lao puppet

Among other items being sold at the Whisky Village, there are local Lao handicraft items like hand crafted puppets and other antiques.

But be careful about the antiques as some of them seem to be reproductions from China, made to look old. You can also read about my experience at the Pak Ou or Buddha Caves which is just further up from this village. 

Here are some tips about Getting to the Whiskey, Silk, Paper Village.
  • The visit is usually included in your Pak Ou Caves trip via long boat.
  • Cost - There is no extra charge for entering this village.
  • Time - About 20-30 minutes if you take the boat.
  • Attractions - As mentioned above.
  • Alternative to get here - You can hire a tuk tuk and come by yourself and explore this place. This would give you much more time at the village.
Overall, I spent a good 30 minutes walking around here but be warned that the boat you came in will wait for you at the banks so you need to get back there. Unlike me, I ventured too far and totally forgot about the boat, so I rushed back to find a boat load of tourist giving me the dagger stare.

Everyone was waiting for me as I totally got carried away at the Whisky Village in Luang Prabang, Laos. I am sure you will too, when you visit this interesting place.


Anonymous said...

Wow..you're quite an adverturous traveller. I wouldn't dare take a sip of those snake wines. My granny used to keep stuff like that back in the old days. They were from China.

Malaysia Asia said...

Hello Reeta, thank you and I have done the same for you.

Mei, I must admit, I am. Sometimes I hate the city so I just go. Yeah, I also remember some of my friends parents kept snake wine bottles and they were worth more than gold. Too bad my family did not believe in the wines :)


CathJ said...

YOu drink it??? *gulp*!!! I have not reach Laos yet... T_T

Malaysia Asia said...

Hello Cath, yes I did. See the picture of me, it taster so strong! Too strong for me. That was only one small little cup.


Nicole said...

Hi, did you ever went Na'ang village in Laos ?

Malaysia Asia said...

Hello Nicole, actually no I did not. What is there?


fatboybakes said...

lovely pics and post. hey, what was the temperature like? why are u wearing what looks like a jumper? is it cold? when's the best time to visit?

Malaysia Asia said...

Hi there and thank you for the comment. Well, I visited in February so it was pretty much cold there. Temperature was around 10-18 degrees Celsius. Apparently, the best time to visit Luang Prabang/Laos is from Nov till March. The food here is simply awesome, do read my Laos food article here - http://blog.malaysia-asia.my/2009/11/lao-food-in-luang-prabang-laos.html