Whiskey Village Luang Prabang
Whiskey Village or Ban Xang Hai is located near the Mekong River draws visitors with its lao-Lao, a strong whisky made from rice that’s sometimes fermented with snakes, spiders or other creepy crawlies and sold by the bottle.
Home to just a handful of people, this ancient settlement provides locals and travelers with handcrafted hooch. Pull up along the shore in a boat and then sip from bamboo straws and learn about the fermentation process. Visitors have the option to buy the alcoholic creation, but those who prefer water to whisky can instead watch locals weave Lao silk and purchase locally made fabrics and paper.
Lao-Lao is an integral part of Lao culture. It’s used in important blessing ceremonies and you will likely be offered a shot of the firewater (or a large glass!) in a village visit, 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 village is located on the banks of the Mekong River, upriver from Luang Prabang, 20 kilometres by road. It’s impressive how rudimentary and traditional the method is, still using an open fire and earthen jars. A sign explains the set up and you can ask to try some. You’ll find that it’s fairly neutral in flavor. Alcohol content should be around 40% — but who really knows. 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.
Stroll around the village to browse the stands selling bottles of whiskey and also textiles. A few of them are hand woven here but most of the items are factory made in China or Vietnam. As a general rule, if you like something, then buy it and be happy. If you are looking for good quality or locally made textiles, then stick to Ban Xienglek and Ban Xangkong (also known as the Paper and Weaving Village), Ban Phanom or shops in town.
The biggest negative about Ban Xang Hai is the jars of lao-Lao containing wildlife. Whiskey with bear paws, tiger bones and snakes is believed to increase a man’s virility and sexual prowess, and they are also added to give it the wow-factor for tourists.
Overall, it’s definitely not worth making the trip just to see Ban Xang Hai. It is an okay stop to try some whiskey and stretch your legs. If you’d like to try lao-Lao in Luang Prabang, you can buy bottles at the night market or order it at almost any bar in town. In cocktail form, it is more palatable — though you’ll sprout fewer chest hairs.