Prostitution in Vientiane, Laos: An overview


Here is an overview of prostitution in Vientiane. Laos is a small landlocked-country in Southeast Asia surrounded by more populated countries like Thailand with very active commercial sex scenes. Like it’s Eastern neighbor Vietnam, Laos officially prohibits the sale of sexual services and also cohabitation of any sort between foreigners and Lao nationals who they have not married.

But as always where there is a will — and some money — there is a way.  Stories of foreigners getting hit up with big fines for having a lady in their hotel room have pretty much disappeared over the last few years and a number of venues have established themselves are pretty reliable outlets for the industry. The sale of sex is still outlawed and could lead to problems. It’s just that problems are a lot rarer than they used to be. As always I don’t advocate anything. I simply provide these reports for entertainment value.

Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, is located just over the Mekong River from Thailand. It’s a small city by any standard, but especially when compared to cities like Bangkok or Saigon. One could probably cover most of the city in a day or two but all that is unseen to the naked eye would undoubtedly remain that way. Learning the ins and out would require a lot more time, and that’s something that most single male visitors don’t usually have as they often visit only on short visa runs from Thailand. I don’t claim to be an expert but I do know some things.

Freelancers at Bor Pennyang

With little dating scene and few Lao ladies using dating websites the most common way foreign guys seem to find sex in the capital is with the limited number of freelancer prostitutes. Starting at about six or seven in the evening people start heading to a small rooftop bar in a place called Bor Pennyang. It’s a small building on the riverfront that everyone knows. Accessing the bar requires a climb up four flights of stairs.

The bar serves a variety of drinks and mediocre food and has a few pool tables in the back that seem to be forever occupied. The place attracts a mix of expats, hippie backpacker types, binge drinkers, locals out for a bit of fun and a handful of freelancers. When I say handful, I mean it. They certainly don’t dominate. The vast majority of people at the bar are regular old customers.

Still, the freelancers are no doubt the most interesting demographic for readers of this site. There aren’t that many of them but they do filter in and out as the night goes on. Some are hardcore and dressed a bit provocatively (though it’s nothing compared with places like Soi Cowboy or perhaps even what you’d see on a Seoul street on a Saturday night) but most are a lot more moderate.

Bor Pennyang Bar

There is very little in the way of in your face action at Bor Pennyang. Guys who want to talk to a lady will have to get her attention and chat her up. Many times they travel with friends or family and that makes things a bit more difficult. It’s still not as tough as a cold pick up in the middle of New York City but it requires a lot more work than a point and click fishbowl like Honey.

The working women in Vientiane are on average on the demure side. Rates and actual activities are rarely discussed and even those who have been in the game for a while often express a desire to find a boyfriend or husband rather than a quick money maker. This is evidenced by many stories of working women “hanging around” for hours or even days after the initial fun. It’s a far cry from the early morning runners that now rule the Bangkok and Manila go go bars. What’s more, many who do score a bit of money in a night’s work often spend the next few days with family or friends rather than heading out into the trenches again.

Like everything else in Vientiane, Bor Pennyang closes early. At midnight it’s closing time. Many of the freelancers and others in the bar who haven’t hooked up or finished their night of fun then head over to a club called “At Home.” It’s not far away and this is also a place that everyone, including the tuk tuk drivers who like to ask for outrageous sums of money, knows about.

At Home and other places

At Home is a small club but it gets fairly crowded. The music is a mix of loud noise of some type or another and most of the customers are locals out for some fun. Drinks are cheap and there are some freelancers in the mix. Be forewarned that there are a number of transgender “ladyboys” in the club and a few in Bor Pennyang too.

The freelancers at At Home aren’t the best lookers though a few are generally attractive. Any stunners in the club are usually not available as they came with local lads for innocent drinking and dancing.

Other places that have freelancers from time to time are Samlo Pub, the Khop Chai Deu bar and restaurant, and the area around the fountain. All of these places are easy to find but are hit or miss to say the least. None are reliable pick up spots, most are filled with “regular” women, and a lot of the women who hang around the fountain area or stop on their motorbikes to talk to single guys are actually the aforementioned transgendered ladyboys.

Freelancer rates ad hotels

Freelancers vary in what they want depending on the circumstances but from what I know the usual tip given by foreign guys to these ladies of the night ranges from 25 to 100 US dollars.  For whatever reason, prices are often quoted at a higher than equivalent rate in Baht and the local Kip currency.

Most hotels now accept guests without a problem as long as the room was booked as a double rather than single occupancy, and there even some guesthouses that are happy to rent by the hour. Experienced ladies and tuk tuk drivers usually know where to go.

Karaoke and massage

Cashed up locals and especially Asian businessmen from China, Vietnam and Thailand tend to hit the “KTV” karaoke clubs rather than wade through the freelance scene. These places generally have more women on staff and they are on average a lot better looking, though English skills range from poor to non-existent. There’s no real need to sit through the singing and drinking experience at most establishments for those who aren’t into that sort of thing. A sort of point and pull arrangement can be made with management and service often occurs on a higher floor on premises or somewhere very nearby. Take out, especially for a long time, isn’t as common. Asking rates range from 40 to 100 US or more depending on any number of factors. There are karaoke set ups at the Mekong Hotel, La Ong Dao 1 Hotel, La Ong Dao 2 Hotel and Tihao Hotel.

Finally a mention must be given to the massage parlors. Though certainly not as ubiquitous are they are in Thailand they are plentiful. Many offer mainstream service and nothing more but it’s definitely not out of the ordinary for something extra to be offered in the middle of a full body rub. Rates are negotiable. A more reliable experience is on offer from the good looking Vietnamese staff at the large Vientiane Plaza Massage facility in the parking lot of the Vientiane Plaza Hotel on Saylom Road. The standard rate for an hour long body rub is about $16 USD (though the price is given in kip). The facilities are a lot like a run down version of those at places like Minh Minh Tam in Vietnam but the level of service seems to range a bit more.

That’s what I have on prostitution in Vientiane. At least for now. There is certainly more, but as you know, no one knows it all. If I learn any more about the local scene I will update here.

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