Vientiane: The times are a changin’

Earlier this year I read on Samakomlao this informative Laos’ Website that The Pizza Company, this popular Thai pizza franchise was going to open their first store in Vientiane and become the first fast food restaurant in the capital city.

I mentioned this to one of my blog readers and said that this could be the beginning of more restaurants to open up in Vientiane.

Sure enough, not only did The Pizza Company open but also Swensen’s a very popular ice cream franchise in Thailand. And then, one afternoon while strolling down by the Mekong River, there it was–Vientiane’s first American fast food restaurant sans that jolly goateed man in white–KFC.

And wait, there’s more. Not long ago I blogged how there were no movie theaters in Vientiane. Not anymore. Next to Talat Sao–this popular market in Vientiane a new building is going up that will have a modern shopping mall and movie theater.

Is this good or bad? There’s a part of me that loves the quiet, quaint charm that Vientiane exudes–a sleepy capital of guesthouses, street vendors selling baguette sandwiches and charming coffeehouses–unlike the hustle and bustle of cities of other Southeast Asia capital cities like Bangkok. On the other hand, it is good for Vientiane in terms of tourism dollars and jobs–at least I hope this works out for Vientiane and Laos.

However, it comes with a price. Vientiane has already gotten noisy and crowded and it is already translating into some minor price gouging: tuk-tuk drivers are charging exorbitant rates for traveling around the city.

6 Responses to “Vientiane: The times are a changin’”

  1. Nye September 3, 2010 at 1:33 pm # Reply

    I’m not sure, a part of me think it’s good but a part of me want it to stay the same.

    I love the photos and it’s nice to see a new version of VTE.

    • Jeffrey September 3, 2010 at 2:55 pm # Reply

      That’s how I feel Nye. I am really happy to see Vientiane modernizing, but at what cost. Seeharhed alluded to this a few months ago after he returned from Vientiane and talked about all the traffic. In the three years that I have been traveling to laos and Vientiane I have noticed that the traffic has gotten a lot worse. You see a lot of more expensive cars and Thais coming over for the day.

      It’s nice to see some new shops there and I hope it helps Laos’ economy.

  2. salalao September 4, 2010 at 12:55 pm # Reply

    Jeffrey
    I like to see Laos moving forward but not all the franchises. I don’t care for KFC, Mcdonalds or pizza. When I’m traveling I love to eat native food . I live in U.S and I don’t even care for the fast food joint. I don’t understand why would they open a fast food joint when majority of the Lao people can’t afford it. By introduce high fat contents, process food high in calories and sodium increases of obeasity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Laos people don’t need that. I say lao food all the way much more healthier :)

    • Jeffrey September 4, 2010 at 11:49 pm # Reply

      I think a lot has to do with tourism. You’re right, the average Lao could not afford a set menu at KFC–one meal at KFC could feed a person for 2-3 days.

      I think Vientiane is gearing up for some major tourism; the development around the Mekong is one example, another are all the hotels. Best Western took over one of the older hotels and I noticed more new ones than there were a year ago. I see a tourism boom and sadly, I see an influx of problems like price gouging, traffic gridlock, and tour groups running wild.

  3. seeharhed September 8, 2010 at 12:56 am # Reply

    Jeffrey – You’re so right that all those fast food joints are there because of tourism. Most of tourists are accustom to all the fast food joints and will likely to dine there. I think majority of them wouldn’t dare to try the local foods.

    During the last trip I had a chance to visited that Swensen ice cream place. I think for most laotians that place is some what fancy, but it is normal to me. The prices aren’t so bad if you compare to the West, but seems high for the local.

  4. Jeffrey September 8, 2010 at 10:14 am # Reply

    I also think that most Laotians won’t be able to afford the prices at places like Swensen’s and KFC.

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