Phonsavan’s Morning Market

At Phonsavan's morning market you can sit for a tasty bowl of freshly made steaming pho for breakfast or buy some local fruit. You can find much that looks familiar, and quite a lot that doesn't.
Phonsavan Morning Market Cooked Food
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If it walks, crawls, swims, flies, or slithers, it could well turn up on your dinner table in Laos. Sure, you can buy chicken or beef or pick up some freshly caught river fish. But if you have a craving for bamboo rat, porcupine, winged critters, snake, crickets or other bugs, or even, yes, dog, you’re in luck at the morning market in Phonsavan.

There is a Cantonese proverb that says, “Anything that walks, swims, crawls, or flies with its back to heaven is edible.”

And there’s a very good reason for that. Globally, about one-third of the world’s food goes to waste. In Western countries, it’s an even higher percentage. And the consequences of that are profound, even if we don’t see them up close.

But Laos is not a country that lets a lot go to waste. It can’t afford to be. The average individual income in Laos is $3,000 per year, putting it at 176th in the world. And over three-quarters of the labor force relies on agriculture, mostly rice, with some working on Chinese rubber plantations. And the obesity rate in Laos is very low–only 2.6 percent, 179th in the world out of 191. By comparison, it’s about 33 percent in the United States.

Luang Prabang and Vientiane aren’t typical of most of Laos. To see the frugality of everyday life in Laos, you have to get out of those tourist hotspots, especially to the mountain villages of the north.

But you can get a sense of it in Phonsavan, the major hub Plain of Jars. Phonsavan is relatively new and has the feel of a frontier town. At its center is a dusty main road with shops, cafes, and tour company offices lining it. The town itself actually appears well-off (relatively speaking).

Phonsavan is most famous in the west as a launching point for exploring the archeological sites of the Plain of Jars. But it’s also a cultural hub for the Hmong population of the region. You can see that in full, colorful display if you happen to be there for the Hmong new year celebrations.

And you can also see it in a more day-to-day sense in the Phonsavan morning market, where the sights, smells, and tastes of Lao life are on full display. The market serves local communities for miles around, so it reflects more about them than it does about Phonsavan itself.

Located about a block from the main stretch, it’s covered with a roof to protect against rain and sun but otherwise open-air. Fresh fruit, vegetable, and grain vendors spread out their wears on benches alongside some unusual proteins that you probably won’t see in your local neighborhood farmer’s market anytime soon. Live, fresh fish swim in water-filled buckets. And butchers lay out their day’s offerings on butcher benches. There’s no refrigeration here, so the sellers have to judge what demand is going to be like on any given day.

At Phonsavan’s morning market, you can sit for a tasty bowl of freshly made steaming pho for breakfast or buy some local fruit. You can find much that looks familiar, and quite a lot that doesn’t.

Photos of Phansavan’s Morning Market

Phonsavan Laos Market Nuts
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Phonsavan Laos Market Fruits and Vegetables
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Phonsavan Laos Market Dried Fish
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Phonsavan Laos Market Butcher
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Phonsavan Laos Market Shellfish
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Phonsavan Morning Market Fish
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Phonsavan Laos Market Fresh Meat
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Phonsavan Laos Market Eggs and Herbs
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Phonsavan Morning Market Food
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Where to Next?



Travel Advice for Laos

You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Laos (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.

The British and Australian governments offer their own country-specific travel information. You can find the British Government's travel advice for Laos here and the Australian Government's here.

Health & Vaccinations

The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Laos here.

Guidebooks for Laos

If you're looking for a guidebook to make the most of your visit, these are some of the most popular ones currently for Laos. Some are available in both paper and e-book formats.

Lonely Planet Laos 10 (Country Guide)
2 Reviews
Lonely Planet Laos 10 (Country Guide)
  • Bush, Austin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Fodor's Essential Thailand: with Cambodia & Laos (Full-color Travel Guide)
37 Reviews
Fodor's Essential Thailand: with Cambodia & Laos (Full-color Travel Guide)
  • Fodor's Travel Guides (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Lonely Planet Laos (Travel Guide)
56 Reviews
Lonely Planet Laos (Travel Guide)
  • LONELY PLANET
  • Lonely Planet (Author)
DK Eyewitness Cambodia and Laos (Travel Guide)
  • DK Eyewitness (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Travel Insurance For Your Trip to Laos

I never travel without travel insurance, and I've run into several situations where I've had to make claims. I consider it essential.

But shopping for travel insurance can be a pain and confusing. Thankfully, there are some travel insurance comparison sites that show you a wide range of plans, make it easy to compare coverage, and can save you money at the same time. And the coverage can be much better tailored to your specific needs than the checkbox offering at travel booking sites or through your credit card.

These are some good places to shop for travel insurance for your next trip to Laos :

Hopefully, you won't need it, but if something goes wrong, you'll sure be glad you have it!

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