A visit to a bowling alley is a definite ‘must-do’ for anyone interested in a lively night out with loud music, cold beer and chatty, smiling locals. Sure, the balls are a little chipped, the scoreboard is temperamental and instructions are displayed in Spanish (bought second-hand from Mexico, perhaps), but it all adds to the charm of bowling in Vientiane. The Lao Bowling Centre is the best place to go if you want to see middle-class Laotians laughing, joking and having fun.
The 10-lane bowling alley is open during the day at a discounted rate – a great time for families to have a peaceful game – but it’s at night when this place really comes alive. The music is the first thing you hear before a scene that can’t fail to make you smile: local people using all manner of styles to knock the pins down; some in bowling shoes, most barefoot, all jovial.
The lanes are usually close to capacity from 22:00 onwards so it can get busy, often with teams of people waiting to play. But as all foreigners soon discover, there is no issue with waiting in Laos. Just take a seat, order a drink and soak up the scene. If it gets too busy, there are other bowling alleys in Vientiane. For example, The Lao-ITECC has a bowling alley with more modern facilities and karaoke, but it’s out of town and not nearly as much fun.
As well as the bowling alley, Lao Bowling Centre also offers pool and snooker tables for hire by the hour. A useful tip: this place has a more ‘flexible’ closing time than other nightspots in the city and is usually busiest when all other bars have closed.
Even in little Vientiane, the bowling alley is a little tricky to locate for a first-time visitor because the building is set back from the road. It is behind the National Stadium and close to Vangthong Evening Food Market – look out for a shiny, yellow Beer-Lao-sponsored sign. If you don’t fancy the walk, just say “bowling” to any tuk-tuk driver and they will get you there in a matter of minutes for a maximum of 10,000kip per person.