The Most Surreal Night Of My Travels

There are certain nights that, no matter how hard you try, you just cannot do justice when you tell the tale. My first night in Laos was one such night.

After checking into my hostel in Luang Prabang, myself and a few fellow travellers decided to check out what the town had to offer. We headed to the night market and ate at what I can only assume is the Laotian equivalent of a food court.

Whilst the Trafford Centre’s food court has all the culinary delights of McDonald’s, Subway, KFC and the like, this place had about five stalls where you paid 10,000 kip and got to fill a plate full of noodles, rice and random fried foods. You could also pay extra for meat, so I whacked a full fish on there for another 20,000 kip. All in all a buffet plate and a decent sized fish cost just over two quid.

The Laotian “Red Hot Buffet”…probably.


I’d like to tell you how wonderful the food was, but it was bordering on cold by the time I sat down. The women running the stalls had some crazy method of seating people, and for reasons we couldn’t quite figure out we were moved from table to table before actually being able to sit down and eat. I suppose it made a welcome change from the usual mad dash you get at similar places in England, where I have seen people almost come to blows over a free table on a busy Saturday in the Arndale Centre.

Having spoken to a few people, we were told the nightlife in Luang Prabang wasn’t exactly bustling, but Utopia bar was the place to be so after a few beers in the hostel we decided to head there. Just as we left, the heavens opened and there was a huge thunderstorm, which made not knowing where we were going that little bit more frustrating. Thankfully, after asking countless passers by we finally found our way there.

It all started so normally.

Utopia was a strange place. It felt like a wild goose chase actually finding the bar for a start, as it was hidden away down a long and winding road just outside of the centre of Luang Prabang. What’s more; as Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has a curfew of 11.30pm which is different for a popular town on the backpacking circuit.

Just as the night was getting into full swing, the music stopped and the lights came on. I would argue that this was a good thing as I heard Eminem, Black Eyed Peas and Fatman Scoop all in the space of around 15 minutes, but it still wasn’t ideal. Thankfully, there was an alternative and the night didn’t have to end just yet.

For some inexplicable reason, there is a bowling alley just on the edge of town which opens til all hours so this is the destination of choice for people who don’t want to go to bed at half 11. After a group of eight of us negotiated a tuk tuk for 6,000 kip each (less than 50p) we got on our way for a night of bowling.

Don’t adjust your screen…

Having never bowled under the influence before I wasn’t sure what to expect. In fact, I’m not even sure I’ve been bowling since the time a guy in an orange hummer pinned me up at some traffic lights in Burnley years ago, but that’s another story for another day. Either way, I thought it couldn’t possibly go much further wrong that it did that day, could it?

It turns out it could.

With the storm still going strong, we were glad to get inside and out of the cold, wet car park. No sooner had we entered the building did the lights go out and indeed most of the power in the town. Far from ideal when you want to bowl. Thankfully the bar was still operative so this appeased the masses and plenty of drinking games commenced.

A game of flip cup keeps people entertained while the lights go out.

Picture the scene: about 100 drunk people in a powerless bowling alley proceeding to get more drunk. It was absolutely hectic. I felt like I was at the biggest university house party in the world as the beer pong and flip cup games kept everyone entertained. The power even briefly made a few appearances before disappearing again – the big tease! It was hilarious to see the genuine anticipation on the faces of everyone and sheer disappointment when it cut out again. I can guarantee that these people had never been so enthusiastic to bowl in all their lives.

After about an hour, the power was finally restored and we got to bowl. The effects of the alcohol were clear to see, as I have never seen so many bowling balls miss the lanes completely. Strangely though, I appeared to play better drunk – figure that one out.


Sadly, the buzz quickly wore off for me as all that sitting around and drinking was tiresome work. After one game in which I came second (robbed) we decided to call it a night. Unsurprisingly, there were no kebab houses in Luang Prabang so we settled for some nuclear instant noodles at the bowling alley. We blagged a tuk tuk back to the hostel and there ended one of the most surreal nights out of my life!


2 responses to “The Most Surreal Night Of My Travels

  1. Ahaha I loved this strange little bowling alley! Can’t say we had a power cut but we did feast on the nuclear noodles and were robbed of 20,000 kip by this awful drunk Irish couple we shared a ride back with!

    • Haha it’s all a bit of a blur now, but I remember it being a right laugh. I ended up back there a few nights later and had a much less eventful night, but ended up on some vile ‘whisky’ that tasted like Listerine. I’m amazed I still have my eyesight!

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