I’d been in Luang Namtha almost two weeks before I stumbled upon Baw Pen Yang. A town with an indiscernible lack of easily obtainable ‘go here to eat!’ Lonely Planetesque advice (that’s where we come in); this is one that would be altogether too easy to miss lest you’re the sort prone to explore the back streets of each new place you find yourself.
It’s not just its positioning but its entire lack of online presence, even the website displayed on their sign is currently under construction, that makes Baw Pen Yang somewhat of a mystery. Add in the fact that it’s Luang Namtha’s sole art gallery/restaurant and the air of mystery is intensified yet further. Then couple this with the charming and welcoming disposition of the outdoor dining area, and it was enough to disengage the auto-pilot setting which was taking me to the Forest Retreat Bamboo Lounge in search of breakfast.
It boasts an extensive, stylish menu with English translations for every dish and drink. I went for a hearty breakfast and, having had lunch there too, I’d say this is what they do best. My morning-long longing for a pancake saw me fight against every fibre of my body and order the French breakfast, ignoring the English option with its notable bacon and sausage inclusion. These set breakfasts, of which there’s also the choice to go American, are priced between 25,000 and 30,000 kip (around 3 to 4 US dollars).
Mine consisted of a toasted baguette, an omelette, a pancake with chocolate (other toppings available) and a coffee. All were saep lai (delicious) and what’s more, the pancake arrived freshly made within one minute of having finished the omelette – the chef had forecast my eating habits down to a tee.
The cushions and plants made for a relaxing seated area and a suitable place to while away the hours and watch the world go by. The world in this instance narrowed down to one of many small Beer Lao distribution centres across the road.
The waiter was friendly and spoke good English, this is a business which only opened its doors in 2014. With the town’s burgeoning tourism/trekking appeal bringing in more and more people each year, it’s one place which can be sure of an increase in customers should it continue in the manner in which it’s begun.
The charms of Baw Pen Yang do not stop there however. As I cleverly inferred from the name of the place this was no ordinary restaurant but an art gallery and restaurant. The decor was suitably colourful and picturesque with vibrant nature scenes adorning the walls.
The art, all of which is by a local artist, is available to view at the gallery. Prints can also be bought for very reasonable prices.
Well worth a visit for just a drink and a glance at the artwork, or, if you’re nearby and hungry, then you’re in luck.
Baw Pen Yang – go now before there are queues out the door.
– Fairly priced Western & Lao Mixed Menu in English – WIFI
– Set breakfasts (incl. drink) start at 25,000 kip – Efficient & friendly service
Where to find Baw Pen Yang:
This restaurant can be found down a side road off the main strip. On the corner of the road are Lai’s place and Green Discovery, turn down this road and it’s about halfway down the initial line of restaurants and shops on the left hand side.