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July 10, 2008

Anthony Bourdain Digs Laos, Too

by Julia Bainbridge

On a trip to Laos last winter, I was struck by how consistently pleasing the country's food was. People told me Laotian cuisine was the younger, bucolic brother to that of Thailand and Vietnam. While I found this somewhat true in terms of variety, I loved knowing that somewhere down whatever road I slept on, I could find a noodle shop with hot soup--and countless condiments--for breakfast.

And now I feel justified. Celebrity chef (there's just no other way to say it) Anthony Bourdain's first episode of his Travel Channel show No Reservations featured none other than my dear, treasured Laos. Sure, he took five seasons to get there, but it was a transcendent episode worth watching.

"Laos, for most outsiders looking in, is an empty page," Bourdain says. He then acknowledges that Laos is slowly becoming a sought-after travel destination. But most important for travelers and foodies seeking as authentic an experience as possible, the country is still "uniquely untouched by Western chains" like McDonald's and Burger King. We'll see how long that lasts. For now, watch Bourdain's beautiful introduction:

P.S. Beerlao, the country's award-winning beer, is quite tasty. And lao-lao, or whiskey ("Mekong River Moonshine," as Bourdain fondly calls it), isn't particularly refined, but it's ample. So drink in.

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