The greatest sandwich I’ll never have again

The morning started off normally enough, at least for what I was expecting in Laos. We were in Vientiane and headed out with Green Discovery, one of the local adventure/eco-tour operators, to the forest a couple hours out of town; we were going to play on the zip-lines for a few hours. We had breakfast and hopped in the van where we met our driver, a guide and another guest who was doing a similar trip. It turns out that he hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning, and that worked out VERY well for us. I offered him a granola bar from my stash but that wasn’t enough going in to a full day of activity. Our guides insisted on stopping at a small shop on the way out of town.

It was a tiny stand, tucked into the endless row of shops alongside the road leading out of Vientiane, past the airport and into the country side. I don’t know the name. I don’t even really know where it was. Even the driver didn’t really know where we were going; the guide pointed at what seemed a random store-front and we pulled over to park and grab our meal.


A few young women worked the counter, whipping up sandwich after sandwich (they make about 2000 daily) for the throngs who come throughout the day to eat. They weren’t cheap, at least by local standards, probably a couple dollars each. But filled with pate, various meats & veggies and then topped with a couple different sauces (assuming you said yes to the only question asked, “Spicy?”) they were oh so very, very, very good.

I only recognizes a few of the ingredients, mostly the vegetables. That didn’t stop me from chowing down. The French influence in the area is strong, particularly when it comes to food, and this sandwich certainly showed some of that influence.

It was a moment of travel serendipity, one of a few on this trip. No way I would have found the shop on my own and definitely no way we would have gone that far out of town just for a sandwich. Fortunately, we got lucky and didn’t have to figure it out on our own. Alas, it will never happen again. Just one of the many great things that happens when traveling.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Isn’t always the tiny hole in the wall places or nondescript road side stand that has the best foods? It looks like a variation of a Vietnamese Bahn Mi. Was the bread crispy and chewy? Always amazed how they do that in such humid places. The ones at Saigon Bahn Mi on Grand are pretty good too.

  2. I agree, looks like a variation of Vietnamese Bahn Mi easily found in most big US cities Vietnamese/Pho restaurant.

  3. Ah, that sandwich looks delicious! So jealous. I once had a banh mi sandwich that was similar from a street vendor in Hanoi. Sweet-and-sour pork, pate, cilantro and other delicious goodies on a French bread bun.

    There was an option to add a fried egg, which I agreed to. Best decision ever, that sandwich was terrific.

  4. Thanks for sharing.

    My rough rule of thumb when traveling – stay away from the tourist areas, and go where the locals go!

  5. That looks amazing. And, yes, experiences like this are one of the greatest things about travel, even when you know that it’s one of those once in a lifetime things. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I ate a version of that sandwich everyday when I was in Laos. For 15 cents, it can’t be beat.

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