After two weeks away in Malaysia, there was a bit of adjustment being back in Laos. But Laos is home right now, and it’s always good to be back home…for a while, at least.
Took me a couple days to get used to traffic driving on the right-hand side again (as often happens when we switch sides for a while)—fortunately, it took Lori far less time (as she’s the one who can actually drive).
Back to the Mekong. Back to the monks. Back to the BeerLao.
If you’re in the market for a giant gong, then this is your place. I’m thinking one of these might look good on the wall behind my man cave / carport. After all, nothing says “man” quite like a giant gold-colored gong.
Putting the finishing touches—Lao-style—on the paving stones at the swanky new Vientiane World Trade Center.
Noe’s been diggin’ all his toys since we’ve been back. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, certainly when it comes to your own toys. He’s become quite proficient at his blocks, and a speed demon at putting together his puzzles.
But the big surprise is how far he’s come in the Duplo/Lego department. Pre-Borneo, he was simply stacking 2x2s. A few days back in Laos and he whips this up from scratch all by himself (bunny and cone, included—he insists they go on everything).
We thought it was time to finally break out the toddler yoga video we got a while back. Noe was really into it, and was able to do most of the moves and positions better than the kids on the video, but that shouldn’t surprise me given that he’s been watching mommy (and daddy on occasion too) do yoga most of his life.
It was a special treat for another reason—it’s the first time we’ve ever let him watch the TV in our house. He was so quiet and attentive during the 20-minute introductory video at the Orangutan center in Borneo that we thought it might be time to try this one.
Nearly a week back from vacation and we decided it was time for a date night. We couldn’t even remember the last time we’d had one—just the two of us. February?
We shook things up a bit this time, opting to swap our favorite French bistro for returning to our favorite little Japanese cafe in town—Ango.
The best thing is you can’t get this type of Japanese cuisine in the U.S. Seems our homeland has yet to make it past sushi and teriyaki.
We followed Ango up with our favorite bar in town: Earth. I had a coupon for a free mojito from my last visit, so Lori got a virgin mojito and I got an IPA on tap. Earth is one of only five places that carries Vientiane’s sole legit craft beer: Rock Brew. Oh, and after all that, I was persuaded by preggo to stop at Swensen’s and get an ice cream cone. I was not hard to convince.
Like many countries around the globe, Laos celebrates International Workers Day on May 1st (May Day). Unlike many of those other countries, however, Laos does not mark the occasion with parades, solidarity marches, activities or public events. Instead, Laos marks the holiday as they do any other (such as International Women’s Day, Armed Forces Day, and Lao National Day)—by drinking.
In keeping with the founding fathers’ [likely] original intentions for International Workers Day, we decided it was as good a time as any to try out the Russian restaurant in town—PRIVET. While there, we ran into a few friends who took the idea a step further—opting to take their out-of-town guests on a Communist-themed bar crawl (i.e. the Russian restaurant, the North Korean restaurant, and…pretty much anything Laos, of course).
Breaded steak, beer, and a shot of Russian vodka (for me, of course—Lori celebrated with a fresh fruit juice). Za Vas!
A different meal, a different day, a different restaurant.
Lori was craving an Indian breakfast, like the one we had in Kudat before our flight (and, in India for 50 straight days…). strangely, I found myself craving an Indian breakfast as well.
Vientiane’s got a dozen or so Indian restaurants. Problem is, few of them open for breakfast.
It can also be next to impossible to figure out what the business hours of a restaurant are in Vientiane, given that a) no one posts the hours anywhere (ever.); b) if the hours happen to be posted online, say on Google or Facebook (most places don’t have their own website), they’re likely wrong; c) no one answers the phone after hours and answer the phone only 50% of the time if the place is actually open. So, we spend a lot of time driving around. We’ve learned to make a list of 3-4 places, expecting that the first three will probably be closed.
This particular Saturday morning, (<ahem>…Cinco de Mayo), we go around to two places before arriving at Nazim, which at 9:00am, had just opened. But the wait and the driving around were worth it—the food was phenomenal, and hit the craving right on the nose (and yes, I realize it’s not the best photo above of our amazing spread, or even the place, for that matter—but we were too busy enjoying our food to take good pics).
Lori snagged a great deal on a used Duplo set from another expat family, which essentially doubled the size of Noe’s set. He was undoubtedly excited about all the new pieces, but the airplane definitely stole the show.
On Cinco de Mayo night, Alec Baca, acclaimed American jazz trumpeter, was playing at Earth bar starting at 7pm (which really means 8:30 in Laos). Noe loves music, so we thought, “why not take him?” Yeah, it’s a bit past his bedtime, but it’s not every weekend in Laos that we get live jazz (and even rarer to see brass).
For a split second, our deeply-ingrained American mentality whispered “Hey, what are you doing bringing a baby to a bar on a Saturday night!?” Then, we arrived at the bar, and the half dozen kids under the age of ten running around the place reminded us: a) that, yes, we’re still in Vientiane; b) what we actually really like about Vientiane; and, c) that certain aspects of American culture, norms, and attitudes are deeply embedded, even after several years of living outside of the U.S., and living several thousand miles away. But we ain’t in ‘Merica tonight.
And just in case you were wondering, Noe loved every minute of it…until he turned into a pumpkin around 9:30. Hey, I’ll take an hour of good jazz in a great venue with a delicious Belgian beer any time over, well, not doing it.
The next day (Sunday) was hot and gorgeous—a perfect day to hit the pool. We opted for Le Patitoh. With a newly opened craft brewery (only the third that I know of to open in town), it was an easy decision.
Yeah, we could have gone to one of the many hotel pools in town that do the day fee thing, but Le Patitoh is such a Vientiane institution (and very kid friendly) that it’s hard to go anywhere else, these days. Plus, it’s a lot cheaper than most of the hotel pools.
Noe loved the water as usual. He was especially loving jumping in on his own (with mommy or daddy catching him, of course).
And yes, the beer was pretty good—particularly for Vientiane. Best of all, the smell of hops in the air greets you when you arrive. Craft beer, a pool, and a beautiful summer-like day. Just one of the perks of living in Vientiane in 2018, and definitely hard to beat on a Sunday out.