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Mekong Zone & Bo Ice Factory Walk

Enjoying a break in the extreme heat and frequent rain with a lazy evening on the river and walking our last unexplored stretch of Mekong in Vientiane.

2 June 2019

We’re not quite into the rainy season here in Vientiane, and not quite out of the hot season, which gives us a month or two of fairly volatile weather to plan our weekends around.

With the unpredictable weather and two little ones, very little planning (or realization of plans) happens these days. We just sort of make it up as we go along, which is what we prefer anyway.

Back in DC or Portland, with friends it was always, “Hey, you free this month? Okay, how about next month?” In Vientiane, everyone we know keeps pretty flexible schedules and we can usually hook up something on the fly—brunch, play dates, weekend trips, swimming, whatever.

The main exception to the rule is when other expats are moving away, which is always a busy time. Such was the case on this overcast Saturday morning, when we just barely managed to catch some good friends for brunch before they relocated away from town.

We all ate well (when there are mango coconut pancakes on the menu, it’s hard not to), but Riley was the one who fell into a food coma.

First time he’s fallen asleep in my arms in many months. Holding my nearly 8-month-old baby boy for 30+ minutes was a stark reminder of how huge (and heavy!) he’s gotten. Noe was well over a year old before he weighed this much.

Mekong Zone

Later that day, Lori and I decided on a whim that it would be a good day to have a date night.

Our favorite babysitter was available (she rarely isn’t, but if she is, we have a solid backup, fortunately), so we kissed the boys goodnight and headed to our new favorite Lao massage place, Baramii Spa in Watnak Village. Then, it was off to the Mekong Zone for some “sundowners.”

I put sundowners in quotes because you don’t really get a sunset over the Mekong from downtown this time of year, due to the sun’s relative position and overcast skies.

We always look forward to walking the Mekong Zone on a Saturday night. There’s nothing quite like it in all of Laos. A purely Vientiane experience.

I’ve been intrigued with the Old Typing School building since we moved here three years ago. The building has sat derilect for years, with likely little hope of being saved at this point. About two years ago, the local distillery, Laodi, setup shop out front. This weekend, we noticed another tenant that had also moved in…

“Reggae Bar”

We may have even sat down for a drink…if there had actually been some Reggae playing (or any music, for that matter). Okay…maybe if there had actually been someone around…like a bartender. In reality, the place just seemed a bit creepy, even for us.

Sprayed right onto the sidewalk across from said “high-end apartments,” advertising in English and Chinese. Classy.

It’s June and Naga Boat, the venerable “floating restaurant” in downtown Vientiane, is still sitting on the dry. I will say that they’ve taken full advantage of the situation by setting up this area next to the boat.

Complete with sand box.

After Naga Boat, we head down the street to Spirit House, one of the best places in town for getting a cocktail that’s not a Mai Tai, Pina Colada, White Russian, Margarita, or Long Island Ice Tea — the standards in the Mekong Zone.

For dinner, we ate at one of two of our favorite date night spots in town, La Vendome (French). The other one is Ango Cafe (Japanese). In the dozens of times we’ve been to these places we’ve never once taken a child with us. And we plan to keep it that way! Outside of date nights, the boys go out everywhere with us. It’s nice to have a few spots to ourselves.

Western River Walk

Thao Bo Ice Factory to Department of Meteorology

We did it! We finally completed the 7-mile circuit we’ve had our eyes on since moving here in 2016.

Before kids, I could have seen us busting this thing out in one go, maybe two if we got waylayed by cold beverages. In the end it took us 5+ visits to get ‘er done, and Noe has accompanied us on all the legs, walking most of it himself.

We’ve covered the orange section (commonly referred to as the Mekong River Walk) on the blog a number of times. If you visited us and we took you on a walk on a dirt road along the Mekong followed by a stop at a stilted shack on the river for some beers, it would have been along this leg. This leg roughly stretches from Clocktower Circle in the south to the intersection of Don Chan Road and Thadeua.

I’ve regularly biked and run the green section, but we’ve only walked the entire stretch from Thadeua/Lao-Tai road to Mahosot Road once. And it was a very, very hot walk, with zero shade at any time of day.

The blue section is the promenade along the downtown core (including the Mekong Zone, above), which we’ve visited numerous times.

We highlighted our walk along the purple section in this post, planning to make it all the way to Bo Ice Factory, but turning around at the half way point.

Finally, today, we completed the pink section, beginning at the Bo Ice Factory in the west and turning around at the Department of Meteorology in the east.

The entire 7-mile circuit runs along the top of the Mekong dike, built a little over a decade ago to protect the city from the ebbs and flows of the Mighty Mekong.

 

 

 

The day started out cloudy and cool, making for ideal conditions to do the walk. By the time we were up on the dike, however, conditions rapidly changed. The sun came out and things got steamy.

About halfway into our walk, another front moved in, meaning cooler temps, but also the promise of rain in the very near future. We could see the rain falling in Thailand (what appears like mist in the far right of the photo below) and knew we had about 20-30 minutes to get back to the car.

If you think you’re home remodeling project is a major one, it’s probably not quite as major as this one…

 

 

 

An old dredge, rusting along the banks.

 

Made it back to the car just in time! The storm (on the horizon) came through just a few minutes later.

After Party

Chokdee Belgian Cafe

Since we were out and about already, we thought it might be fun to head to our favorite little Belgian Cafe in town. We got our favorite dish, carbonnade flamande (beef and beer stew), and of course, a couple of Belgian beers on tap.

And no, I didn’t spring for the Westvleteren (see above). Widely understood to be the best beer in the world, but something about the US$30 price tag for a small bottle made me think twice.

Regardless, I was surprised to even see it on the menu!

Instead, I sprung for the BeerLao Dark.

HA! Yeah, right!

No, this is a DELICIOUS Kasteel Barista ON TAP. Rich, full-bodied, and 11% ABV. Combined with the carbonnade, dinner really doesn’t get much better than that, folks.

 

2 June 2019

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