We briefly returned to Vientiane for one week for Lori to attend one final work seminar before we officially move to Cambodia.
Anywhere else, I might have found myself very much in over my head this week, left alone for five days with a one-year-old and a three-year-old in a small hotel room with six small toys between the three of us.
But we were in Vientiane. And being in Vientiane meant that we had access to something very unique in this part of the world: Nursery school drop-ins!
Best of all, it’s Riley’s former school, so Riley got to go right back to doing what one-year-olds do — get really dirty, bang things together, and make lots of noise!
Noe also attended the same school but with the older kids. So the boys got to spend much of their days together with a multitude of activities, caretakers, and friends.
Noe’s best friend even attends the school, so he was pretty excited about the week.
The only catch was that the school is located a few miles south of town where we used to live, and our hotel and the seminar were closer to the city center.
Since my bike wasn’t kitted out to take on two little ones, we hired a car and driver to do the transporting for the week.
He’d pick up the boys and me at the hotel, drive us the twenty minutes or so to school, then I’d grab my bike at the school, head to where I needed to be for the day, then ride back to the school to park my bike, pickup the boys and meet the driver to take us back to the hotel.
It was kind of janky, but far better than any other option. And, for the most part, it seemed to work fine.
This week, we’re staying at Azalea Park View Boutique Hotel in Ban Saylom. It’s a bit of a walk from the center of action, but very close to where Lori’s seminar is and quite nice.
Arriving at the hotel, Noe was treated to a giant purple chair and orange juice. Double treat!
Nearly every proper hotel we’ve stayed at in Laos (not hostels or small guesthouses, so much) provide you with a glass of orange juice at check-in. It definitely seems to be a Laos thing, as we haven’t come across this many other places. Along with the persistent nopping, it’s a nice little touch.
Rooms are clean and spacious, with a small balcony. The view was pretty typical here in Vientiane. Just a tad bit different from what we’d grown accustomed to on our recent stay in Kuala Lumpur.
It’s a far cry from the home we left here in Vientiane just three weeks ago. But we enjoyed our stay at the hotel, as much as a young family of four can enjoy sharing a small space after already having lived out of suitcases for three weeks.
Saturday afternoon, Lori had to run up to the DHL office where our freight was being held so that she could try and get our shipment below the maximum that her former organization had allotted her.
I couldn’t do it for Lori because she was the employee, and the DHL office is closed on Sundays. Given Lori’s seminar schedule, that meant she’d have to head there the day we arrived in town.
And I took the boys on a little outing to Patuxay.
The boys seemed to enjoy our outing, but were initially overwhelmed and preoccupied by thirst.
From the moment we stepped off the plane on Saturday to when we departed for Cambodia the following Saturday, we had absolutely gorgeous weather. Clear skies, dry, and relatively low temps for Vientiane. No other October we’ve spent in Vientiane has been so nice, so we felt fortunate to be able to soak it up while we were here.
But all that dry heat, sun, and a three-hour flight that morning made for thirsty wee ones.
Thinking we’d only be out and about for a short while, I didn’t bother bringing water. So, five minutes into our outing, I ended up having to buy a small ice-cold bottle from a vendor (which we rarely do).
Riley was the most excited I’d seen him in days, and Noe thought it was the best thing since setting foot on the beach in Penang. He kept commenting about how COLD it was and just wanted to rub the condensation all over his forehead. Riley screeched in excitement every time I let him drink directly out of the strange, clear plastic bottle.
It’s the little things, I guess.
Meanwhile, at the DHL office…
Ugh. Why they have to use so much damn bubble wrap and tape is beyond me. They even bubble wrapped our indestructible Samsonite clamshell suitcase!
But they didn’t bubble wrap the footlockers, because that would just be crazy, right?
We were in such a hurry on our way out of town that we didn’t bother weighing all the parcels. Lori and I thought for sure we’d come in well under the max.
It’s amazing how wrong we were, but fortunately a relatively easy fix.
Though it took Lori a year to find them here, she figured her hand weights weren’t worth the insane overage fee.
Knowing we had extra baggage allowance on our flight to Phnom Penh, we were able to additionally remove two entire parcels, which brought the weight down to a reasonable amount — still over a bit, but just by a few bucks.
That means we’ll have more luggage to wrangle when we arrive in Cambodia, but it will end up costing us far less.
Over the weekend, we did a farewell tour of old haunts, and got to say, “See ya later” (for reals this time) to a number of our favorites — Cafe Vanilla (formerly Le Banneton), and of course, Noe and daddy’s favorite little coffee shop…
This old car had sat in front of that Vietnamese temple for as long as we lived here. Looks like someone’s finally taken an interest in getting the old girl back on the blacktop.
Yet, another sign that it’s time to be moving on for us as well.
Still, no sign of life at the old National Museum, which has sat abandoned and neglected for most of Noe’s life.
The farewell extravaganza we attended in the spring of 2017 was sure memorable, though.
On Sunday evening, we met up with some of our closest friends in Vientiane for an evening stroll along the Mekong.
No doubt about it, I’ll miss the Mekong sunsets. Walking along the Mighty Mekong at sunset on an evening like this with good friends is really hard to beat.
On our final week in town, Noe finally got to go on the kiddie carnival rides.
…and, got in one last Zumba workout…
…and one last long stroll for a while with his best friend.
On Monday evening, Lori had a cocktail hour function she was obliged to attend. Being that her seminar was focused on Early Childhood Development, several of the attendees were keen to meet our rambunctious 12-month-old.
I can’t possibly imagine, but to each their own.
Which only meant that Noe and I got to have a dudes night out.
It’s been a pretty hectic and crazy few weeks for the little guy, so I thought we’d do something special.
It’s not every day that Noe and daddy get to split a fry basket! Chicken, veggies, fries, you name it. Anything they had on hand at Go-Dunk that they could deep fry went into that basket (minus the creepy crawlers), and Noe devoured it.
So good. And good for you, too!
With our time running short, I decided to take a long bike ride east to check out a new coffee shop that was getting a lot of press. The Mystery Cafe is located a five minute walk from our first house, and opened, ironically, just a month or two after moving into our new house a couple miles away.
It’s nice to see a coffee shop opening in that part of town, as offerings were few and far between. Darn good coffee, too. And a quirky outdoor space to boot.
One of my last bike rides into town along the Mekong. And what a day! It appears they took a big ol’ weed whacker to the river bank while we were gone.
It’s been a busy few weeks but we certainly didn’t expect this when we hit up our favorite burger joint, Sputnik, for dinner one night. We’re all exhausted, but Riley showed us all up.
Maybe if we all had a bit more energy, we would have joined the lederhosen-clad crowd at Vientiane Oktoberfest. Noe still got a kick out of seeing all the people dressed up in their funny-gear through the gaps in the fence.
Most days, our little commute to the kids’ school and back was bearable, as long as daddy kept the pacifier accessible (Riley’s in a screaming phase) and the boys weren’t sitting close enough to pull each others’ hair.
Our final morning, however, was far more excruciating than any other.
What typically shaped up to be a 15-minute drive from hotel to school took more than twice as long on account of…
We were first in line for the light to make a left at the Presidential Palace, when police suddenly shutdown the two main thoroughfares running through the nation’s capital…during morning rush hour.
If I were flying solo this morning, I might have thought, “Hey, that’s not something you see everyday.” After three years living in Laos and two little ones becoming increasingly psychopathic by the minute in the backseat of someone else’s vehicle, we’ll just say I didn’t have much love for the presidential pomp and circumstance playing out in the midst of rush hour.
But the day quickly turned around. I’d wrapped up all of my errands ahead of schedule and the couple who bought my bike showed up on time. I suddenly found myself standing outside a French cafe with no kids, no work to get done, and forty minutes until I needed to go pickup the boys.
So…I did something I’ve never done before three years in Laos. I sat down all by myself and ordered a beer. A Belgian beer at that.
No computer, no devices, no nothing. Just me and Monsieur Chimay at a French cafe…in Laos.
It may very well have been the highlight of my day…
…but running into the sunset Chihuahuas of the Mekong Zone, yet again, later that night was a close second.
And Noe’s most memorable moment of the day just might have been when he jumped in to take the reins of a giant riverboat full of passengers after the boat captain fell overboard.
…at least, that’s how he likes to remember it.
On our final morning in Laos, we had brunch with friends, collected our half-dozen pieces of luggage, and checked out of our hotel.
We’d reserved a taxi to the airport ahead of time (which doesn’t really mean much here in Laos…it just means that if you remind the front desk minutes before your departure, they’ll pick up the phone and call a taxi for you).
We told them we’d need a vehicle big enough for all our stuff. They said, bor pen yang (no worries).
Right then, a compact sedan pulls up. Mind you, we had six large suitcases and two carry-on suitcases, along with our backpacks.
…and a stroller and carseat.
Minutes later, a Skylab rolls up, our luggage is loaded, and off to the airport we go.
Airport staff tagging our baggage under the loving gaze of a bigass BeerLao advert that reads, “Thank-you for visiting our beautiful country.”
Three years, one month, and three days ago, two of us stepped off a plane with a three-month-old baby right here, beginning our Laos adventure.
Well, they’ve basically built a new airport since then, so not exactly right here, but you get the point.
Are you ready to go to Cambodia, Noe?
So long for now, Vientiane…
…Hello, Phnom Penh!