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Laos Life: April 2019

Riley tries out nursery school and solid foods, I try out days without kids and three new coffee shops, and Lori and Noe try their best to stay out of trouble.

April is a funny month in Vientiane. Well, most months are, maybe with the exception of May. May is not a particularly funny month. Nothing ironic, whimsical, or ridiculous ever seems to happen here in May. It’s before the rains start in earnest and school gets out for the summer, but comes after April. And April, well April is just bizarre.

If you know a thing or two about Laos (or have been following AwayGoWe for some time), you already know that April is the month of Pi Mai, also known as Lao New Year, Water Festival, and Songkran to the falang coming off of a couple of weeks in Thailand and still using words like sawadee krap and farang in Laos.

Pi Mai is a time to let loose, let your hair down, and let it all hang out, which is a big deal here in Laos for a people who really do none of that sort of thing in public. But for 2-3 weeks in April every year, it’s Bizarro World.

Within this countrywide holiday atmosphere, life for most of us foreigners goes on, but with concessions, shoulder shrugging, and lots of patience. Will the tailor’s shop be open? Who knows! Will our family doc be at the clinic? Who knows! Will the supermarket have milk and chicken? Who knows! Will the supermarket have beer??? Oh yes. They always. Have. Beer.

Here’s a look back at another eventful month with Lori and the boys.

•  •  •

Riley turned six months old on the 5th of the month, and that meant it was time to start feeding the kid something other than mommy. This kid’s a chunk, too, and Lori’s finding it harder to keep up with his appetite. Our hope was that starting solids would help with that and help him to be more likely to sleep through the night without a top-up.

Noe loves to help with stuff, but particularly enjoys preparing food with mommy and daddy. So, you might imagine his excitement when he got to help prepare his little brother’s first ever solid meal of rice cereal.

When Noe started solids, he was pretty skeptical at first. But he was also a pretty little guy, and at six months it didn’t take a huge amount to satisfy him. Riley, on the other hand, took to the mystery mush right away. He’s one eager eater.

Noe’s continuing to enjoy brushing up on his Richard Scarry. On Saturday mornings, he’ll happily sit for an hour in his bedroom regaling Big Monkey with the stories he makes up from the pictures — all while mommy and daddy happily sleep in.

Sometimes I come in early to listen to his stories. Other times, he tells me, “Daddy, you have your own big bed. Noe wants space.” Message received Mr. Bossy-Pants.

This month, Riley graduated from his infant car seat pad. Actually, he outgrew it a long time ago, but we had forgotten our piddle pad back in the U.S. and didn’t want to part with it until a friend was able to bring it out. Of course, he never had an accident that necessitated washing the pad. Noe was a different story, but then again, we traveled a lot more with Noe in the first several months.

Warning: If you have a weak stomach, you may want to skip this next one…

Yep! That is indeed the LAST BeerLao Dark in the fridge!!! I warned you it would be disturbing.

Oh…and that’s a dead gecko in the beer compartment. You may imagine my surprise when I went to grab a beer that evening. Somehow he must have snuck in while we had the door open. A refrigerator is no place for a cold-blooded reptile, especially the beer-loving variety. He’s lucky the cold got to him before I did.

Another day, another dinner of tasty gruel. And Noe helped, of course.


Noe’s been liking his “Boys Time” lately. Riley’s really been enjoying pulling hair and trying to gouge people’s eyes out, so Boys Time means TWO faces to disfigure. So vicious.


Something else Riley likes annihilating is his baby play gym…every night.

Lori had a work function one Saturday. It was informal enough where she could take Riley with her, so Noe and I opted for a day on the town together.

Noe and I have had lots of daddy days, but this one was the first time he got to ride on daddy’s bike in Laos. Riding to the city center on a Saturday is one of the safer and more relaxing rides from our house, as you can ride along the Mekong for most of the way without dodging motorbikes and unlicensed drivers (which together make up about 90% of the traffic in Vientiane).

We chained up the bike near one of the temples and proceeded to walk around downtown for the next hour or so. Our first stop?

Of course, we went to a coffee shop! Would you expect anything less? There isn’t a ton to do in town on a really hot day, so coffee shops are always a good bet, as most of them are air-conditioned. There are quite a few play gyms in town, but I wanted to hang out with Noe instead of chasing him around a crowded age-inappropriate jungle gym. Plus, that’s Mommy and Noe’s special thing they do together. We do bike rides, construction sites, and coffee shops.

Once Upon a Time Cafe 2 (downtown location).

Today, we’re at Once Upon a Time 2. I was a regular at their original location in Phontan Village before we moved across town, but hadn’t yet been to their newest location which has already been open for several months. The best part is that the best seats in the house were available, up on the second floor behind the big iron clock.

And, in case you are wondering what Noe’s drinking, it’s ice cold delicious water…his favorite on a hot day. One of the servers brought him that awesome cup. He has no idea who or what is on it. All he knows is that it was brought out special for him.


Meanwhile, across town…


Brunch at Ray’s Capitol Grille — our first visit back in over a year.



Unbeknownst to me, Lori snapped this shot of us on a walk.

True, we don’t have many pics these days of the four of us, but could you have gotten a pic that didn’t have a huge trash pile in it, Lori? Plus, everyone knows Riley’s left side is his best side.

Bor Pen Yang Bar

We also hadn’t been to Bor Pen Yang in over a year as well. In fact, here in April, we’re finding there’s a lot of places we used to frequent in 2016 and 2017 that we haven’t been to in a while. I guess that’s what happens when one of you is pregnant, you don’t have guests for a while, and you’re out of the country for five months having a baby. Well, we’re obviously hellbent on making up for lost time.

As I mentioned earlier, Riley turned six months at the beginning of April, which meant he was eligible to start attending our nursery school of choice in town.

Even though he was old enough to start at the beginning of the month, we decided it would be better for everyone to start him after the Lao New Year break.

Before we left for Vietnam, we made a visit so that Riley and the teachers could meet each other, learn a bit more about the place, and see how he does. Fortunately. Riley is used to being with different people and they all seemed to take to each other right away. Riley’s just happy when someone plays with him, it really doesn’t matter much who it is.

All of this meant that the day before we flew to Vietnam was Riley’s beloved nanny’s last scheduled day with him. While we only had Kham helping out a few half-days a week for a few months, it was more than enough time for the two of them to form a special bond.


Mid-month, we hopped a plane to Vietnam, where we spent a week in Hanoi, seeing the sights and enjoying some much-needed downtime together.

I’m not going to rehash our trip here, but you can read all about it in:

Next Stop is Viet Nam
One Week in Hanoi: Seeing the Sights
Going Native in Hanoi: Our First Airbnb
A [Slightly] Unorthodox Food & Coffee Tour of Hanoi

…with more posts on the way!

After returning from our trip, the day finally arrived…

(the name has been redacted to protect the innocent)

You can tell he was really devastated to be leaving daddy in the dust. You know, I kind of take offense to that smile, kiddo. You should be in tears! IN TEARS, I say!!!

Oh well, at least I still have Laozzy…


•  •  •

Now that Riley’s off to nursery school, I get to walk Noe to and from his nursery school, which has become one of the highlights of my day.

I love my baby boy, but Lori and I are both getting to spend a lot less time with our big boy than we’ve been accustomed to prior to Riley’s arrival. Walking Noe to/from school every day is one of the few chances we’ve had in recent months to have some Noe/daddy-time (besides our bedtime routine and, of course, our epic downtown daddy day).

Noe tells me about his day (what he played, the songs he’s learned, and the fruit he ate), and he’s always quick to inform me where all the crocodiles are hiding along our route.

I also get to see him and his teachers and director of the school interacting with each other, which is always fun to watch. They are very patient with him, but I guess you have to be when you spend every day with 1-2 dozen 1 to 3-year-olds.

With both Riley and Noe away a good bit, it’s been a good time to focus on growing the travel blog, and along with that, explore more of the new ‘hood.

Two new coffee shops just opened up and there’s a third just around the corner that I’ve been wanting to check out as well.

One of my concerns moving to the new neighborhood was the lack of coffee shops near the house, compared with our old neighborhood. As luck would have it, the number of places has doubled since we moved in. Leave it to Laos.

Manee Cafe is a nice little venue with limited indoor A/C seating, and covered outdoor seating. They’re attached to the new Manee Spa in Thongkang Village, and offer espresso drinks, sodas, and a limited choice of pastries.

INCafe (below what was formerly American All-Stars) has become my preferred option in these parts. Good espresso beverages, a full lunch menu (but only muffins for breakfast, currently), indoor and outdoor seating, good music, and a friendly owner.

Also, Frenchy-HQ Cafe Vanille up on Rue Bourichane now has a second location right on Rue Sokpaluang. It’s both bakery cafe and French mini market, meaning I can ride my bike up there on a Sunday morning and bring back one heck of a breakfast spread…

Ham & cheese croissant, almond croissant, apricot danish, fresh baguette, Roquefort, and salami! The pastries are cut in half because, believe it or not, I do share.
Local fruit market in April.


Post-dinner beverages at ATMO.

After spending over a week straight with the boys during our Lao New Year break, we figured a date night was in order. And yes, I am drinking a Rosé. It was blistering hot that evening and it just kind of sounded good. Lori went for the passionfruit cocktail.

•  •  •

By the end of the month, Vientiane is into its third week straight of 100°F+ (38°c+) days. It’s been unseasonably dry and the temperatures just keep climbing, reaching a heat index of around 120° on some days.

So, when a front finally decided to move in one evening, we seized the opportunity to get in a long walk on our favorite river trail. It’s easy to get cabin fever here in the hot season, particularly for the boys.


A perfect evening to grill out with a Negroni after the boys have gone off to bed.

Fire it up!

After 2.5 years of reliable access to a car or pickup here in Laos, that all changed in April.

The number of vehicles available for use from Lori’s work has been dramatically reduced for one reason or another, so we’ve had to get a bit creative with getting around.

Next month, one more vehicle gets pulled out of the rotation, which will mean a lot more staying close to home and more tuk-tuks and biking.

With no end in sight to these brutally hot days, the monsoon just around the corner, and having no intention of purchasing a vehicle this late in the game, things promise to get even more interesting for the four of us here in Vientiane.

Stay tuned!

30 April 2019

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JAN FULLERTONDaveShirley NorthcraftBrenda Recent comment authors
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This is definitely my favorite post so far!! Wonderful pictures of the boys and Lori!! Riley is sure growing up fast, and Noe certainly is the perfect big brother. Absolutely love my vicarious experiences of Laos, thanks to you.

Shirley Northcraft
Shirley Northcraft

You are fortunate to have found such great daycare for the boys so you have a bit of time for yourself. Photos and descriptions are superb, as usual. We think of you often while we are in Portugal and wish you could be along to translate for us.