When Noe was a wee little tike and under my care most days, we did a lot of fun things together. While “fun” is subjective — certainly in Vientiane — I do genuinely believe most of our days were pretty enjoyable. Too bad Noe will never remember any of them. But that’s what pictures are for, right?
Vientiane’s a nice town and all, but there isn’t a lot to do with a baby when you haven’t yet got wheels of your own, you live out on the far reaches of town, and it’s either sweltering or pouring down rain much of the year. But Noe and I made the best of it. On particularly hot afternoons each week, I’d strap Noe on and make the ten minute journey to the Lao oddity that is Lao ITECC Mall. While ITECC Mall isn’t terribly exciting in itself (certainly not after the dozenth or so time), it does offer one huge benefit — air conditioning. True, many restaurants in Vientiane offer the same, but ITECC Mall is a nine-level behemoth. And while there might not be much filling those nine levels, it does offer a chance for daddy to stretch his legs and baby to be out and about without having to worry about baby getting dehydrated or sunburned.
So, Noe and I made it a regular thing to visit ITECC for an hour or two. When we moved back to Vientiane earlier this month, I thought Riley and I might like to do something similar. While we love our new neighborhood and it is exponentially more conducive to strolling with a baby, there isn’t a similar complex nearby to kill some time with an infant in relative comfort. ITECC Mall now lies several miles to the northeast of our new place. Regardless, on our second full day together, I felt like Riley needed to experience this rite of passage. Plus, we actually had some things at ITECC we needed to scratch off the list. So…to ITECC!
But first…breakfast and a coffee at our neighborhood coffee shop. Hey, I’ve got four hours before we meet up with mommy for lunch, and I ain’t spending that entire time at ITECC Mall. Luckily, Riley enjoys coffee shops far more than Noe generally did.
Just put two chairs together, throw down a muslin blanket, and instant baby play space!
Though sometimes Riley prefers to see what daddy’s doing. Don’t worry, Riley, I’ve got you covered.
By the way, a Contigo insulated travel mug is the perfect size for keeping Medela baby bottles cool while out and about.
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I texted our favorite taxi driver, Mr. Kiat, for a ride out to ITECC. What? Not what you expected? I know, you were probably expecting a long, drawn out account of an endless sojourn across town, or at least a tuk tuk ride, right? Mind you, we’ve been back in Laos for less than a week and this is my second day on full-time baby duty again, so let’s just say I’m feeling a little less adventurous than usual. Plus, a 15 minute cab ride maximizes our time to run our errands and costs about half what a tuk tuk costs (no joke!).
Sleepy cab time for the Junior Mister.
And, we’re here!
Oh ITECC, I can’t say I’ve missed you, but on some level I’ve missed being with you. Our relationship is so complicated.
First things first. On to everybody’s favorite Chinese Supermarket: Sky. And what an amazing place it is — one of the largest retail spaces in the city packed with a whole lot of nothing that I could ever dream of wanting. If you were ever wondering if it was possible to stock two entire aisles with ramen noodles or Chinese snack chips, I’m here to tell you that, yes, yes it is.
But what about kid’s toothbrushes?
Lori actually brought out a bunch of kid’s toothbrushes thinking we’d be hard pressed to find them in Vientiane. Like the five-pound-yoga block that you also hauled out, I’m sorry to say, Lori, you can get both in Vientiane — and for far cheaper. In Lori’s defense, it really is impossible to know, even after two years of living here. Stock is always changing, old stores closing, and new shops opening.
Alright, Riley, looks like we were able to find 2 of the 10 things we hoped to find at Sky. In Vientiane terms, that’s a pretty successful shopping trip.
Now it’s time to see what’s changed in the rest of the mall. Up we go!
Like every other “mall” in Vientiane, this place is constantly in flux. It seems they’re always moving shops around, closing useful stores and adding utterly useless ones, like this place:
I was disappointed to discover that half of the 6,000 kip stores (roughly equivalent to a dollar store) had closed, leaving only half a dozen. Yeah, I know they all carry the same thing. But somehow when there are more of them, I just can’t help but think that maybe the sixth or seventh one in a row might just have that one thing I’m looking for.
Even after six months away, ITECC wasn’t all that exciting. And, it wasn’t a particularly hot day, so the air conditioning wasn’t even on. But I did manage to get a bit of exercise, and Riley got a nice nap — I know it will only be a matter of time that it’ll be the reverse.
The highlight of our visit to ITECC, however, may very well have been this weirdness that has popped up next to the old convention center:
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At first, it appeared to be a junkyard for old shipping containers and buses. But on further inspection…
Nope, still looks like a junkyard at this point. We’ll check back in another six months.
A lovely evening for a stroll. The great thing about January in Vientiane is there are no shortage of lovely evenings, even if the season’s burning over in Thailand obscures an otherwise perfect sunset. A week back in Vientiane and we realized we hadn’t yet been down to the river for a stroll. We were happy to see that the new market along the waterfront hadn’t been too badly damaged by last August’s flooding.
This particular night, I’m excited to be returning to one of my guilty pleasures — an oldie but goody: Chokdee Belgian Beer Bar. I know what you’re thinking, who comes all the way to Laos and visits a Belgian beer bar? Um…anyone who loves great beer, that’s who!
We’ve been away for five months, and are definitely excited to get our hands on the awesome regional food at all our favorite haunts. But we’ve also been craving the awesome French and Belgian food Vientiane has too, which is actually much harder to find in the Pacific Northwest than excellent Southeast Asian food.
And look at that menu! All those Belgian beers are ON TAP. Granted, not cheap in the least, but a nice treat every month or two, particularly when you no longer have regular access to PacNW craft beers.
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