Vientiane is a good place to just hang out which is what I did for several days. I revisited the museums, ate grilled fish by the Mekong, read some books that I traded for at a book exchange, and had coffee every morning at the Scandinavian Bakery. I got my visa extended, booked flights to Phonsaven and the Plain of Jars, and to Bangkok for my flight home. I shopped for souvenirs for the grandkids in the shops and had a great day at the Morning Market, buying some things, including having a Lao silk skirt made for me. Now where will I wear that? I checked my email every morning; I had a manicure and a pedicure.
Saturday I was invited to join Lynda and Jo (the English teachers that I met before going south) to a ‘cook-in’ at Lynda’s house with Keo, a Lao woman who is Jo’s landlady. She is an expert cook and made several Lao dishes for which I got the recipes.It was really fun. Keo could speak fluent English, and could cook five dishes in chaos with Lynda and Jo ‘helping’—-all the while talking a steady stream of English. The food was delicious, and a couple of bottles of wine added to our appreciation of Keo’s cooking!
Keo is a woman after my own heart when it comes to food. I was told that some years ago she had contemplated changing her religion from Buddhism to Christianity, but changed her mind when she learned that as a Christian, she wouldn’t be able to eat during church services. Remember when I commented on people bringing lots of food to share with the Buddhist monks to eat at the temples?
Art and I had lunch together on Sunday. His wife and son couldn’t come because they were invited to Tip’s niece’s “Leaving the Fire” ceremony. Art explained that the Lao custom after a woman has a baby is that her husband makes a fire (never mind that it’s 95 degrees here) and boils water. The new mother lies near the fire and drinks the boiled water for a month which is considered to be healthful for the mother and baby. At the end of the month, relatives all celebrate the “Leaving the Fire” ceremony. Our lunch and Beerlao were wonderful and I wore my new silk Lao wraparound skirt—Art said I was ‘going native.’ The problem, of course, is it has no pockets!
The next day I flew north to Phonsavan which is where I am now. There are some interesting things to see here which I will plan to do during the next few days. It’s somewhat cooler at this higher altitude and quite comfortable.
The Lao are very big on removing shoes in their homes and even in hotels, internet cafes and stores. In the capital they didn’t do this nearly as much but here, in Phonsavan and in other small towns where I have stayed, they do. It’s quite a pain when I’m wearing laced up shoes with double bows. They all wear sandals, mostly thongs, so they just slip in and out of them. Every doorway has many pairs of thongs in front of it, which, of course, is how one knows that shoe removal is required.
Phonsavan is also a place where there is much UXO (unexploded ordinance). In the dining room of my hotel a whole wall is filled with examples of bombs, guns, bomlets, and other paraphernalia that I don’t know about. My guidebook says that when one visits the Plain of Jars here, not to go off the well worn paths for fear of an explosion. I shall heed the warning.
And luckily this small town has an internet cafe so off this goes to all of you.