20 July 2010
Day 13 – Pakse to Savannakhet
The day started with another good breakfast so I knew it was going to be another good day.
We decided before moving on to Savannakhet to make a short trip to Don Kho village which is about 15km outside of Pakse. It is a small fishing village located on an island, so we took one of these small boats across the Mekong. It is a real nice little sleepy village where cars are not allowed. We met up with the village chief Mr. Nov Phak to find out more about it. He was like everyone in this country – very helpful and friendly. He introduced us to his wife who was weaving silk into beautiful scarves, sarongs and more.
The island village has a lovely pagoda with an interesting drum tower. We also saw some very relaxed water buffalos just cooling down in the mud.
We really needed some water buffalo photos, because we are planning to include some buffalo dishes in the book. Ghislain was taking some pictures of them when one particular buffalo got up and looked like she is going to go after him. This one already gave me a real mean look when I walked past it. Ket, Madame Vone and the students also sensed that it was a little angry. I was a little worried that we were about to see something similar to a scene from a Spanish bullfight, but Ghislain stood his ground, took the pictures and we left (very quickly).
In the village square we saw an old man from the pagoda, who was being followed by a young calf everywhere he went. We had to go and ask him about it. He explained to us that the calf’s mother died right after birth and he has been raising it sine then. The calf was now four months old and it was just so beautiful to see him taking such good care of it. Each day he would bring it to the village square to feed since the grass there was the youngest and it would be easier for such a young calf to digest. Simply heartwarming it was.
We then left for our trip to Savannakhet with a short lunch break in the small town of Napong in the Rong Se Dong district which is famous all over Laos for its organic chicken and for its Lao Lao which is the local rice whisky.
The chicken indeed was very delicious and I did buy a bottle of the whisky but I will let my Cambodian friends be the judge of the whisky, as I am not really a whisky drinker.
Ket was already busy making lots of phone calls to organize places to discover local food in our next destination. She is an absolute gem.
After checking into our guesthouse we went down to the riverfront to see what kind of snacks they had. It is all catered for the local crowd and the local version of Suki soup is the thing to have.
We had to try it and Cheng and Yearh our students absolutely loved it. For me, it was just ok since you can find this anywhere and not just in Laos.
That evening we had arranged a meeting with the cook from a local restaurant and she gave us a recipe of grilled marinated beef in Khampoo leaves. These leaves are very tasty and remind me of grape leaves. I couldn’t find the English name for it yet, but I am working on it.
It was very tasty and she explained us that it was a Lao adaptation of a Vietnamese dish. Most of us really liked it but Madame Vone said that the sauce was not Lao enough (which I took to mean that it was not spicy enough).
The plan over the next few days is to go Khammuan province, which is on the way back to Vientiane.
I am writing this now already having arrived in Khammuan province. It was an amazing drive, but I’ll write more about it tomorrow because it is 11pm and we have to get up at 5:30am to cook some local dishes before visiting another one of the wonders of Laos, and I am exhausted!