July 14th 2010
Day 7 – Xieng Khuang to Vang Vieng
Right on time at 6 am, our former students Seng and his wife Houa met us at our guesthouse and we decided to have breakfast at Phonsavan market. I do love the hustle and bustle of this market. Even for people like me who have lived in Cambodia for over 10 years, it is just so exotic. We all had our favorite Kao Pheak soup, but I think Ghislain is really starting to miss his croissants.
It was great seeing our student Yoorlao chatting with Seng and Houa since they used to study together and have not seen each other for a while.
I asked Seng what he thought of the Kao Pheak since he is a specialist in and he gave it a thumbs up. I had to agree with him because not only it is delicious, but the couple that sells the soup are so happy to tell us how to make it and the history of their little shop. I know I am repeating myself nearly every day but the friendliness of these people is just overwhelming for me.
Xieng Khuang province will leave a lasting impression on me, but mostly because of these incredible people and of course because of my beloved mushrooms.
I also have to tell you that the moderate climate in that province was just fantastic since it was so hot in Vientiane. It was actually chilly in the evenings! We then went back to our guesthouse to pack our belongings, had a quick group picture with all of us and said another goodbye.
On our way to Vang Vieng we stopped in the junction town Phou Koun again, where my favorite little market with vegetable and other weird creepy things is. We met Bouavone, our reintegration team leader, and had a nice lunch of fried chicken, noodles and omelets Lao Style with green beans and of course chili.
After lunch, Ghislain and I decided to climb the little hill behind the picturesque market and asked if our team wanted to join us but they all declined which was a bit strange but I did not give it another thought.
On the way up I did realize a strange smell but being close to the market with buffalo meat, bile, droppings etc it did not surprise me.
Ghislain took some pictures and back down the hill we went. When we arrived, our lovely Lao team had a very good laugh at us because that hill is known as the ‘public bathroom’ in town and we very freely stepped all over it. I love when locals have a good laugh at foreigners.
We then had a very scenic drive to Vang Vieng and stopped on the way to take more pictures and to stretch our legs. One more thing that has impressed me on this whole trip so far is that there are public bathrooms set up all the way for everyone to use and they are very clean. This is a big thing for me, I;m not sure how I would cope having to use the ‘public bathroom’ on the mountain!
We arrived around 4:30 at Vang Vieng and had to find a place to stay and unfortunately our stay wasn’t that great. The town was full of backpackers who don’t seem to care at all about respecting Lao people or culture, and spend their time drunk, stones and being incredibly rude. It was so disappointing to see in such a beautiful country. I was just glad that we only had to stay there for one night.
We went to look for a Lao restaurant that our guide book recommended as the most authentic Lao restaurant in town. I guess whoever wrote that must have been on drugs and drunk at the same time.
It was terrible and the food was not Lao at all and looking at our cooking teacher Madame Vone’s face I became really worried since I made all of them go there. But a couple of beers did help to make her smile.
We then went home to sleep since we wanted to go and visit an organic mulberry farm early in the morning and after we’ll go back to Vientiane the get ready for the trip south on Saturday.
There was not a lot of sleeping that night though. The other guests were partying all night and I was bitten by countless bed bugs.
You can imagine our mood in the morning, but more about that tomorrow.