8 July 2010
Day 1 – Vientiane to Luang Prabang
We were supposed to leave Vientiane at 7:30am but the driver, our guiding star Ket and our cooking teacher Madame Vone arrived 45 minutes earlier.
Since we had to rush to get on the road, we did not have time to eat breakfast so we decided to eat this very delicious soup called KAO PHEAK in one of these open air soup kitchens. Now I think I understand why they wanted us to leave so early and not have breakfast in the guesthouse before we left!
This soup consists of a lovely strong pork broth, with home made rice noodles topped with tender pork, roasted garlic and shallots.
The most important thing, which is nearly an art form, is adding the right amount of condiments: lime, roasted chili, black pepper, green onions, sugar and fish sauce. I also love adding pickled chilies, but unfortunately there weren’t any at here today. There is a noodle shop in Vientiane which makes the perfect Kao PHEAK but I’ll tell you more about that later on in the trip.
We then finally left at 7 30am, stopping to pick up our student from Makphet that will join us for the trip up north.
A quick group picture with the whole Makphet morning shift was essential.
The drive from Vientiane for about 90 minutes was nice but that changed quickly when we entered Vientiane province and Vang Vieng district.
Then mountainous scenery is simply breathtaking.
There are small roads winding up and down the hills and seeing the small villages and settlements as we drove by is incredible.
We stopped at Vang Vieng town for a very Lao snack which was a Cow Head* cheese sandwich with bacon. I have no idea what came over us, but every one is allowed to make mistakes as you learn from it, and trust me I did.
Ket has been providing us with high calorie snacks during the road trip to make sure our energy levels are kept up. We had custard cakes in three different flavors, but when I read the ingredients on the box I was not sure if it was actually food I was putting in my mouth. We have the feeling that Ket is our mother looking after her young ones. She has the van so well stocked she even offered us toothpicks with dental floss after finishing the bacon and cheese sandwich.
The whole journey took 10 hours and we were so glad to finally find our booked guesthouse after at least 30 minutes driving all over LPB looking for it.(Ghislain and I had the suspicion that the driver wanted us to stay in another place) .
It has satellite TV (which is really important for some of us) but all the channels are religious ones from Buddhist, Muslim and tons of Christian ones. Lucky me!
After a quick shower we went to the night food market, which was a real adventure. They sell everything from delicious coconut cakes to sausages with buffalo meat and buffalo droppings, cold pork blood sausages to buffalo brain amok with black fungus and many more mouth watering Lao delicacies!
The market has a real nice character, the food is tasty and people are very friendly and are happy to explain you what everything is, but more about that in the book!
We had dinner and then had a quick look around at the rest of the night market before heading straight to bed. Tomorrow is another early start at 5am as we are going to see the monks on their early morning offering walk and to visit the morning food market.
*Note: Cow Head is the brand of cheese, not the ingredient!