I’ve been in Laos for nine days now, and I leave tonight. Despite daily downpours (it’s rainy season), it’s been a really fantastic trip here. There are a few reasons for this, so I’ll go through some of those.
(1) Laos is very, very chill. In some travel blogs for Vang Vieng (the first city I went to) some of the recommended things to do were “chill, like the locals”. This was quite true; as locals sometimes hang in these little huts along the river and picnic there; or some lay in the many hammocks there are here. When in Rome, right? Laos kind of has an island country vibe that just is unfortunately landlocked; though still quite green!
It also means that Vientiane isn’t quite the bustling capital like neighboring Bangkok is. Vientiane is about the size of Milwaukee, though it feels much smaller. There’s little traffic (or people, really) except during the sunset when the (2) whole city (it seems like) goes to the river (Mekong) to walk around, eat, and watch the sunset. Oh, and you can see Thailand on the other side.
The eateries here are all impromptu food carts that pull up, put out some tables and plastic chairs and (3) serve delicious noodle or wonton soup. There aren’t really that many Lao-restaurants per se, mostly just these places to get food on the side of the street. And it’s all (4) very, very cheap of course. (Meals are usually $2-$3).
There are other restaurants of course, and one of my favorite things about Vientiane is that it’s really a (5) melting pot here. There are French restaurants, Japanese, Chinese, American, and Korean. Lots and lots of Korean restaurants. Why? Because there are (6) so many Koreans here. The two nations signed some kind of agreement and there are really cheap flights between Seoul and Vientiane and so Koreans come here to kind of let loose. It’s kind of like a party place for them (with some sightseeing and adventure sports). And this is great; generally, I align with the idea that the more Koreans there are per capita the happier I am. Especially when I can get kimbaps for $3.
In Vientiane, there are a few historic sites to see which were great; lots of temples where (7) in the mornings you can watch the monks coming and going, while you drink a good coffee. And there is (8) TONS of good coffee. There are a few coffee shops on each block; something Laos takes very seriously. And each comes with a delicious array of pastries; either croissants or these wonderful hot coconut macaroon bites they have.
Like the daytime, the nightlife here is fairly chill. Most places set up some tables outside, like the bar that’s right below my apartment here. They play odd live cuts from bands like Guns n’ Roses and then blast country music; but they (9) sell Beerlao for $1.25 so it’s all good.
The other nightlife experience was going to (10) Lao Bowling Center; easily the worst tactical bowling alley I’ve ever been. The lanes are ALL crooked so if you hit the wrong spot on the lane it’s an automatic gutter ball. BUT they sell BIG Beerlaos for $1.50 so you get over it quickly. And I went during a rainstorm that didn’t seem to want to quit so I had several of these beers and talked with two Canadian guys and a few French girls which mostly about the state of the lanes and how it sort of metaphorically fit Vientiane as well; wonderfully quaint without needing to impress you.
Aside from all this, I’ve had a good run here with writing. Something about the coffee shops, relative chillness, and rain-forced indoors time has resulted in a lot of good writing sessions. A few nights ago, I hit the 100,000 word mark which I feel quite good about. I wrote a bit more about that on my writing blog here.
I feel quite fortunate to have the time to get to 100,000 but am also proud of the work I’ve put in. Even if I’m not yet totally satisfied with the quality of all of those words, I know I have a whole bunch of editing to come. And I’m following the sage advice of Anne Lamott who said you should always start with a shitty first draft.
So I shall.
And tomorrow I am back in South Korea where I’ll do some hiking, some Seoul flaneuring, and some time on Jeju Island in the south. Excited for that wonderful and wacky nation; and chamchi kimbap, galbi, and noraebongs.
One last pic from Laos (this one from the top of the Patuxai monument in Vientiane!)