We’re constantly trying to come up with stuff to do with visitors that isn’t in the guidebooks. A lunch on a barge drifting down the river seemed like just the ticket.
Sit back, relax, pour yourself and your friends a cold beer beer Laos and join us as we sum up an eventful week with Lori’s parents and their travel buddies (and close family friends), John and Shirley.
By the time John and Shirley arrived in Vientiane, our four visitors had been traveling for 17 days. With just under five days left before their return flight to the States, we thought we’d shift it into low and slow — Mekong sunsets, hammock time, and Lao massages all around.
Having post-massage snacks at our favorite spot in town: Manee Spa. Now how on Earth these four escaped multiple weeks in Laos in January without having a single Lao massage is beyond me, but it happened. Not this time, oh no. In fact, Lori’s mom liked it so much, she went back for another round.
It was Lori’s idea to get a sitter for one of the afternoons she had off from work, so that the six of us could have a relaxing night out on the town. Initially, the grandparents, of course, were resistant to being apart from Noe, but after a week with a toddler they were suddenly a bit more open to the idea. We love our son more than anything, but occasionally it’s nice to be able to hold a conversation without playing endless rounds of musical toddler.
We enlisted the services of our favorite songteau driver, Mr. Sunee (who even remembered the crew from their last visit) to move our small clan about town.
As far as I’m concerned, songteau is the only way to go in Vientiane when you’ve got this many people…unless of course it’s rush hour when you find yourself doing a lot of sitting and sucking noxious fumes. Yeah, we try and avoid that.
After a tasty and relaxing breakfast at Spirit House, we leisurely make the stroll into the center of town.
Incidentally, it’s that time of the morning, and Noe is nap-bound. Mama tries first with no luck. Then it’s daddy’s turn. It takes me about twenty minutes of walking in circles to get the dude down, but he finally drifts off. Often, a good morning nap is the difference between having a delightfully charming little person around, and fending off a ruthless tyrant. Twenty minutes of effort to get the guy down is a small price to pay for the former.
Meanwhile, Lori commandeered my camera and snapped a handful of shots (above and below). It seems I have real competition on my hands.
So, what about this lunch on a barge hurling down the river?
In previous posts, we talked about visiting the floating restaurants at Tha Ngon, about twenty minutes north of Vientiane on the Nam Ngum (river). We’ve had lunch at the floating restaurants alone, and with Lori’s parents last January — both times our barge was stationary (the main restaurant, firmly moored), but we watched many smaller barges float by with river revelers aboard enjoying a drift down the Nam Ngum and longed to have the time to do the same. Turns out, it’s much easier, cheaper, and less time consuming than we thought.
50,000 kip (about US$6) gets you the boat (and boat man) for one hour (not including food). We ordered off the menu like usual, then, once lunch arrived, our boat man topped off the long tail motor, cast off the lines and suddenly we were cruising down the Nam Ngum.
We motored up river for about thirty minutes, then turned around and floated back to Tha Ngon.
One of the most fun aspects of this particular activity is that it is a very Lao activity to do. Few staff speak English here and you won’t see a lot of non-Lao on the water or in these restaurants. It’s a popular activity with Lao families looking to leave the city on a Sunday afternoon, or in this case, on a Wednesday.
Coming back into town, relaxed and bellies full.
Back at home, Noe was happy to show Grammy all of his favorite books.
Another beautiful Mekong sunset with the crew — this time from Bor Pen Yang bar’s fourth story perch above the night market.
Dinner and drinks on the upper deck of Khop Chai Deu.
On our last afternoon, everyone finally got what they had been craving for weeks: Lao-style Pho! With all the amazing ruffage and condiments to go along with it. Our current favorite noodle soup place in town is Pho Zap — the That Dam location.
Somebody’s got to refill all those bean curd and chili sauce jars!
Thanks Grammy, Grampy, John and Shirley for making it across the world for another memorable visit!