When the rains came, they came with a fury. It rained intermittently throughout the weekend, and then for three straight days with literally no break. Our dry, dusty neighborhood turned to mush, and our freshly weeded and trimmed yard quickly became jungle again. We knew that Laos had pronounced wet and dry seasons, but no one prepared us for this. Is this what we’re in for for the next several months?
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Noe’s definitely my child. You know how I know for sure? He gets really irritable when its dark and gloomy outside and he doesn’t see the sun for days. He sleeps more, but is crankier. He isn’t his happy, fun-loving self. Lori tells me I get the same way.
Following our most recent stay in a Thai hospital, we decided to pull Noe out of his couple of days of daycare per week for a few months. This week, we’re interviewing part-time nannies. The weather, coupled with recovery and a mean diaper rash from the antibiotics means that Noe is in no mood to entertain visitors, which is a good thing. His prospective caretakers will see him at his worst and if they’re still willing to take on the task, they’ll be pleasantly surprised when he’s back to his normal self.
Of course, it’s not like I couldn’t watch Noe (or want to watch Noe) by myself for the entire week. He’s getting a lot more fun and interactive. But he and I both appreciate each other far more when we get a break from each other. I’ve enjoyed having him every other day throughout the week, with days to catch up on laundry, bills, grocery shopping, etc., so that the three of us have our weekends to play/ travel/ relax when Lori’s off work.
It’s also given me a chance to focus on other projects (such as further growing the audience and scope of this seven-year-old blog/website into something that can provide us with supplemental income and add flexibility to our lives — you may have noticed the subtle addition of affiliate links to David & Lori-recommended hotels and travel gear peppered throughout AwayGoWe.com. If you’re curious about our trusted partners or how you can help support the work that goes into this entire website (well behind this blog), I would encourage you to take a look at the bottom of our newly updated About Us page, and even peruse our Best Of page as well (end shameless promo plug)).
By Saturday, the rains had finally let up, and for the first time in over a week, we were treated to a glimmer of blue sky.
The week’s rain had even taken Lori’s Lao coworkers by surprise. The rains were due to arrive, but three solid days of rain, even during the monsoon, is uncommon, apparently. More common, are a thunderstorm or two in the early morning or late afternoon/ evening.
After the crazy couple of weeks we’ve had, we decided (well, Lori decided) it was time to have a date night. We had a happy and hour place and dinner restaurant in mind but didn’t end up at either. Fortunately, we ended up stumbling upon two other places which were a lot more interesting.
Our first planned stop led us to the water front. We were fully aware how much it had rained over the previous week, but weren’t quite prepared for this:
Only a week prior (and for the past several months) the Mekong water front in downtown Vientiane has looked something like this:
Here I am (below), not too long ago, enjoying a beer at the water’s edge. In this photo, I’m sitting roughly where there currently is (see two photos prior) a submerged shelter in the far distance. That’s at least a 20- to 30-foot rise in the water level in just the past few days.
Do you remember that elephant park they went through all the effort of putting up a month or two back? Well, it’s now a “water” park.
You may also remember a certain boat-restaurant seemingly stranded several hundred meters from the river. Lori’s parents noticed it when they were here in January and couldn’t believe the river would ever rise enough to float the boat. They wondered if it had been transported there by some other means. I told them I had seen photos of the Mekong up to the river bank retaining wall, but wouldn’t imagine we’d see that until the later part of the wet season in July or August. Guess I was a bit off on my estimate.
What was the most surprising was how quickly they became operational. Just about two weeks ago, the boat was resting on dry sand, listing gently to one side as workers slowly continued to plug away as they had done for the past several months. Now, literally overnight, they appeared to be fully functional. Adds a whole new meaning to seasonal restaurant.
We were on our way to have drinks on the rooftop of a nice hotel nearby when we walked right by the gangplank of the all-of-a-sudden open-for-business Naga Boat. Let’s just say, there was a slight change in plans, but such is life here in Vientiane — fortunately, a change in plans here is almost always for the better.
After drinks on the river, we were headed to a particular trendy (and somewhat overpriced) French restaurant when we passed Le Vendome. French food sounded really good, but we weren’t sold on the prices of the other place. We had passed Le Vendome a number of times but hadn’t thought to check out the menu. The menu looked intriguing and the prices were far more reasonable, so we gave it a try.
Out of the half dozen French restaurants we’ve tried in Vientiane, I’d say without a doubt that Le Vendome is my current favorite. The food was awesome, the wine was excellent, and the ambience is the type that is sorely lacking in town — old school, outdoor veranda in a lush (but not overgrown) garden atmosphere. This place has a faded tropical old-world feel to it that is a nice departure from the trendy, industrial vibe of the new places opening up around town and our go-to local Lao-Thai-Vietnamese places (which we love, but also enjoy a break from occasionally — much like our amazing and adorable son).
On Sunday, we thought it might be nice to take a walk along the 2-mile track along the Mekong between Spirit House and the Bo Ice factory. We’d never covered this stretch before and the weather had been so cool and overcast recently that it seemed like a great idea.
Less than ten minutes into our walk, we realized that we had made a bit of a mistake. The storm system that had pummeled central Laos for the past week had moved on, leaving heat, but more significantly a TON of humidity in its wake. A quarter mile on and we were already drenched. The air was heavy and thick. I checked my phone and, while the actual temperature was only around 85F, the heat index was around 115F. All humidity. No wind.
Our walk gave us a better view of the flooded elephant park.
We also came upon another floating restaurant, but this one didn’t quite look operational.
And this crazy solitary apartment building, seemingly out in the middle of nowhere (but with a river view).
We made it as far as Kong View Restaurant, where we stopped for a while to cool off and have a snack. Fortunately, by the time we left, a nice breeze had kicked up, making the return trip a bit more bearable.
Another highlight of the weekend was finally making it to Lao Fresh Meats. We had sampled some awesome smoked sausage at their booth at the European Food Fair a few weeks back and wanted to check their shop out at some point. I had been a bit reluctant as I thought their prices would be exorbitant (fresh, locally-raised meat not imported from Thailand or China generally comes with a pretty hefty premium), but I found the prices to be quite reasonable — and they had some amazing offerings I haven’t seen anywhere else (outside of the ritzy Thai supermarket, Rimping, that is).
I got a sampling of ground beef and ground pork for grilling, along with some really awesome looking bacon and, of course, some smoked sausage.
I’ve really enjoyed grilling lately. I’m grilling two nights a week on average, trying my hand at a number of dishes we just don’t usually find around here. I head outside to the carport with a beer and the latest BBC Newshour podcast as Lori’s putting Noe down for the night. Lately, we’ll have a big thunderstorm pass through at that time as well, cooling things down as the grill’s heating up, which is nice. Nice chill time all around.
Tonight I’m grilling up two meals: chicken shish kabobs and my all-time favorite Vietnamese dish (which, strangely, is nearly impossible to find around here) — Hanoi-style Bun Cha.
We did end up finding what appears to be an awesome part-time nanny for Noe. She’ll be watching Noe once a week in May, before transitioning to 2-3 times per week for June and July. A number of expat families we’ve been connected with happen to be leaving Vientiane, so there have been some really good nannies will stellar references that are looking for part-time work. Quality childcare, whether it be daycare, private school, babysitter, or nanny, is far more reasonable here in Vientiane than in major cities in the U.S. or Europe, which for us has long been an attractive benefit of this lifestyle. So far, Noe and his new friend have really taken to each other.
As for the rain, we’ve gotten a bit of a break, thankfully. But no doubt about it, the monsoon is here, and for the most part, it’s a welcome change.