Sunday Fun-Day

Saturday was all about getting stuff done. A visit to ITECC mall to get some lightbulbs and other odds and ends was in order. We were having some unusual weather — overcast and considerably cooler than it had been, and wondered if anyone would be at Ocean Park (the big Chinese waterpark behind the mall). As expected, it was pretty empty, but for three young falang women scurrying around looking very cold. Those wacky foreigners.

Speaking of wacky — a typical parking job in downtown Vientiane. The concept of parking spaces seems to largely be lost on city residents.

Most roads in town don’t even have markings (including center lines). So how do you know if a road is one, two or three lanes wide? If you can barely get around the car in front of you without hitting oncoming traffic, it’s two. If you can comfortably get around the car in front of you, it’s three.

We tried out a new cafe (new to us) called Kaogee Cafe. Coffee was okay, but the sandwiches were pretty darn tasty. I had a burger baguette sandwich, which, for a little under US$2 was a pretty good value for this unique offering. PVO’s banh mi still holds the honor of the city’s best sandwich for the money, in my mind at least. But Kaogee is a strong competitor.

Cafes and coffee shops seem to pop up literally by the day here in Vientiane. No doubt, Vientiane is a coffee sipping, pastry eating cafe city, and I wouldn’t be surprised if its number of cafes and coffee shops soon surpasses Portland. That’s not to say that they are all great — the quality varies tremendously. But the style and ambience also vary tremendously, which is refreshing. You’ve got North American chain-style coffee shops, PacNW-style hipster coffee shops, Korean urban-style coffee shops, Vietnamese-style coffee shops, French cafes, Chinese coffee shops, euro-style cafes, and of course, hybrids of all of the above.

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Saturday may have been our errands day, but Sunday was definitely a jam-packed fun day. Noe even donned his shades for the occasion.

We took advantage of one of the few weekends we’ve had recently that we’ve had a healthy kid and haven’t had visitors in town. We’ve absolutely loved our visitors, but it was nice to have a bit of time to ourselves.

We started the day with no particular plan other than wanting to do things we’ve been wanting to do for a while. We knew we wanted to take advantage of the cooler, cloudy weather, so we headed to nearby That Luang Lake Ghost Town/ Work In Progress, for a walk around the man-made lake.

The great thing about this place is that it’s a short walk from our house, but a world apart. A block east of our place, the jumble of sidewalks and characterless concrete buildings quickly give way to marsh and cattle grazing land.

This entire area is slated to be developed into a mini Chinese mega city of sorts over the next several decades. The development has experienced some setbacks in recent years, bringing the project to a virtual standstill. Bad for them, but great for us (and numerous locals who also live in the area and take advantage of the space). It’s a runner/walker/stroller’s paradise, particularly around sunrise or sunset. Vientiane has few options like this for getting out and about, and even fewer green spaces.

 

Before Lori sprained her ankle, she enjoyed joining other runners at sunrise making their way around the half-constructed roads and pathways. I’ve been out exploring the area with her a few times, but never as far as the man-made lake that will constitute the center of the enormous development — until today.

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Across the lake, more Chinese handiwork underway. On the left, the beginnings of a high-rise city intended to host 400,000 Chinese in the future. On the right and several miles in the distance, glass towers higher than anything previously built in Vientiane reach to the sky.

Vientiane is not alone in this respect. Cities across Asia, Africa and the rest of the world are also experiencing large-scale Chinese “investment.” The long-term impact of such projects on the economy, politics, culture and climate in cities like Vientiane? It’s difficult to say. It’s still early and there isn’t really a precedent — certainly not on the scale of what the Chinese are doing across the globe.

After our long walk, we head back home for some lunch and a short rest. Noe has recently taken up hammocking with daddy. We’re starting the kid early with the hope that in a couple of years he’ll be able to turn pro.

After the break, we take a drive east to a part of town we haven’t spent much time in. The neighborhood is on the other side of the huge That Luang lake development, and currently cut off from the rest of the city, with the exception of one quite congested road up by the That Luang stupa. The change of scenery was nice.

Speaking of scenery, nothing like a hotel with a view!

“Hotel, Restaurant, Karaoke, AND…Fishing Park?”

Another day, another cafe to try. Lori gets the latest scoop from the Vientiane Lifestyle Facebook page, though often we do just happen upon new places and curiosity gets the better of us.

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I was initially unimpressed by the menu…until I got down the “Pour Over” section. Cold Brew? NITRO??? Anybody who knows me well knows my passion for Stumptown Coffee’s nitro cold brew coffee in Portland. Think Guinness in coffee form. For some reason, I haven’t managed to make many converts, but I personally love the stuff. Delicious. Overpriced, yes. But delicious. And here it is on a menu in Laos! Well…not quite.

I was also impressed with their roaster.

But like anything, a fancy gadget is no guarantee of a better product. That still takes skill and knowhow. I’m not sure if it was the quality of the beans, a fault of the roasting, or an issue with the brewing, but the Nitro failed to meet expectations in a big way. Nonetheless, Dada is still in the soft-opening phase, so I’m curious to see how things progress in the coming months. Fingers crossed…

Noe, however, gave the high chair “two hands up.”


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