Monday, September 17, 2012

Lao Trip 1.2

… We found the Seng Cha Leun Guesthouse, next to the Kam Koung Restaurant a bit by accident, but it fit all my criteria: rooms with a view of the Mekong for under 500 baht/day (350 to be exact) and quiet. There were probably 8-to-10 rooms for rent and the first night, we had the place to ourselves.

With the sky darkening, we took our ab-nams (showers) and rested from the trip, enjoying fanned air-conditioning. It was my first time experiencing air-conditioning inside a building since coming to Southeast Asia four months ago. Thip loved it.

Of course, the biggest and best feature was being riverside up on the Pak Lai cliff from the Mekong River. There was absolutely no development visible on the other side of the river, except for tree planting. I had to check myself at first because I’m used to seeing the Mekong with Laos on the other side of it. Now, since the river turns up into Lao, I also got to see Laos on the other side, but was in Lao myself; a little bit of a mind adjustment, as I was subconsciously expecting to see Thailand on the other side!

The electricity in the guesthouse went out soon after nightfall. Hand-rolled candles were given to us by the friendly but thick headed caretaker, who said with some pride that Pak Lai got its electricity from Thailand. Now I was really confused.

Our first full day in Pak Lai, we went to the markets that we could find. There are, I think, four markets spread out about Pak Lai, which itself is a long ribbon of buildings clustered mostly along the highway and the parallel riverbank road.

I went to the Kaysone monument, but it was locked up.

Things didn’t get very interesting until that night when we went to the Kam Koung restaurant, just next to our guesthouse. It is supposed to be the best restaurant on the riverbank road. The food was OK, but we had to wait almost an hour for it, due to two parties that had just come in ahead of us. Of course, the location couldn’t be beat, beside the Mekong and everything around it was now pitch black and you couldn’t see and thing.

This wasn’t anything like tourist season, either. But, I guess by having the reputation as the best restaurant on the riverfront, it’s the place to go for business deals as well as a tourist draw.

Both parties ahead of us were groups doing business. The first group of Lao – furthest away from us – was doing some mining with, I think, some Russians. The second group – at the table next to ours – was being courted by an attractive Thai woman dressed in traditional Lao finery. As Thip explained to me later, she was trying to establish a mutual relationship with some of the locals to buy/sell aphrodisiacs and stay-hard medicine. I could tell the guys at this table were some heavy hitters by the way they strutted their stuff and also by the deference treated them by the Lao from the first table, who came over to greet them upon leaving...

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