After stamping out of
crossing the Mekong into Lao, and purchasing my one-month Lao visa ($45 USD), I
was approached by the usual touts for a ride into Vientiane (about a 20-minute ride). Taxis I
dismissed without a second thought, but one tuk-tuk driver – Mr. Yen –
was so persistent, I gave into him after bargaining an 80k kip ride to 60k;
basically ten dollars down to eight.
I checked into the place I’d stayed at a half a year ago – the Douang Deuane (doo-ang dee-wain), fifth floor top; nice room overlooking the center of riverside activity, with a slight view of the Kong.
After my usual freshening-up routine, I walked down the riverside road west to the
Bor Penyang and had a liter of draft Beer Lao while I overlooked the
Mekong three flights up. Great views from here and I was
early enough to miss the blaring speakers of the aerobic exercisers who set up
by the river every late afternoon. I was, of course, too early to see any freelancers.
From the Bor Penyang, I took a samlor to the Sunset Bar, further west along the riverside. The bar/restaurant has a great write-up in the 2000 Lao edition of Lonely Planet, but surprised me a bit by being somewhat of a Falang meeting spot; expats working and married into
mostly. They seemed friendly, but had their own group and I wasn’t in it.
I walked back toward the center of town, watched the sun drop over the
Mekong and them moved on to
another riverside bar/restaurant I hadn’t been in before. This one was most all
Lao people and had two musicians playing a lot of Pongsit
tunes. It wasn’t long before I was invited over to a table of two Lao guys in
their early 30s.
I couldn't help but contrast where I had been, at the Sunset, and wherever I was, now. I don’t mean to be judgmental, as when I’m travelling in a foreign country, the last thing I want to do is hang out with a bunch of Westerners. When I was on the two day slow boat trip down the Mekong two years ago, it couldn’t be avoided and that was OK. But, later, in Luang Prabang, when I would occasionally cross paths with young Falang I’d drank Beer Lao with for two days on the slowboat, they barely acknowledged me.
Westerners – myself included – are somewhat “stand-offish” compared to Thai and Lao people. I’m trying to work on this tendency on my part. Maybe this is why I notice it so much when I see it in others.
The two Lao guys worked at KP Lao and knew English moderately well, which always helps me. After a while, they suggested we go on to a karaoke bar and checked with me a couple of times to see if I was up for it. I indicated I was, feeling safe enough with these guys who had given me their cards, despite previous warnings from my wife not to get too friendly with strangers. They thought better of it and cancelled the karaoke plans and, instead, dropped me off at the Douang Deuane. I hadn’t eaten, so I went over to the Belgian Beer Bar for some food and the day’s last Beer Lao.