Saturday, October 10, 2015

Lao Trip 12.3 - Heua Pae

As modest as it is, the Heua Pae is the Lao capitol’s staging area for the fast-growing jetski market. The floating restaurant – more a bar, really – has an adjacent section to it where owners can store their jetski’s, along with a seating area, small performance stage, and a flat boat (actually, two longtail boats strapped together with a unified deck ontop) that can go out on the river and be a platform for bar-b-que and beer.

As I’ve come to consider natural, I was the only Falang around. I was treated politely, but distantly – nothing like PL2 or even the Savan Khaim Khong. I ordered my usual 640 ml of Beer Lao, with ice, and sat back to watch the operation and listen to Carabao.

Similar to what was probably also happening back in Nong Khai, the Thai city of Sri Chiang Mai was in the midst of a full day of dragon boat races – the extremely long row boats that, in the distant past, had been reserved strictly for royalty.

To watch the races, it’s best to be on the banks of the river near where the rowers will be stroking. Here I was on the opposite side of The Mekong. I could see the boats, but the rowers were a bit harder. The nice thing about being at the distance I was, I could watch the boats from the beginning of the race to the very end; probably a kilometer or two.

The crew at Heua Pae readied their flatboat, then took it across The Kong to get a better view of the races and share some BBQ and beer with the jetski’ers who were out there riding around and watching, too. I doubt whether they could actually sell the BBQ and beer, it being more or less international waters, but because of the absence of law enforcement and who’s gonna know? They probably did some business along with the spectating. Enjoy it while you can, guys, because before you know it, navies from both countries will be out there – or, at very least – maritime police to tighten things up.

After my typical song kuat (two bottles) of Beer Lao, I left Heua Pae, having been there about two hours, enjoying the races and being out on the Mekong – even if it was only a glorified raft.

I made my way back towards the city’s riverfront epicenter, stopping in at the Sunset Bar along the way. My first impressions of this place were confirmed, this second time around. But, if you are a Westerner and planning to live in Vientiane for any length of time, I’d recommend getting to know the guys here. They look well established, are polite, and friendly with one another.

The place kind of reminded me of a latter version of what was described in the early days of Vientiane’s opening to The West, in the 1990s, in the book Another Quiet American, by Brett Dakin. If you are interested in Lao, visit it, travel through it, or live in the country, it is a book I recommend reading.

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