Last night at the Khem Kong restaurant, I had a very tasty meal of pad ka pao kauai (fried beef and basil) with jasmine rice and a bottle of Beer Lao with ice. The food was really excellent. I remarked on more than one occasion to the owner that it was “sap lai” (very delicious). She responded as any proud owner would do that everything they offer is superb. Well, I doubt that only because I’m always suspicious of “everything.” For sure, I’ve only tasted a very small fraction of the menu, so I really couldn’t verify. No matter the place, I am always careful of what I eat and usually stick with bar-b-que of some sort.
In the morning I was able to call Thip around the time we usually wake up when we’re sleeping in the village (4:30-5am). Then, after that, my Lao cellphone data sim crapped out on me -- or so I thought. I later found out that I had just run out of minutes was all. Anyway, the guest house wifi was reachable on the bottom floor, so I had coffee down there and got done with my Internet stuff (writings, communication, world news).
After the fog lifted, I went to the BCEL in Pak Lai, got kip and then relocated to that restaurant that overlooks both the port and the newish floating restaurant.
They have really prospered since the time I first began visiting about five years ago. They are mostly geared to big groups and tour buses, with an ample parking lot and lots of bathroom urinals. The inside has also been upgraded and is still a scenic spot to hang.
Here I did some writing, drank some beer and ate/drank a coconut. I had noticed the large size of coconuts (mak pow) in a basket by the kitchen and had commented on them. The proprietor asked me if I’d like one. I nodded right away with a smile, asking her to include the “meat.” When drinking coconut juice straight from the nut, I always request the inside coconut, too. It makes for a meal, if there’s enough, and doesn’t cost you any more.
When I left the restaurant and began to pass the port area, I noticed a few Falang dirt bikers (aka “off roaders”) lounging around and struck up conversation with them. They were French who knew English. I was able to recommend a good guest house for them (the former Seng Chalerm, now renamed Banna) and shared some intel with them on the area.
(Banna on the right; Khem Khong just beyond it)
It was a group like this that first taught me how to make the most of it in Lao. It was my first trip to Lao on my own. They had shown me not only respect, but how they engaged with the locals. There was a birthday party in progress and they took part as honored guests even though they didn’t know anyone and couldn’t speak the language. After they left, I was recruited to fill in and... I’ve been the “roll with it” kinda guy ever since.
The Frenchmen invited me to drink with them, but I declined. A little later, some young Lao guys did the same and I accepted. What was the difference? I have some ideas, but it really only comes down to what you are feeling at the moment. As you “roll,” you also trust your instincts.