Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Exploring Vientiane by Bike

Starting off the day perfectly in Vientiane at a café with a Mango, Pear, Star fruit smoothie and a banana muffin and writing.  The weather is perfect and I am anxious to rent a bike and get to exploring.  Words can not describe how content I feel while riding a bike.  $10,00kip is $1.20 to rent a bike for 24 hours and it is so peaceful and worth the rent.  The neighborhood is full of French cafes/bakeries and on the waterfront there are some Western restaurants and a few middle eastern and Indian restaurants.  I decide to go ride through the temples and ride to the Patuxai, which has a beautiful park and benches for relaxing.  My plan is to find the Wat Sok Path Luang temple to go to the herbal sauna and get a massage.  But my plan got side tracked as usual.  I asked a man who actually gave me specific directions that I was able to understand..  I was very thankful to this man for actually knowing where something is and giving proper directions.  It seems people do not know the streets in Vientiane to explain anything and towards the end it got a bit annoying and exhausting. 

On my way to the temple, I decide to stop and have some lunch. Papaya salad is another Laos speciality, but I also had it in Thailand a couple times.  I see a bunch of locals there and as in most local spots-there is not a menu, one just knows what to order.  I made an attempt to order and she was shaking her head that she did not understand.  I decided to try next door as there were a couple local guys who looked like they could speak English-it was a long shot I know.  I sit down and try to ask a couple local girls about the dish if there is meat in the dish.  She says, “There is seafood.” I say, “Okay seafood is fine.”

They offer me a seat sitting next to them.  There are three of them: Ploy, Plae, and Toukta  They ask how if I would like my papaya salad spicey and I said, “Oh yes extra spicey.” I love the fresh different colored chili peppers they mash up and put in the papaya salad. 

Ploy has an ipad and as we are talking she looks up the meaning of words.  I thought it was funny when she looked up tofu and a.)the word did not come up and b.)she did not know what tofu was so we were not able to figure out if tofu was in the papaya salad. When I mentioned New York, she started singing thte Rihanna and Jay Z song, it was pretty cute and Plae said she would one day like to visit New York. 

As we started eating the papaya salad, I felt my mouth start to warm up.  I stared at the salad and I could see the multiple chili peppers running through it.  I kept filling up my water every few minutes and the girls laughed when my chop stick dropped a tomato into my water.  It was a funny, cute moment. The girls were drinking water, but not nearly as much as I was.  I was trying to hold my game face, but I had to keep drinking every few minutes. My nose was running as it was that spicey! That papaya salad was definitely the spiciest I ever had. The girls and I then went for ice cream, but it was a very interesting shaved  ice cream in a shop that looked ilke a hello kitty wonderland. The girls had chocolate layered with all sorts of gummy candies and fruit-it was a literal mound of ice cream and these tiny girls ate faster than I did. 

After our ice cream, they hopped on their motor bike and I hopped on my bicycle and we parted ways.  Continuing on to the temple, I stumbled upon my favorite art gallery of Southeast asia.   A lovely lady sat in a beach lounger and was taking a nap as I approached her and said, “Sabadee.” I inquired about the artist and learned that her husband was the artist.  Her husband stays home, paints, and watches the kids while she watches over the store.  I tried to convey in sign language how beautiful and impressed I was with his artwork.  It was just precious.  Here is a couple of the paintings:

The Lao National Museum was also a stop on my trip was enlightening about the history of Lao and it was very interesting seeing the history of the war with the French and the impact of the US imperialists. These poor people experienced a lot of negativity from the war. Eventhough, this museum was very small and lacked English descriptions-it was a good stop to make.  Within every major city, I make sure to go to the museums, whether super modern or barely visited, they provide you with history and a snapshot of life in the past. 

I ended up finding the Wat Sok temple and as I was riding in a monk told me I entered in the wrong side.  I left looking for the other side and decided that it was 5:00pm and I was just going to skip the herbal spa basically because I could not find it ha! I decided to check out some local markets and laugh with some locals.  I headed back to the city center to meet with my couchsurfer friend near Nomphu Fountain at Joma Bakery.  I stopped at my favorite little bakery called, “The Scanadavian bakery” and had a banana smoothie and a petite slice of almond cake .  Yes I love bakeries! Perhaps it is because my mom was amazing at baking and always made me baked goods brownies, cakes, and cookies. Love you mom!

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