About this time in our trip, we often start to have a little food craving for something back home. It’s usually a fresh salad or maybe something Mexican. This time, we’re really not craving anything, but we can’t resist the idea of ice cream sundaes on this warm summer night. So we walk up the steps to the brightly lit shop with a very familiar logo, and a smiling young woman in her sporty uniform opens the door for us. As we enter, the entire staff – we count 5 guys behind the counter, 4 girls running the tables, as if we were in an “It’s a Small World” ride/sushi bar – say in cheery unison, “Blah, blah, blah (rather “brah, brah, brah”)… sesanes.” Translation: “Something, something, something… welcome to Swensen’s.”
Alan convinces me to spend the extra $70 to forego the “taxi to bridge to immigration to bus to second tuk-tuk to second bus to second tuk-tuk to Udon Thani (Thailand) overnight to tuk-tuk to airport” itinerary in favor of flying directly from Vientiane back to Bangkok. I succumb. I’m getting soft in my old age.
Purchasing our air tickets turns into a lesson on Lao women in contemporary society… and a counseling session of sorts. First, we’re quoted a price that’s lower than online. Then we have a little bonding moment over the need for reading glasses. So far so good. Forty-five minutes later we’ve learned about marriages, infidelities, divorces, Bollywood videos, self-sufficiency, teenage sexuality, and asthma. There is Kleenex involved. Long story.
We walk several kilometers to That Luang, resting place of the Buddha’s breastbone and the most important sight in Laos. It is impressive. Hundreds of booths are being set up in the surrounding area and we return later that evening to see them filled with clothing, cheap goods (a lot of shampoo, lotions, soy sauce and underwear), and carnival games. There are a couple huge sound stages, several gigantic blow-up “jumpies” and slides for kids, food vendors, and thousands of individuals and families strolling about. There are few, if any, farangs besides us. This is just the warm-up for the “real” celebration that takes place at the end of the month. After a couple of steamed pork buns for appetizers, we choose one of the streetside restaurants for a simple, but tasty, final dinner in Laos.
Click on the photo of the Buddha to see more from Vientiane.