Visiting Laos is among my top bucket list. This completes my wandering through South East Asian countries.
One of the reasons that convinced me to return to facebook is because some of my friend’s contacts are only in it. I am not in any way against facebook, it serves its purpose. But like any form of media, I think, regulation is the key. And the responsibility lies on us, users. It’s part of those fads and craze that I have a feeling one day it will gone into extinction too. Ergo, thank you so much WordPress. I feel a lot more homey here. I am not saying this to flatter, it’s a compliment from the heart.
Once I have booked my flight to Bangkok, I immediately informed my Brod (from the Zeta Beta Rho Honor Fraternity) via facebook that I will be visiting Laos. I intended to travel by land from Bangkok to Vientiane. I have made further enquiries about the mode of transport, communication and accommodation. He asked me whether I am traveling with a group and when he learned I am solo he gladly invited me to just stay at his home.
I took the 12-hour sleeper train from Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok and arrived in Vientiane the next day in the morning. There was a fellow kababayan – kuya Jerome who spotted me at the train. When the Police Officer checked our ticket he was talking to me in Thai. And I told sorry, I’m not Thai. He then said, you’re from Indonesia or Malaysia? I said, none of the above 😉 I’m from the Philippines :-). Kuya Jerome overheard that conversation and approached me afterwards. Which I mistaken him could pass for a monk – because of his skinny head and Chinese eyes, only wear an orange robe is needed hihi.
The journey has made us transfer from one mode of transport after another: train (from Hua Lamphong Bangkok) – train again (Nong Khai to Thanaleng) – then mini van (to Vientiane). The driver dropped me at Laos Plaza Hotel. He said it’s the very central of Laos. Kuya Jerome kept me company while I waited for Brod Chanthaphone. Brod Chanthaphone is a Lao who studied his PhD in the University we both attended. I was a sophomore student that time when he joined the organization I am part of.
After more or less 30 minutes they arrived. I was greeted by the whole family: Pheng his wife and daughter Augusmone. I suspect that if Kosman, the eldest son has no class he will be there as well :-). He offered a lift to kuya Jerome and dropped him at his hostel. Lao hospitality. Brod Chanthaphone invited Kuya Jerome to join us for lunch. Kuya Jerome was sheepishly declined out of shyness, I suppose. Filipino hospitality. I’m sure he’s very hungry like me hihi. As much as I would like to invite him but I was just invited as well. Shyness :-). Since it’s going to be brunch (breakfast and lunch) for me, I was secretly craving for some spicy Lao dishes to satisfy my empty stomach. We ended dining at a pizza restaurant – having pizza, pasta and fries for lunch. Very western I thought. Brod Chanthaphone mentioned, it’s her daughter’s favorite :-). Wow, this is Laos :-P.
We drove to their home which he said is part of the government housing. Since Brod Chanthaphone is a Professor and a faculty staff from the National University of Laos I assume he is one of those Lao privilege people. He has to leave after as he has class. Augusmone was excited to invite me to share her room. They told to me to rest first and will go to the market in late afternoon. My planned 1-hour nap has been extended, I felt so tired from that 12-hour bumpy ride. I was awaken by the call of Augusmone that we have to leave soon. Pheng drove me to see around National University of Laos and then we proceed to the market. Bought fresh meat, eggs, vegetables and condiments. I see from those people we bumped in, Pheng is popular at the market. In fact when were about to go back, her friends invited us to join for drinks. It’s not softdrinks nor typical fruit juices. It’s beer – Lao Beer, called Beerlao :-). Oh oh, I am that uber sociable person who does not drink. They told me to just try. I ended up taking 2 glasses hmnn :-P. It tastes good – by good I mean, not very tasty, not bitter, it’s almost tasteless. I learned tha Beerlao is made up from naturally grown local rice with highest quality European yeast and hops. So it’s a must try. I am now recommending it (from a non-beer drinker ;-).
Few of their family friends came at night and joined us for dinner. There were few high school students who personally met me (wow I thought, sinadya talaga nila ko, gosh nakaka-flatter hehe). they are interested to study in the University where I graduated and the parents told me they want their children to speak better English thus, they plan to send them to Philippines :-D. It was a great dinner. I finally had tasted Lao traditional dishes! Yummy :-). They kept drinking Beerlao, I was offered of course, I can’t take anymore because although it’s less tasty but I’m feeling very warm inside. We have had live concert afterwards – Kosman is a talented guitarist and really has a very good voice. He serenaded us with Lao and Thai songs. By the way, almost all Lao speaks Thai. Thank goodness, I still can remember one song to play from guitar – Torete by Moonstar88 haha. Hands down Freddie Aguilar – Anak (Child) – they were requesting for it! I didn’t know it’s really that super popular. It’s being played in Singapore radio from time to time. I heard this song as well in Europe at one time. It should be the message of the song maybe. Okay, we call it a night :-D.
The next day. The rest of the family were all busy. Chanthaphone has class. Pheng has to travel a few hours outside Vientiane to facilitate and give training. The 2 kids will have their regular English class. They hand over me (hihiihi) to Brod Chanthaphone’s brother – Mon – who has been a very generous guide. His home is largely influenced by French architecture – it’s very artistic with lots of portraits of France’s famous monuments. By the way, Laos has been colonized by French, it’s evidence by the name of streets, starts with rue ______. We went to a cafe and had a breakfast, coffee and croissant, milk tea for me. After, Mon drove around and brought me to significant Laos monuments – the Patuxay (Victory Gate) the Laos resemblance of Arch de Triomphe, built in 1957 to commemorate those who died in wars . And to the famous Great Sacred Stupa (Pha That Luang) – where I joined the prayer inside the temple. With flowers, incense and candles. I kneeled down as with everyone else. As paying respect to other religion. I caught myself unguarded when unconsciously I’ve made a sign of the cross and the people from my left and right looked at me without blinking their eyes ;-). I had another excellent lunch, meeting Mon’s family, we have had a very good Lao lunch with sticky rice, fishes, meat, papaya pokpok strongly spice! but very good!! 😀
I was recommended as well for a very good dentist – I had my right molar tooth – porcelain filling, including cleaning – I paid only 500 Thai Baht. Oh yes, Thai currency is accepted in Laos. Originally, it’s 750 – I just haggled. Thank you dentist! :-). Imagine, I have saved a hundred dollar more for that session. While the filling that was done to me in SG lasted only for 2 weeks for way uber expensive price.