As a preface we didn't get to spend enough time here, only a week as our schedule was designed for quantity in SE Asia with the intention of returning to points of interest.
We flew from Chaing Mai to Laos to avoid a long river and bus journey although we heard that it could be a lot of fun, but in the interest of time we took to the air. We land in Vientien and make our way to our guesthouse. We are closing in on Nicky's birthday and New Year so there is a festive feeling in the air. There are lights and markets going on in this former French colony and we set out to explore. The night market lines the main street and offers the same same but different kitsch that we'd been seeing so far so no real surprises there except for the wine bottles filled with some hooch and snakes. Yup little cobras jammed into bottles for your drinking pleasure. We decided not to indulge and contract any parasites etc. We managed to find some good grub on the street (as usual) and quickly devoured some odd little baked goods that were sweet enough without being blech, if you know what I mean.
The following morning we rent a scooter and head off towards some waterfalls we'd heard about from our Mozambique friends Matt and Layla. We contemplated renting push bikes but were sooo grateful that we didn't after the 2nd huge hill we scooted up. We we sweating our asses off on the scooter and batwings galore, I can't imagine the bike. We make it to the waterfalls and we find a little fruit shake cart. Now to those of you that worked with me at Conde you know that I LOVE the little Chinese lady out front that made my shakes every morning and I miss her everyday, no joke I really do, so I jumped towards this one and ordered my banana pineapple strawberry shake and eagerly wait like some sort of spastic child as the blender whirs. I wasn't really expecting a shake as good as the one back home but this one was pretty damn good so I am all smiles and giggles as we trudge off to the waterfalls. We'd heard that the falls were really great and that you could swim and climb all over them but what we weren't told about was the color. It was his amazing milky, jade-like green that was caused by some minerals from the springs. Have you ever seen romancing the stone? It looked just like the water that El Corazon was buried in if that helps. Anyway we dip our toes in the water and realize that the water is damn cold so we decide to take a walk to check out the other falls before building up a sweat and jumping in. We make it to the headliner of the falls, a huge 70-something foot fall that empties into the lovely green pool before it makes it way down to the rest of the falls. This fall is picture ready, I mean it is just big enough so that you can get close without feeling that you are going to be crushed and has a great color and makes a not to violent noise, very approachable. We decide to climb up the side and get a view from the top so off we go. The climb wouldn't be too bad if it wasn't for the flip flops and mud. As you know that can make for a slippery time and the amount of toe wedgies I got from slipping and having the little bit of rubber between your toes jammed up there was beginning to annoy me, but we made it in the end. Up above there were sweet little wading pools and huge tree roots to climb over and rest on for a break. We hung out for a while and took some pictures over the edge of the fall all the while leaning over the barrier that looked like it had been made by kindergartners, it was a few tree branches lashed together with vines and some hand written signs warning you not to fall to your death. I thought it was great and couldn't imagine what this would look like back home. You would have had to sign a waiver before standing in line to take the escalator up to stand 10 feet behind an industrial sized guard rail.
The next day we checked into our lush digs to celebrate my lovely wife's birthday and I had made reservations at what was called the best restaurant in Laos so I was particularly excited to eat a glorious meal with all the booze we could handle. We get all dolled up and make our way to The Elephant for a celebratory dinner to end all dinners. As we're waiting for our table we get to talking to another American couple about traveling etc etc..."so where are you from", NY. oh yeah us too, where abouts. Brooklyn, oh no kidding what part. Williamsburg. oh wow small world, we live on McCarren Park. We live near Barcade! So it's a small world, travel 15,000 miles only to find someone that lives 4 blocks away from you, go figure.
So we eat at this fancy pants restaurant and it really is delicious. Pork belly mmmmm, but then a crucial mistake, why oh why did I touch the salad, of course you think that in a fancy place that caters to westerners it wold be alright, but needless to say I was wrong and I paid for it starting at about 4 am. The worst part is that the next day was New Years, so I was laid up in bed while Nicky went to a weaving class, seriously, and then as the clock neared midnight I was able to get up and have a glass of sprite in a wine bar with what I'm guessing was the entire gay population of the city. So suffice it to say that everything was fabulous, and unfortunately I couldn't make it for that long, so by 12:30 we were home. As I was walking home in my food poison induced delirium we got to see these beautiful lamps being floated up into the night air. They are made of red paper with wooden frames and small candles inside, as the candles are lit the heat begins to rise and the lamps are lifted into the sky, off to make pretty stars or something.
By the next morning I was feeling human so we got the hell out of Dodge and jumped on a bus to Vientiane before heading back to Thailand to meet up with Nicky's friends in Phi Phi.