Embarking on my next adventure, I bid farewell to my cousins and set my sights on the enchanting land of Laos, the lone land-locked gem in South-East Asia. Flying in with a mix of anticipation and uncertainty, I entered this communist country without an onward ticket, a stranger to both its people and its secrets.
My first night unfolded at the Mali Namphu hotel, a modest yet charming haven with a picturesque courtyard. Breakfasts were a delight in this quaint retreat, and a secluded pool provided solace from the heat, fostering connections with fellow travelers. Venturing out on the following day, I stumbled upon a quaint café/bar, locking eyes with a woman who would become a significant part of my Laos journey. To my surprise, she was the owner, and we instantly hit it off with her command of English.
Being a foodie, and travelling adventurer, and meeting a restaurant owner in a country like this, was a dream! I was able to practically live in the restaurant and choose to make Vientiane my long-term home. I transitioned from staying in an apartment above the restaurant, and various hotels, to a premium condo replete with a pool, security, fitness center, sauna, and parking. The purchase of a motorbike and bicycle added a touch of local flavor to my settling-in process along the Mekong River.
My newfound routine included exploring night food markets, where I became a regular connoisseur of local veggies and the delectable array of Laos street foods. Working at the restaurant where my adventure began, I contributed to a menu redesign, tended the bar, and assisted wherever needed. In return, I enjoyed home cooked food every day, anything I wanted from the bar, and met many wonderful locals and sojourners like myself from all corners of the world.
Experiencing this third-world country through the eyes of a restauranteur offered a unique perspective. Delving into specific markets dedicated to meats, vegetables, seasonings, rice varieties, and various specialty shops, I discovered the intricacies of running a full-scale restaurant. Midnight market visits became an adventure, avoiding the heat and traffic, especially before grand festivals.
Life along the Mekong River was a tapestry woven with the threads of amazing people. The locals, respectful and kind, became friends, and spending each night at the restaurant opened doors to interactions with people from all corners of the world.
The culinary journey was as rich as the cultural one. From Pad Thai and Tom Yum to Papaya Salad and Khao Jee, I indulged in the flavors of Laos. Time spent in the restaurant’s kitchen allowed me to savor the skills of Thai and Laos chefs, treating my palate to a variety of mouthwatering traditional dishes with flavors found only in this region.
My Vientiane journey was an incredible lifetime experience, with a many historic sites waiting to be explored, and where I met many friends and had many adventures along the way.
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