Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lao food and our hotel

More lemongrass, I guess that's what makes it different. But I'd have a hard time saying that Lao food is x y or z. The only thing I can say is that so far, Lao food is amazing. Last night we ate at Tamarind, this fantastic little out of the way restaurant across the street from a giant temple. As we started eating, the monks were chanting and it was surreal and wonderful. We got the set menu, which was a LOT of food, all described as typical Lao food. (And by the way, once you get to Laos and Cambodia, being here is incredibly cheap. We'll have a huge dinner and it'll be $15...for both our dinners, and that often includes a beer for me! Our hotels are quite reasonable too.) Anyway -- our dinner:

OK, I know this looks gross -- bamboo soup -- but it was AMAZING.

Marc had lemongrass-ginger tea and I had Lao coffee. AMAZING.

OK: at the bottom, lemongrass stuffed with chicken; going up on the left, peanut sauce, then fish cooked in banana leaf, then pumpkin - AMAZING, all.

that stuff on the lower right? A-MA-ZING. It's some kind of seaweed covered in sesame seeds, dried in the sun, then fried. In the spoon, chili paste, on the left side of the plate, dried buffalo (that had marinated in honey, I think); two small pork sausages at the top; in the middle, a couple more dipping sauces, the green one made of eggplant and the red one tomato. I could've eaten my weight in seaweed. It was aMAzing.

we sat on the porch, so that's the inside of the restaurant over Marc's shoulder

I had Lao Beer (the beer of wholehearted people, they say) and Marc had this incredible watermelon chili granita. It really was amazingly delicious, not like anything either of us had ever tasted. Perfectly balanced, sweet and hot.
So we were very happy with that dinner. Afterwards, we had to walk back to our hotel which involves walking on the side of a very tall bridge over the Mekong. It was harrowing in the dark, for someone like me who's afraid of heights and who trips over the design in the carpet, so clumsy. Here it is in daylight:

That's the bridge -- hope it's obvious how high it is. Scooters and bikes go on the bridge (no motorized vehicles), but if you walk, you're relegated to the outside edge:

YIKES. Uneven boards, unevenly spaced, nailheads sticking up, sure there's a rail on the side but sometimes there are just three boards, not four, and some of the boards don't look all that sturdy, and man that's a long way down to the river and don't look down just look straight ahead but I have to look down because I keep tripping if I don't....
Yeah? Here's a video -- walk over the bridge with us:

But it's SO worth it. Here's our beautiful hotel, Le Bel Air Resort, right on the banks of the Mekong River:

the edge of the grounds, at the Mekong

the cabins

and that one's ours! Cozy, right?!

hi honey!
We're loving Luang Prabang. The people could care less about us (we love it that way) - they do their thing, we do ours. Usually, the tuktuk drivers just say in a low voice "tuktuk?" and that's that. When we're in the market, the people running the stalls don't speak unless we ask a question -- no pushing, no putting things on our bodies to try to force us to buy (ahem, *cough*India) -- they're just there if we have a question. After breakfast this morning, we walked over the bridge and wandered around, back to the markets (next post on that!). I bought a small handmade bag from a Hmong* woman, as a birthday gift for a friend, and we stopped and got shakes (smoothies, really; Marc's was fruit, and mine was coffee). We stopped at a little place overlooking the river and had some lunch - fried noodles, and rice and chicken (our lunch was $6, see what I mean?!).

*You know, being an American out in the world can be really hard going because our government has been such an asshole for so long. We were just so horrible to Laos, and to the Hmong, and people are still being killed by all the unexploded bombs left in this beautiful country - bombs we take no responsibility for, because we weren't "really here at war." Quite often, we pass little groups of musicians playing local music, really beautiful, and we see that they're victims of land mines, missing limbs, and collecting money. And I get nauseous walking past them, from shame of my country. And I wanted to apologize to the Hmong woman this morning. But what does that do? Assuage my guilt for a second, not really, nothing.

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