I get up early today to check out Vientiane in the cool of the day. But it doesn’t go to plan. Number 1 because even in the morning, it is still super hot and Number 2 because the That Luang Festival was held last night, so the streets of Vientiane are very quiet, with most businesses not opening until later or at all. I just amble around taking snaps here and there of Vientiane’s crumbling streets and then head back to the hotel to chill in the aircon and do a last lot of washing before my flight tomorrow.
At lunch time, I head out to try and find Makphet. Makphet is a hospitality training restaurant for underprivileged kids, in the same vein as Friends in Phnom Penh and Koto in Hanoi. Although it is rather early for lunch, there is already another couple seated in the courtyard when I arrive. After much deliberation, I choose a fresh watermelon juice to accompany my fresh spring rolls with chicken, coriander and spicy green mango dip. The meal is really great and the courtyard, even though rather sparse, is nicely relaxing, set in one of the backstreets not far from the river. Of course, I just couldn’t resist the dessert menu when it came and ordered the cashew nut crusted banana fritters with kaffir lime syrup and vanilla ice cream.
It’s hard to believe I am down to my last week of travelling. The last two weeks have stretched to feel like so much longer.
This evening it seems cooler, so I decide to wander down to the foreshore to see if I can catch the sunset and visit the Night Markets. I am in luck because the sun has lit the horizon a burning orange colour making the Mekong glisten and shine. Families are sitting along the water taking in the view. Some more energetic citizens join in one of the two aerobics classes taking place, the music booming out over the stereo seeming rather incongruous to the breathtaking view beyond.
The red tents of the night markets are sprung up between the riverfront and the main street and locals and tourists alike have started arriving to check out the goods. Clothes, shoes, backpacks and all sorts of souvenirs are on display for those eager to part with their cash, but I’m down to my last few Lao dollars and have just enough for dinner.
Laos has been a country of incredible beauty and I am so glad I finally made it here. It was the best trip I could have done right now because the things I enjoyed so much, cost little to nothing but taught me so much. It feels representative of this time away, that one of my last glimpses of Laos should be the beautiful sun setting over the Mekong.
Khob chai Laos.