*Excuse typos and formatting. Written via panda phone.
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I know I did. We landed in Vientiane on Christmas Eve and the moment we stepped off the plane it was literally a breath of fresh air. Although I loved Hanoi, it was just so damn congested and the air was extremely polluted. It’s also nice to have a break from my mom clinging onto my arm for dear life whenever we’re crossing the street.
The Beau Rivage hotel was perfectly set alongside the Mekong River – easily accessible to the night market and beautiful sunsets. Once we were settled in we roamed the streets of Vientiane and got acquainted with the town and the friendly Lao folk. I did, however, received some strange looks from the locals either because of my sasquatch-like figure or the shorts and sleeveless combination attire I was not suppose to be sporting in a reserved little town. (Thanks, Ma, for the tip and letting me know that I looked like a whorish westerner.)
Anyway, on Christmas morning we were greeted by mom’s eldest brother at our hotel who was there to bring us to my grandmother’s house. After 35 years you’d think there’d be some type of bear hug action going on, but nope. I thought it was rather strange. But later on I checked my “Laotian Travel for Dummies” book and found out that open display of affection is very much frowned upon. Now it was all coming together.
During the short ride over I “eavesdropped” on my mom and uncle’s conversation and I realized that I understood 35% of what they were saying. I thought it was pretty darn impressive considering I’ve only watched three Laotian YouTube videos prior to the trip. Rosetta Stone is a joke.
We finally arrived on the street my mom grew up on. Grandma was there to greet us and my mom rushed to her with open arms. Tears were shed folks. It was a very sweet moment. Once they collected themselves, grandma came to me and gave my elbow the death grip. And at this point I realized Laotians do the elbow grab versus hugging to show their affection. Kind of like back in the day when we’d go to the club and a guy would try to get your attention when you’re on your way to the bathroom, but in a way less creepy way.
I spent the rest of the day observing my family interact with one another. It was quite an experience seeing them reconnect. Sometimes there was silence, but it was still comfortable.
Later on we roamed on motorbikes to the market to prepare for Christmas dinner. Well, they don’t actually celebrate the holiday, but I internally marked it as my official Christmas dinner. I don’t want to speak too soon, but it was probably THE best Christmas dinner I’ve ever had and maybe the highlight of the trip. After dessert we said our good-byes for the night and said we’ll return after our trip to Luang Prabang.
This morning we road bicycles along the Mekong River and came across the hospital my brother and sister were born. It was a sight to see. I saw the exact doorstep that they were left on. Just kidding.
After our morning ride, we ventured out to Thatnon which was an hour away from Vietiane. There, we had lunch on a boat, just me and my mom. It was probably the second highlight of my trip. So relaxing, peaceful and untouched.
Next, we’re off to Luang Prabang for a couple of nights. LP has some big shoes to fill. But before that, we have a night out in Vientiane to enjoy the Music Zone Lao Festival. I wonder if they have a Lao version of the Hot boyz. Either that or Michael Bolton.