Falong food is steadily on the rise in Vientiane. When Boon came in 2011, he was amazed to find proper hot wings. Since then, hot wings, rib-nuggets, and french fries have joined the menus of most bars, side by side with stir-fried morning glory and fresh pork rinds. Even so, it's a prize to find some place that actually has the food available, and then, does it well, so you find yourself recycling the same six or so places. But as Laos becomes more of a back packers and visa-overstayers paradise, I'm sure this will change.
As the sun starts to set, we leave the comforts of friends and take a stroll to the river front, ostensibly to watch the sun set, but also to pick up some street food for dinner. And of course, if I happen to pass through the night market, we'll see what 10,000 kip sundress I walk out with...
"Street food? Yuck! No! That will make you sick!" Caden exclaims with disgust.
"No honey, that's floor food. Street food is tasty."
The concrete stairs that line the river bank are filled with people- getting off of work, hanging out after school, dancing at the free nightly zumba class, or just happening through. The food carts hawk meats on a stick, fried or grilled, greasy piles of noodles, and the eggy-crepes filled with sweetened condensed milk that I've only seen in Laos. We navigate back through these to pick up whole grilled chicken, flayed between three bamboo skewers, split just enough to hold the meat between. With that, fresh papaya salad, sticky rice, and of course, Beer Lao. The boys are antsy- there are too many balloon sellers tantalizing them with over-sized Picachus and airplanes, so we walk back to the car while Boon waits for the chicken.
We cross through Wat Chanthaboury as a short cut and happen upon the lights celebration. The entire front patio was covered with little flower lanterns, in every color, glowing softly in the early evening darkness. Lanterns lined the ledge of the temple, and the front porch of the temple. Declan, who grows stronger by the week, broke free of my grasp to run up to the lanterns, stopping right before kicking one, to peer inside. He squealed with delight and turned to show me his new find, thankfully not picking it up.
The Wats in this area exist in the midst of the busy riverfront markets, restaurants, shops, and hostels. They're a constant in the ever modernizing city. Maybe they're modernizing too- I've seen elderly monks clicking away on smart phones from their wheel chairs, though I'm not a frequent enough visitor to comment beyond that observation. They welcome in people without reservation; the gates aren't locked during daytime, and no one is questioned when they pass through. This week, the end of Buddhist Lent, they'll welcome in the Buddhists with the non-believers, the spiritual with the gawkers. Is it challenging? We wonder as we continue through the Wat, on the way to our car.
|Wat Ong Teu, by Riikka P.|
I didn't take any photos-- I'm just not comfortable taking photos at a religious cite during services. The photo below was taken by my friend, Riikka, of the lanterns she saw at a nearby Wat a few days later.