In Vientiane, it’s the same old, same old. HDN was supposed to have booked a room for us in Vientiane, but that has proven to be unsuccessful. Turns out that a ‘booking confirmation’ was actually a message saying the credit card used, had bounced. I ended up having to pay the room myself, HDN being unable to pay directly from Thailand.
Surprisingly, prices of food and accommodation seem to be more expensive than in Thailand. Then again, maybe that’s just because of the French influence. Being French and colonial, can you really dine without table silver, good wines and even better tables and chairs? Or then again, the higher prices are more likely the result of less competition in the tourist sector and a strong separation of the tourist industry with the regular economy. In Chiang Mai, I get my coffee from coffee shops where the Thai get their coffee. I get breakfast, lunch and, regularly, dinner, at places where Thai get their food too. In Laos, it seems to be hard to eat and drink where the Lao eat and drink, hence the higher tourist prices.
And an important industry it is, the tourist industry. Just getting an entry visa for Laos costs 36 dollars, although that’s nothing compared to what non-Europeans now have to pay for a visa to the US, around 130 dollars.
Laotian food is surprisingly good, dare I say better than Thai. Khai paen is dried river weed, fried in seasoned oil, topped with sesame seeds and served with jaew bawng, a thick condiment made with chillies and dried buffalo skin. Very tasty.
Laap is a very nice spicy salad from minced fish, mixed with fish sauce, small shallots, mint leaves, lime juice, roasted ground rice and chillies. And that’s just two dishes.