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It’s Time For Pi Mai Lao 2017

The end of the first term of 2017 is near–this coming Saturday, in fact. So, I’m free from April 9th to May 5th, the start of the next term. What to do, what to do? Next week is easy–it’s Pi Mai Lao or Lao New Year, the biggest Lao holiday of all. It’s a five-day affair this year because of the weekend, so the official date of the holiday is April 13th through the 17th. I’ve posted about it before here, and here, with some videos on this post. In Thailand it’s called Songkran, the Water Festival.

In both countries, devout Buddhists visit the temples, clean their houses and honor their elders. That’s the traditional part. Then there’s the water-throwing aspect. Most of the young people and many older people toss water on their friends and on strangers, along with flour, and smear faces with soot from smoke-stained pots, all in good fun. But, it can get out of hand, with people using super-soaker squirt guns or small buckets to soak friends and passers-by alike. It’s not too bad out in the countryside, where the population seems a bit more conservative than in the larger cities. In Vientiane and Bangkok and in other metro areas, it’s like a small war. The danger is in throwing water at motorbike riders and causing them to have an accident. There’s also the usual carnage on the roads caused by drunk driving, but it’s multiplied at this time of year because of all the parties. (As if Lao people needed a reason to have a party.) Below are a few photos from a couple of years back.

Khoon and powdered face

Khoon, Seo’s husband, has been out running around the village, meeting friends, drinking beer, and getting his face coated with baby powder, another Pi Mai Lao tradition.

Nai powder face

Nai after his face has been powdered, one of the rituals of Pi Mai. Sometimes lipstick and soot from the bottom of pans is also applied.

Suwon and friend

Suwon and friend, the lady who grilled most of the food. Suwon’s quite a camera hound, so she’s in lots of the photos.

Suwon and Noh

Suwon and Noh enjoy a real soaking.

Thankfully, I won’t be riding my motorbike back and forth to work because of our time off, but I still have to be more than extra careful because the partying starts well in advance of the official holiday. But, I have only a few more days of riding until I’ll put the bike away, mostly, until after the holidays. I’ll visit some friends on a few of the days and celebrate the New Year with them. They’re within walking distance!

So, that’s next week’s plan. After that, I’m moving into a different house. It seems that the guy we’re renting from has given us until the first of May to move out because he wants to move back in. He’s going to refund May and June’s rent money to me. Fair enough. I’ve already put a down payment of 50% for six months’ rent on another place, one that’s in a much more favorable location. Nai and I are going to start moving in around April 20th or so. We’re both sick and tired of our current house, so we think the fellow is actually doing us a favor by moving back in. When the time comes, I’ll have a longer post about why my current residence, which I used to think was wonderful, is less than optimal and about why the new house is much more to my liking. More later.

Phuket Photos

At last, a few photos of my trip to Phuket, Thailand back in December. We stayed at Patong Beach at a couple of different hotels, the Thara Patong Beach Resort (our usual favorite) and at the Ramada Phuket Deevana Hotel. They’re both nice places to stay and have swimming pools (though the Deevana’s is rather small and fills up early), good service and decent food. If you by chance decide to visit Patong and stay at one or both of them, I recommend reserving a room at the Ramada with the free breakfast buffet option. The buffet is awesome, with a few dozen or more choices of food and plenty of hot and cold drinks. The buffet at the Thara Patong is OK, but can’t compare with the one at the Ramada. Either hotel is a good choice, though.

The weather during the first several days of our stay was a bit unsettled at times with cool temperatures and occasional rain, but near the end of our holiday, the sun and warmer weather dominated. As I mentioned in a previous post, I did a bit of shopping and bought a Lenovo Tab Essential, mainly to use as an ebook reader. It was a great buy at $75, and I use it every day. I’m getting in a lot of reading in my spare time, having recently read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” native-Montanan Ivan Doig’s “This House of Sky,” and George Saunders’ “Lincoln in the Bardo,” among others. Next up is “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing, followed by Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” and the first book in a trilogy by Ivan Doig titled “English Creek.” I better get reading.

Here are a few of the photos that I took. More later.

Thara Patong swimming pool

One of the swimming pools at Thara Patong Resort. This is the smaller one, just a little splash pool compared to the much larger one at the main building a little ways behind it. This one has a bar right beside it, featuring a “Happy Hour” (limited selection) every day, so be careful if you swim and imbibe here.

Swimming Pool, Patong Beach.

This is the view from our eighth floor room at the Ramada. The swimming pool is on the property of a hotel next to ours. It looks inviting, but there appeared to be little shade available.

Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand.

This was high season, so there were many vacationers at the beach and in the town. The hotels were booked full and some of the choice spots at the beach were taken. Nai and I always stayed at one particular spot, where we made friends with the ladies who gave massages and sold beer and food under a shaded pavilion, of sorts. This is the scene near that pavilion.

Nai drinks a Heineken beer.

Nai really likes Heineken Beer, even more than Beer Lao, I suspect. Here he enjoys a cold one under the umbrellas at “our” spot on the beach.

Nai gets a massage at Patong Beach

Nai gets a massage from the “boss lady” of this little place on the beach, where, along with the massage, you can get food and drink. This gal, whose name is Ma, I think, was a dear. She addressed everyone as “Dahling”, a la Zsa Zsa Gabor. A very friendly spot.

Paragliding at Patong Beach

Late afternoon paragliders enjoying a flight over the beach. It’s a pretty expensive proposition, costing about $30 for a 3-minute experience (I timed it). Still, a lot of people shell out the dough for it.

Patong cruise ship

Quite a few large cruise ships pulled into the bay off Patong Beach. They didn’t stay long, mainly for a day or overnight. Lots of smaller boats anchored in the deeper water away from the beach.

Patong beach at night

Patong Beach at night. As the evening progresses the beach goers head back to wherever they’re staying. This is a pleasant time to take a casual stroll on the sand.

Bangkok Trip December 2016

Here, finally, are some photos from my December vacation in Bangkok and Phuket. Below are some I made in Bangkok, and in the next post I’ll feature some Phuket photos.

My friend Nai and I stayed at the Silom City Hotel, which is about a three-star facility, so the price per night is fairly modest, about $40-45, depending on if you want to have the buffet breakfast, which is not that great, but it’s ample. The hotel is in a great location and the staff are wonderful, so it’s become our go-to place when we stay in Bangkok.

We were there for four nights, enough time to do a bit of shopping, walk around at night and wander through Lumphini Park, Bangkok’s version of New York City’s Central Park. I highly recommend Lumphini for some serenity amidst the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

Here are the photos. If you’re interested in other scenes of Bangkok from previous trips, just do a search in the search box on this page.

(Please note that my Photo Gallery link on the right side of the page isn’t working at this time. I’ll try to get it back up soon.)

Bangkok Skyline

Here’s the view outside our hotel window up on the ninth floor (out of 10). If you stay at the Silom City Hotel, be sure to get a room that’s 8th floor or higher for a great view.

Ron at fountain at Lumphini Park

Here’s a fellow that looks suspiciously like me, posing at the fountain at the entrance to Lumphini Park. Nai took this picture, but he made everything in the photo look older than it is.

Lao man at fountain at Lumphini Park

This is my friend Nai at the fountain. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll recognize him from innumerable previous posts. What a ham!

Silom Skyline from Lumphini Park

This is near the entrance to Lumphini Park, looking toward the Silom section of Bangkok in the late afternoon. Around this time of day, many urbanites use the park for jogging, strolling, bicycyling and relaxing on the luxuriant grounds.

Nai at lake at Lumphini Park

Here Nai stares across the pond (lake) at Lumphini Park, watching the boaters enjoying the afternoon coolness.

Lumphini Park skyscrapers

Looking across the lake at Lumphini Park with the late afternoon sun highlighting some of the skyscrapers that surround the park. Perfect time to go boating.

Lumphini Park Lake

More skyscrapers around the lake, and one of the fountains is gushing, sending spray on some of the boaters. This is a great place to relax in Bangkok.

Dusit Thani Hotel spire

This is the spire atop the main building of the Dusit Thani Hotel in the Silom Area of Bangkok. I’ve never stayed there (too expensive), but I’ve heard it’s pretty nice. I took this photo at the entrance of Lumphini Park at dusk.

GPF Building in Bangkok.

This is the top of the GPF building in the Silom area. I took this one also from the entrance of Lumphini. The building is not far from the Dusit Thani, but I have no idea what the GPF stands for. I’m fairly certain it’s not a hotel, but it could be a bank or investment firm.

Baannakee Restaurant, Nongkhai

We’re having a short mid-term break of nine days before starting again on July 4th. (Obviously, not a holiday here) Nai and I are staying a few days across the river in Nongkhai. I’ve got to do some shopping at Tesco-Lotus, a French chain that’s similar to Wal-Mart, more or less. My old computer bag is literally falling apart, and I’m in the market for a new compact camera, probably a Canon Ixus (Elph, in the ‘States.) I’m also looking for an e-book reader, but I’m not sure what I can find in Nongkhai.

On our last visit there, we found out about a great little bar and restaurant called Baannakee, which means “The House of the Dragon,” according to the owner, a Thai man named Toom. He’s very friendly as well as being an excellent cook. The food, mostly German fare, is great. A local German expat makes a variety of sausages at his home and sells them to the restaurant. Though I’m not particularly fond of sausage, what I’ve eaten at Baannakee is not bad at all. Some of my favorite food that’s served there are the fish and chips, and the mashed potatoes, which come with a variety of dishes.

The fish ‘n chips come with very hefty proportions as well as with a generous-sized side of salad. You could almost share an order with another person, and the price is right-about six dollars at the current exchange rate. The mashed potatoes are some of the most delicious I’ve ever tasted; I have to see about getting his recipe. (UPDATE: The secret ingredient is a bit of nutmeg, believe it or not.)

The other food is superb as well, with pasta dishes, a variety of sausages, sauerkraut, pork knuckle and tenderloin, and a large selection of Thai food.

Another nice thing about Baannakee is the atmosphere. The place seats about 20 people, though it’s never been that busy, and the crowd is made up of mostly older expats, Germans and Northern Europeans, so it has a fairly laid back atmosphere. Toom has a huge, eclectic selection of cd’s, but the music is always played unobtrusively in the background; it never interferes with conversation. Also, there’s no pool table, which, it seems to me, always creates a noisier environment.

If you’re ever in the area, give Baannakee a try. It’s right near the start of the market along the Mekong, just down from Daeng Vietnamese restaurant. I’m sure you’ll like it.

Baannakee Restaurant

Here’s the entrance to Baannakee. Just to the left and up the street is the beginning of the covered market along the Mekong. In the opposite direction of the market is Daeng Restaurant.

Baannakee Restaurant

Here’s the restaurant at night. Toom will usually stay open until at least 11 pm, but if it’s busy, he’ll stay open until the wee hours. The kitchen closes at 10.

Daeng Restaurant

Here’s the Vietnamese Restaurant. Baannakkee is behind us, to the left.

Toom

This is Toom, the friendly proprietor, who’s restaurant has been in Nongkhai for 13 years. It used to be called DJ Thasadej, and Toom had a German partner. He’s returned to Germany and Toom changed the name to Baannakee.

Nai

Nai, looking dapper, vouches for the quality of the Thai food. I’ll vouch for the Western offerings. Neither of us has had a bad serving yet.

Fish and chips

This is a single serving of fish ‘n chips, but it could feed a couple of guests. Most of the portions at the restaurant are very well-sized and priced lower than what Toom probably could charge.

Pork tenderloin

This is pork tenderloin smothered in a curry-cheese cream gravy. The mashed potatoes are to die for.

Baannakee bar

The small bar at the restaurant seats five patrons and serves up a variety of liquor and beer, though the selection isn’t that extensive.

Interior of Baannakee

Part of the interior. This part seats eight people or twelve, if it’s really crowded.

The following are various photos of the odds and ends and paintings scattered throughout the restaurant. Not much to say about them, but they do contribute to the eclectic and cozy atmosphere of the place.

Baannakee Restaurant

A display to the left of the bar. Toom lives up the stairs.

Baannakee Restaurant

Another display near the kitchen area.

Baannakee Restaurant

The area just in front of the bar.

Baannakee Restaurant

Another area near the stairs.

Painting at Baannakee Restaurant

One of the paintings, which were created by a local artist.

Painting at Baannakee Restaurant

And another painting.

Stunning Disappointment . . . and Revelation

The Disappointment

On Thursday, June 25th, following an early morning workshop and lunch at one of the local Italian restaurants, I ‘biked back to The Farm, looking forward to our short mid-term break, despite an oddity of earlier in the day. As I was leaving for Vientiane that morning, a painter’s truck pulled up. I asked Nai what was going on, and he said he wanted to paint part of the house. This was news to me, and I told him I wasn’t going to pay for it. He said that it was free, but he couldn’t tell me why. Very strange, I thought.

When I got back to the house that afternoon, I was shocked to see that everything had been removed from the house and that a gang of painters was painting the outside a shade of lime-green and repainting the inside beige. A few carpenters were constructing something upstairs. What the hell was going on? I was quite angry, because I could see that I wouldn’t be able to sleep here tonight. The family members saw how angry I was and a few came up to me and said “Sorry.” Sorry for what? Nai was nowhere around.

One of them handed me a note written in English. It more or less stated that this was no longer Nai’s house, that it was now owned by the painter. It seems that Nai had borrowed around $6,500 from the guy when Nai’s mother was ill and dying about three years ago. He had been doing everything he could to keep her alive. Very admirable, but for reasons I won’t get into here, he hadn’t even been trying to pay back the money.

What ticked me off the most was that he didn’t tell me what was going on. If he had come to me, we could have possibly worked something out with the painter or whatever he is. I do know that he’s one of the son’s of the aging lady that Nai bought the house from, and I heard that, at the time, he was dead-set on her not selling it. Since then he’s been lusting at getting the house back, so he probably wouldn’t have come to any kind of agreement anyway. My disappointment in Nai, however, was profound.

Well, I stormed back into Vientiane, vowing to break off my friendship with Nai. I stayed at a cheap guesthouse and fumed. The next day, Nai finally worked up the courage to call me and apologize. I think he was very ashamed and embarrassed. I had calmed down somewhat and we arranged to meet at The Farm the next day. I felt sorry for him more than anything, though I was still angry.

He told me of a couple of vacated houses that belonged to some of his cousins. They were being rented out for, get this, about $37 a month. I supposed they were in terrible condition. We looked at the first one and it was little more than a concrete bunker in shabby condition and located in a rundown area of the village.

The Revelation

Before we even looked at the second house, I was preparing myself to rent a place in Vientiane, which would be rather nice for me. You can get a decent place for a couple hundred bucks a month and there would be no commuting back and forth.

We went to the second place, and, while not perfect, it’s the place I would have said earlier, on first arriving last year, “This is it!”

It’s much smaller than Nai’s old house, but it’s in much better condition. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from the other place, and it’s in a beautiful location. The old house is surrounded by other houses and buildings, which made me feel claustrophobic at times. In addition, any cooling breeze was drastically reduced by the buildings. The new place has one house next door and fields on all other sides. We’re surrounded on three sides by banana groves (now only stalks, waiting for the rain to help with their regrowth), with several cornfields and vegetable patches further out. So, I have much better views here, there always seems to be a nice breeze during the day, and it’s much, much quieter. The floors are tiled, unlike the bare concrete of the old place. It also has a nice front porch that’s shaded by a large tree in the afternoon. It’s really quite lovely.

One drawback is that it has an Asian style squat toilet, something I’ll have to get used to using, hopefully without any unseemly accidents, if you know what I mean.

All in all, I really like the place, and I’m quite happy to have found it, despite the circumstances leading up to the change. Although I’m still disappointed with Nai, our friendship endures.

New house looking south

This is a view of the front porch, looking toward the south. There’s a nice-sized living area, a bedroom, a small back storage room, a toilet and an outdoor cooking area. The small storage room could be converted to a cooking area.

Here's another view of the new house, looking toward the south-west. The front porch is in the shade cast by a large tree just outside the view. All the rooms have several shutters to allow the usually good breeze to circulate throughout the house, though it's still hot at night.

Here’s another view of the new house, looking toward the south-west. The front porch is in the shade cast by a large tree just outside the view. All the rooms have several shutters to allow the usually good breeze to circulate throughout the house, though it’s still hot at night.

This is a view from the front porch looking west toward a temple on the dirt road that runs through the village. This place is about three times as far from the road as Nai's old house, which helps to make it a much quieter location.

This is a view from the front porch looking west toward a temple on the dirt road that runs through the village. This place is about three times as far from the road as Nai’s old house, which helps to make it a much quieter location.

Some Pi Mai Lao Videos

Here are a few video clips from the Pi Mai Lao / Noh’s Birthday Party last Monday, April 14th. If they show up as a colored test-screen, just click on the play button. If they’re not playing, please leave me a comment. Thanks and enjoy.

The first one is a general view of the kind of merriment that was taking place.

Pi Mai Lao Party from Ron Anderson on Vimeo.

More fun with water.

Pi Mai Lao Party from Ron Anderson on Vimeo.

Suwon and Noh (in the tub).

Pi Mai Lao Party from Ron Anderson on Vimeo.

A few passers by get in on the action.

Pi Mai Lao Party from Ron Anderson on Vimeo.

And some more party goers staying out of the water for now.

Pi Mai Lao Party from Ron Anderson on Vimeo.

Sabaidee Pi Mai Lao

Happy Lao New Year! I’m a week late with that greeting, since the week-long celebration started around last Saturday, the 12th, and wrapped up Friday last week. The official holiday was from the 14th through the 16th, but most people managed to stretch it out. As I wrote in a previous post, it’s quite a water-fest, though I stayed dry every day but one. That was last Monday, and I was prepared.

The only other time I went through Pi Mai Lao was in 2006, when I visited while I was on vacation from working in Morocco. I was completely unprepared then. Near the end of the vacation, I departed Laos on the first day of the holiday, heading to Thailand to catch the overnight train from Nong Khai to Bangkok. I had my large backpack and a camera bag. Nai and I took a tuk-tuk to the border crossing, and we got soaked by all the people tossing water at us. We were sitting ducks for target practice. I was furious because my bags were also getting drenched. I hoped that the situation would be better in Nong Khai, but it was worse.

I continued to get soaked, and my appeals for leniency went unheeded. I was madder than a wet hen, and I was nearly in tears, fearing my camera and lenses would get damaged. We finally made it to a guesthouse I had used before and which let me stash my bags for several hours before the train left. Eventually, I caught that train, dried out, and made it to Bangkok.

My flight didn’t leave for a couple of days, so I decided to take another look at the festivities, which are called Songkran in Thailand. Armed with my camera safely sealed in a Ziploc baggie, I sat inconspicuously in a restaurant that had a good view of a major intersection. As I watched everyone firing off their super squirt guns and throwing buckets of water at anyone and everyone, I understood why it was supposed to be a fun time, and I regretted my overreaction earlier. But, I had been prepared in Bangkok.

I was prepared last week, too, my camera, wallet, phone and passport carefully sealed away from the buckets of water that came my way. Monday, Nai and I went to a couple of friends’ house several kilometers from The Farm. Nai has known Suwon and Noh all his life, and I’ve been friends with them since 2005. Monday was Noh’s birthday, so there were two reasons for living it up.

Along the road, people, mainly young adults, teens and children, were armed and ready every few hundred meters to relieve everyone of the heat and the dust. The first brigade, just past Nai’s house, politely asked if they could douse us with a hose. I was surprised they asked, and this turned out to be not unusual. Many parties let us pass the gauntlet untouched. We got moderately wet, but certainly not soaked. The heavy soaking would happen at Suwon’s house.

She and Noh live a few hundred meters off the main dirt road, just past a large, golden-yellow temple. There were about 20 people outside her single story, small cement house. There was plenty of food, including grilled squid and duck, spicy papaya salad, sticky rice, cow blood soup with peanuts and birthday cake, of course. Also, Beer Lao, as always, was plentiful. And lots and lots of water.

We arrived about 1:30 and stayed until around 6, helping Noh celebrate her 41st birthday and the start of the Lao New Year. Everyone got soaked to the bone, most of the adults were more than a bit tipsy, and we all had a great time. Running the gauntlet on the way back to The Farm was inconsequential.

The rest of the week was more boring than not. I think Nai has cornered the market on green onions. He’s been buying crops from the other farmers, so he’s been busy for most of the day, harvesting, cleaning and preparing the product for the market. I’ll do a post on that process a bit later.

There was another party at the family compound on Thursday, with lots of people materializing out of nowhere, it seemed. Again, there was lots of food, drink and merriment for all. Things got back to normal on Saturday, and I’m quite happy to be back at work. Watching people clean green onions all day is quite boring. I can hardly wait for the chili pepper harvest.

Below are some photos from Suwon and Noh’s shindig. They’re in no particular order. I also have some videos of the day, and I’ll try to get them up soon.

Two Riverfront Parks-Nongkhai and Vientiane

Both Nongkhai, Thailand, and Vientiane, Laos, have nice riverfront parks along the Mekong. Whereas Nongkhai’s park is more of a walkway, Vientiane’s is a large park and walkway, and is frenetic with activities, in contrast to the sedateness of Nongkhai.

I like the quiet of Nongkhai. It’s a small town that shuts down about 11 p.m., except for a handful of mostly expat bars near the river. I’m sure there are other venues that Thai people frequent later at night, but I’ve never been to any of them, except for a hotel karaoke now and then. The river walk reflects that quiet. Here’s a shot I took of it a few years back, to give you some perspective.

Nap time at Nongkhai river park

Nap Time

New to this walkway and off to the right are some added items of whimsy that I found amusing–lawn ornaments. Here are a few of the new denizens of Nongkhai’s river walk. There are several more, but I don’t want to spoil your fun should you ever get there.

Lawn ornaments in Nongkhai river walk

River Walk Whimsy

Lawn ornaments at Nongkhai river walk

River Park Whimsy

Lawn ornaments at Nongkhai river park

River Park Whimsy

Lawn ornaments at Nongkhai river park

River Park Whimsy

Lawn ornaments at Nongkhai river park

River Park Whimsy

Lawn ornaments at Nongkkhai river park

River Park Whimsy

Here’s a fella I found who was caught between a rock and a hard place, between two dragons. Hey, guy, are you another lawn ornament?

Nai at Nongkhai river park

Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

In contrast to the Nongkhai walk, the Vientiane River Park is busy, busy with activity during the evenings. Here’s a short video showing a small slice of the action along the Mekong–aerobics classes, the night market, kids doing tricks on bikes and skateboards, and families out for a stroll. For once, it wasn’t raining.

Vientiane, Laos, Mekong River Park from Ron Anderson on Vimeo.

Whichever city you visit, be sure to take some time to amble along the Mekong. I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself.

A Temple Visit

I’m back in warm, humid Yeosu, working (hardly working, actually–we don’t have that many classes right at the moment). Kind of dull, so let’s continue with my recent vacation in Thailand and Laos.

On one of my final days in Vientiane, Nai needed to visit Wat Si Muang, a Buddhist temple, where he wanted to pray with a monk. One of his brothers is going through a rough time, and Nai wanted to seek the help of Buddha. Nai went into the main temple building, and I waited around outside for him. I took these photos while waiting. (I also have another post about this wat from 2010.)

I don’t know why this great-looking car was parked in front of the temple. Was it for a blessing? Did someone get married and leave the car outside while they went inside for a blessing? It seems a bit incongruous, the old and the new together.

Car at temple

Car at Temple

Here are a couple of shots of the details on one of the outside walls of the temple. It’s interesting to wander around any Buddhist temple and discover all the intricate little things that you might not notice at first glance.

Temple wall

Temple Wall

Temple wall detail

Temple Wall Detail

Temple wall detail

Temple Wall Detail

And the statuary is also fascinating. I believe these are mainly supposed to protect the temple from evil spirits. Here’s one of them.

Temple statue

Temple Statue

Next to the main temple, I spotted this building, which might be an administration building or the living quarters of the monks. I didn’t dare go inside; there weren’t any signs forbidding entry, but it looked like more of a private place than one open to the public.

Adjunct building

Adjunct Building

Our trip to the temple finished, we went to one of our favorite eateries, an outdoor restaurant near the river. I can never remember the name of the place, so I should write it down next time I’m there. It’s the something something Beer Garden, if memory serves me correctly. The lady and her family who run the place are all very friendly, and the food is pretty decent, too. Just outside the restaurant is this jackfruit tree. One of the large fruits had fallen off, and the owner had cut out the fruit. She gave us a generous dish, on the house. I didn’t take a photo of the fruit, but below the first shot is what it looks like. (I “borrowed” the photo from the internet, where it appears on several other websites.) And, no, I’ve never seen any birds in the cage hanging from the tree.

Jackfruit tree

Jackfruit Tree

Jackfruit

Jackfruit

Hey, what are you smiling at, buddy?

My friend Nai

A Smiling Nai

After leaving Vientiane the next morning, we went to Nongkhai to spend a few days before heading down to Bangkok. I’ll have a few photos from Nongkhai in my next post. More later.

At Nai’s Home

Well, it’s off to Nai’s home outside of Vientiane, but first, an obligatory shot of the sun going down over the Mekong. This one’s from Nongkhai looking into Laos.

Sunset over the Mekong

Sunset Over the Mekong

New Household Members

Nothing much new at Nai’s except for these new additions to the household. They’re quite a handful, as you might expect. They don’t have names yet, so I’m calling them Puppy 1 and Puppy 2.

Puppy

Puppy One

Puppy

Puppy Two

Puppies

Puppies One and Two

Cute, aren’t they. All the kids, of course, love them. Here, a young niece and a nephew have fun with the pups.

Kids and Puppies

KIds and Puppies

Kids and puppies

Puppy Love

Lao Snacks

Snacking throughout the day is a normal activity, but, oh, what snacks. Here, Nai is frying up a batch of crickets. Most Lao folks eat these like popcorn, dipping them in a spicy sauce for added flavor. I think I’ll pass this time.

Cooking crickets

Cookin’ Up Crickets

Fried crickets

Fried Crickets

Run out of crickets, you say? No problem. How about some nice juicy grasshoppers. Nai, nephew Kim, and sister Nui cull some grasshoppers caught by one of Nai’s brothers.

Picking grasshoppers

Picking Out the Juicy Ones

Here they are, getting the fried-in-oil treatment. Again, I’m not really that hungry, thanks.

Fried grasshoppers

Fried Grasshoppers

All is not lost in the snack department. Nui thinly slices a Thai vegetable (or fruit?). I don’t know the name, but it’s slightly sweet. Fried in oil (what else?) and salted, it resembles potato chips.

Slicing a vegetable

Slicing Time

Here are the grasshoppers and pseudo potato chips with a few sauces and some cucumber for your enhanced snacking pleasure. Dig in!

Lao snacks

Lao Snacks

Finally, a glance out the window shows that the sun is actually out for a change. Writing in hindsight, I know that there is plenty of rain to come, though. Much more, in fact, later.

Laos Landscape

Nai’s Backyard