A Travellerspoint blog

Laos

Scenes from the local market


View Kathmandu to Kuala Lumpur 2011 on Chris Parsons's travel map.

A few snaps from the street stalls and food markets of Southeast Asia, places rich in gastronomic interest and photographic opportunity.

Hanoi ladies queuing for their snails

Hanoi ladies queuing for their snails


Early morning shoppers in Sapa market

Early morning shoppers in Sapa market


Mekong River fish in bamboo baskets

Mekong River fish in bamboo baskets


Crowds at Luang Prabang food market

Crowds at Luang Prabang food market


Fancy a frog kebab

Fancy a frog kebab


Lao drive-through

Lao drive-through


The morning catch drying by the roadside

The morning catch drying by the roadside


A stallholder tends to the veg display

A stallholder tends to the veg display


Another formidable Thai lady serving up fast food

Another formidable Thai lady serving up fast food


Chicken yoga

Chicken yoga

Posted by Chris Parsons 16:22 Archived in Laos Tagged thailand vietnam laos Comments (0)

What's wat


View Kathmandu to Kuala Lumpur 2011 on Chris Parsons's travel map.

This blog is inspired by a bar in Siem Reap called Angkor What?

- "Look at that wat!"
- "That what?"
- "No, that wat."
- "Oh, the wat."
- "Yes, and what a wat."
- "Very nice. So, what wat's that wat?"
- "Well, I'll tell you what."
- "What?"
- "I know what's a wat and what's not a wat, but I don't know what wat's what."
- "You what?"

The Royal Palace Museum in Luang Prabang - what you might call high wattage

The Royal Palace Museum in Luang Prabang - what you might call high wattage


The ornate interior of Wat Xieng Thong

The ornate interior of Wat Xieng Thong


Golden statues on Phoussy Hill in Luang Prabang

Golden statues on Phoussy Hill in Luang Prabang


A dawn ritual - donating breakfast to the monks

A dawn ritual - donating breakfast to the monks


The West Gate of Angkor Wat

The West Gate of Angkor Wat


Wat Doi Suthep's golden chedi is one of the most sacred places in northern Thailand

Wat Doi Suthep's golden chedi is one of the most sacred places in northern Thailand


A monk gives Doi Suthep's holy elephant a fresh lick of paint

A monk gives Doi Suthep's holy elephant a fresh lick of paint


A pile of shoes outside a Chiang Mai wat

A pile of shoes outside a Chiang Mai wat


Scaffolders working on a chedi in Chiang Mai. Note the lack of hard hats and bamboo scaffolding.

Scaffolders working on a chedi in Chiang Mai. Note the lack of hard hats and bamboo scaffolding.

Posted by Chris Parsons 23:42 Archived in Laos Tagged temples cambodia thailand buddhism laos monks wats Comments (2)

Food blog #3: Un voyage gourmand en Vietnam et Laos

Fried grasshoppers

Fried grasshoppers

One of the highlights of our trip so far has been the things we have "consumed" en route. Our journey into Vietnam and Laos, with a cycling appetite to boot, only served to increase the appeal of the local delicacies on offer. To whet your appetite, here is our top 10 of some of the food items we mostly dared to try...

#10 Morning Glory
What is the story, I hear you ask...? Well this green vegetable, best described as a cross between spinach, broccoli and cabbage, turned up consistently on our plates throughout Vietnam and Laos. It was fried. It was in soup. It was in curry. It may even have made it into the spring rolls. After about a week of consistently appearing on our dinner table, it began to yield a morning glory groan from the group. It's not that we don't like it. But it's Morning Glory! Chris and I thought that we'd made our escape on a desert island off the coast of Cambodia, but what should we find at the one and only restaurant: a new combination: Morning Glory in Oyster Sauce!

#9 Peanuts, unripened
It sounds unlikely, but in a small village near Tu Le, some local women offered us unripe monkey nuts, in the shell. Curious, we acceped the kind offer...They are eaten whole, shell included, dipped in a sauce made from salt, lime, garlic and fresh corriander. They certainly made my taste buds zing, but had to be washed down abruptly with some local sweets!

#8 Cobra Wine (with full length cobra)
We happened upon this interesting tipple in Muong Lai: a large glass flagon of the strong stuff, complete with coiled cobra inside. According to Phong, our Vietnamese guide, this drink "makes you strong". He wasn't referring to cycling. At $500 for the whole flagon (including cobra) we could all think of cheaper ways to achieve the same effect... At Tu Le, we tried a less venomous alternative: Bee Wine. This was exactly as described above, except there was an entire graveyard of bees nestling at the bottom of this flagon. Oh, and you could purchase by the glass, mouthful of bees excluded.

A sticky end...

A sticky end...

#7 Roast Dog
So I was quietly ambling through a village south of Hanoi when I had my first encounter with dog (the kind which didn't involve being chased). Two of the said woofters were being roasted on an open fire at the side of the road. One of my cycling buddies (who shall remain nameless) later asked me how I knew it was dog. The only honest answer I could give was that it basically looked like one, with the fur singed off and a spit stuck up its arse. It was clearly a dog. Or should I say an 'ex-dog'. I later learned from David, our tour leader, that this must have meant that it was "dog time of the month". What he really meant to say was that for two weeks in the month the Vietnamese consider it bad luck to eat it, for the other two weeks it is good luck (this works the other way around for the dog of course). In Sapa, two of our group, David and John, joined Phong on an excursion to sample dog "five ways", or so it sounded from their descriptions of the feast. Fortunately I was held up in a pizza restaurant at the time, otherwise I would have taken my turn at exacting revenge! In case you're wondering, it tastes like chicken.

#6 Mekong Riverweed
This is a must for anyone travelling near the Mekong. I know it sounds unappetizing, but this is a genuinely tasty snack. Sold like paper, in A4 sheets in the local markets, it is then fried and sprinkled with sesame seeds. I got my first tasting courtesy of Chris Morfas' laotian pizza on our first night in Luang Prabang - thanks buddy! Yum!

#5 Tarte au chocolat
One of the advantages of travelling through countries the French invaded, is the quality of baked goods on offer, and the Baguette au Chocolate cafe in Sapa did a wicked line in patisserie. Our rest days from the bike were generally characterised by a need to forage for cake, and it didn't take Chris and I long to bring home one of these tarts! Delicious crispy pastry, with a goey chocolatey filling: so good it had the rest of the group drooling when I stopped to savour my purchase at one of our tea stops. I was guilt free though - those without cake had ridden straight past the shop that morning on a steep incline out of Sapa. The bike had wanted to stop, I had wanted to stop, and the tart was shouting my name!

[i]Tarte au chocolat!

Tarte au chocolat!

#4 Grasshoppers
Now we're getting to the business end of this blog entry. Phong introduced us to this local snack in Tu Le. Phong seemed to operate on a principle of "if it flies, it fries", and so I was somewhat surprised to find only grasshoppers on my plate that evening. One hopper would have been sufficient. But with a wry smile, Phong enthusiastically uptipped the bowl into mine, adding some serious crunch to my noodles. The only way I can describe the taste of a grasshopper is that there were notable overtones of the farmyard (thank you Oz Clarke). I passed on the opportunity for seconds.

Phong, our grasshopper man

Phong, our grasshopper man

#3 Silkworms
Of the weird things I've eaten, this comes pretty far up the list. As Phong waggled one of these in front of my nose in Tu Le, I recoiled in horror: this was becoming a bush tucker trial for only the hardiest of the group, would I survive? Silkworms look like witchetty grubs, and in my imagination this one was already crawling down my throat. After a moment to let my stomach settle, and make an objective decision, I thought 'what the hell' and gave one a try. Fried silkworm tastes a lot better than it looks. It is the texture of a soft-ish jelly bean, and is a lot less "farmyard" than the hoppers.

#2 Beer Lao
No blog of mine on conspicuous consumption could be complete without mentioning this old favourite. Beer Lao was the perfect way to quench a cyclist's thirst on a hot day, and also one of the few straightforward ways I found to understand the relative spending power of Dong and Kips (beer has its uses...) It was great for group bonding, and is now being sorely missed in Cambodia! However, when combined with a bicycle and the merest of "undulations" Beer Lao also had a tendancy to lead to the debilitating condition known as "beer legs", reducing performance (on the bike) by upwards of 50%... As a footnote to this particular entry, I have just spent the evening with Chris Morfas in Siem Reap where we managed to find genuine bottles of Beer Lao. Never has a beer tasted so good, and the reminiscing gone on so long (apologies to the restaurant staff at the Khmer Kitchen).

By far the best thirst quencher of the trip so far

By far the best thirst quencher of the trip so far

#1 Lao Lao
So good they named it twice! Those on our trip will know why this is number 1...It looks like water, tastes like water, comes in a water bottle, and like water comes hangover free (Dominique and I tested this theory on an entire bottle of the stuff one night, and woke up the following morning unscathed. We think). But this where the resemblance ends. At anywhere between 5 and 10 times the strength of a Beer Lao, Lao Lao is efficient stuff, leading one to become swiftly and seriously squiffy. It was the forger of some great friendships, and comedy moments, but drinker beware: it can lead to "crambling". Let the good times roll!

A not so innocent bottle...

A not so innocent bottle...

What happened today Dominique?
This morning you hardly did speak
Perhaps you should vow
To stay off the Lao Lao
And no crambling for the rest of the week

Dominique and I get squiffy

Dominique and I get squiffy

Posted by jparsons 04:28 Archived in Laos Tagged food vietnam laos cycling Comments (1)

Portraits of Laos

Chris is chased by schoolchildren down Highway 13

Chris is chased by schoolchildren down Highway 13


Children watch us eat lunch number one near Vang Vieng

Children watch us eat lunch number one near Vang Vieng


Drawing a crowd en route to Vang Vieng

Drawing a crowd en route to Vang Vieng


A brother and sister patiently watch me taking photos of mountains at their house near Phou Khoun, they then let me take this photo of them

A brother and sister patiently watch me taking photos of mountains at their house near Phou Khoun, they then let me take this photo of them


I meet the locals at our lunch stop in Nam Ming, en route to Kiu Kucham

I meet the locals at our lunch stop in Nam Ming, en route to Kiu Kucham


Children playing by the side of the road to Luang Prabang

Children playing by the side of the road to Luang Prabang


A girl sells handwoven scarves in a village on the Nam Ou River

A girl sells handwoven scarves in a village on the Nam Ou River

Posted by jparsons 02:57 Archived in Laos Tagged people laos Comments (0)

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