Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Breakfast in Laos

While the unique taste of Thai food with its hot, sweet and spicy characteristics has won international acclaim, I have found it hard to appreciate their breakfast. The Thais eat practically the same thing for lunch, dinner and breakfast - yes, rice and dishes. No doubt there is the occassional noodles, but I was expecting a bit more creativity here. Perhaps we in Singapore are quite spoilt for choice with our multi-racial roots where there is Chinese Dim Sum and Congee, Malay Nasi Lemak & Lontong, Kaya Toast, Bacon & Eggs and Indian Pratas and Thosai to name a few.

On our morning in Chiang Kong, a small border town along the quiet banks of the mighty Mekong River, we decided to hop over to do breakfast in Lao for a change. It helped that we did not have to incur the prohibitive US$30 visa for "farangs" but just the 20B long tail boat ride. Exiting Thailand was easy enough, a chop on our passport, a walk down to the riverbank, pay the boatman, in 3 mins, viola - we were across the river to Huay Xai, Laos. Problem was 100 farangs were lining up at the immigration queue in front of us and only 2 officers were taking their time to stamp the passports. I'm reminded that Lao PDR stood for "Please don't rush" so we just relaxed and waited our turn. Fortunately, there was a special booth for Asean nationals so we cleared in no time.

Huay Xai is very much like a small town in Cambodia, dusty and grotty but with a bit of French provincial character. We were delighted at being offered Baquettes at a restaurant though we were served by a rather brusk lady who looked and acted like Oscar the Grouch of Sesame Street. It was lovely to sink our teeth into fresh, crisp bread and we thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast. Suddenly, a whole crowd of Korean Uni students descended upon the Cafe and Oscar's face lit up as they were booking tours etc. We got out quick!

Chris managed to get a driver of a pick up to show us the sights for 400B and we visited a market 8km out of town that was inhibited obviously by China migrants selling all sorts of wares. Some of the stuff were so old and recycled that they belong to the flea market but it was interesting enough. We next climbed a steep hill to a beautiful Buddhist Temple which had little stories of the life of Buddha's journey to enlightenment.

Our trip back to Chiang Kong was smooth as Thai silk - a quick boat ride, no queues at Thai immigration just like a walk through your neighbour's garden. It was an interesting breakfast break that we sorely needed and truly appreciated!
The Mekong crossing on You Tube (1st 3 mins):

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