Living in Asia is amazing; but there are lots of things that I miss about home. Mostly food. Specifically cheese, and bread. And ham. And salami. Pickles. mayonnaise. You get the picture. I love sandwiches. Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat from a nightmare where I’m chasing a giant slab of roast beef but no matter how fast I go, it’s just a step out of reach. Then I fall and fall and land in an enormous bowl of curry soup and I drown. (I’m mostly joking, the food here is unbelievable.)
You can get that a lot of western food in Thailand (or something like western food) but it’s usually not as good and generally very expensive. But we found a little oasis of bread, cheese, and cold cuts (also wine, beer, chocolate, pastries, cakes, coffee, ice cream, sauces and strange dips, etc.) in an unexpected place: Vientiane, Laos.
Say what you will about the tenets of European Colonialism, the French certainly know how to leave a cultural impact on a third-world nation. In the 1950’s the people of Laos overthrew the French occupation, kicked the white devil out of their country and liberated themselves from subjugation. “Get out of here you smelly Frogs” they roared. “We’re tired of you and everything you stand for.” The French turned tail and scampered back home. But the people of Laos are no slouches. Fortunately for me, they kept all the French recipe books and continued to make bitchingly-delicious European food in a very non-European place.
The roads have French names and the buildings are built in, or inspired by, French architectural styles. It’s really an amazing place, Vientiane. It’s clean and beautiful, and if you don’t mind a stray dog or two, you can walk around safely at night.
*Note, I did feel safe there at night, but not as safe as I feel in Chiang Mai. Not sure why- I didn’t see anyone get mugged or anything, there’s just a slightly different vibe. Still leaps and bounds safer than Baltimore, so…
As I mentioned in my previous post, the worst thing about the city is that everyone in and around it seems to be in on some kind of collective scam on white people. The cab drivers in the city all over-charge like crazy and seldom drop you at the right place. Busses too. As a result, we did a lot of walking which was mostly ok except for that in the sun, the temperature was about 4 degrees less than lethal to humans. Ever see pictures of a burn victim…?
But back to the food. Every meal we had there was incredible. It was great to have a real sandwich with real cheese and real cold cuts and real mayonnaise. In Thailand they only have this sweet, sour mayo that they use for salad dressing that seems to be a British thing. I’m working on a theory that this stuff was the real reason for the American Revolution. Jefferson hated that shit. There were several proper bakeries in town and even a little French import deli/bakery/market with exclusively European and Western foods. We got some fresh baguettes and imported ham and made little sandwiches. There were pastries and chocolates and all kinds of amazing foods that we’d been missing.
I realize this might not be such a big deal to you if you’re reading this from America and to that, I say go to Hell. Most importantly, the beer in Laos was much better than in Thailand. So we enjoyed a few libations and had another great meal at a restaurant called April 12 (which is my birthday). We were the only ones in the whole joint because there was an apocalyptic rain storm going on so we just chilled by ourselves and got drunk.
PS. Yes, that is ice in the beer. It’s a necessary evil when the temperature hits 100 almost every day.