Laos 21: Cafe Ban Vat Sene Luang Prabang and how to travel solo
Tempting to return to Delilah’s Cafe for a second morning brekker. I know it now. It has good WiFi. It is close, I am hungry.
But resist the temptation.
So many places, only five days (five nights) to try them all.
Walk and walk — and walk. Am hugely hungry and don’t have a clear agenda. Just want to find somewhere that feels truly inviting and want a traditional Lao brekker today, croissants and other pastries, be damned.
Pass Delilah’s and continue round the bend, opposite direction to yesterday and my Phousi adventure. Come upon the “peninsula” where the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. Keep walking, taking turns down alleys once I have left the riverside (where there are dining areas but I also want WiFi). The walk a grand discovery. Too much to see and point my camera at to have single-minded focus on the food.
Almost stop in at a place called Chill. But not quite right, even though what “right” is, I won’t know, till I find it: a Lao breakfast menu at a pretty elegant place that also has a bakery. When I search I find it in my Rough Guide too.
At Café Le Ban Vat Sene on Sakkaline Road I sit outside and order the Khai Jeun Jaeo Mak Len (omelet cooked with herbs and served with tomato relish, sun-dried beef and sticky rice) 30,000 kip and Lao coffee.
And later, because I’ve sat there for so long, and booked a flight from Luang Prabang to Bangkok for four days hence, Monday flights being cheaper than Sunday flights and having already concluded that this city is one to linger in for as long as possible, I decide on a light lunch of Hmong pork belly with leafy greens (simmered for hours to create a mix of sweet, sour and bitter flavors) for 25,000 kip. Not photogenic like the brekker, so I don’t…
So long as you can squat, you’re not too old to travel solo
But I do jot a few things down in my journal:
- Traveling solo (a.k.a. with yourself: often the best company), get an aisle seat. So you can move around and at least not be squashed from one side of the wrong person sits next to you.
- And if you travel with a companion? Sit apart, both on aisle seats. Why? If you have nobody to complain to, you don’t. When I read back in my journal now, I see myself calling someone “a cow” and dissing someone else for: whatever. Funny but I don’t recall the incidents until I read my notes and try to think back.
I traveled alone on a plane for the first time at age 11. Way back. Met my folks in Europe. Maybe that sowed the seed?
- Solo travel suggestion: Start by going to bigger walking cities. Madrid, Lisbon, London, Chiang Mai, Amsterdam, New York, Krakow are a few of my favorites to date. Cities where day or night, you are free to be…
- Loved traveling with my daughter when she was 13 and I took her to Europe for three-and-a-half months. We slept on beaches, train stations, pensions, B&Bs, hotels, with friends and on a Green island, an under construction rooftop — till I woke sensing eyes peering and discovering they were rats. Good company (her, not the rats), no compromises, she was game and open to random adventures. A really good age. In Thailand I speak to a couple of moms traveling with a child. A-plus feedback.
- Don’t ever, no never, read anything while traveling unless it is directly related to where you are. Some people take novels. Why the hell bother to go if you’re transporting yourself into the author’s world?
- Write, sure. Journal about where you are. Your thoughts. Your impressions. Guide books by all means. But why travel if you’re going to step out of your new world, out of your life, into that of fictitious characters? Live your own experience: see, hear, taste, touch, engage, get grumpy, relate to where you are. Oh, and observe and question. And be…
I read my notes on slow boat observations. There are the tourists, at least relatively well-heeled, even the back-packers, to be there. And then there’s the local guy. He opens his lunch packet. Takes out chicken bones. Gnaws on them. Then peanut, which he shells and eats.
- At home you perhaps go to the same coffee shop often; the same favorite restaurant. You’re traveling to experience something new. So beware of falling into this “comfort zone” trap at the expense of each time, opening up to the possibility of something new.
- So long as you can squat, you’re not too old to travel solo. (Only need to squat twice on my Thailand/Laos trip but when you gotta squat you gotta squat so think if solo travel as a reason to stay fit.)
- Save money on accommodation, spend it on experiences and adventures. Easier to do when going solo. (Once shared a dorm room in Venice, when in my early 20s so a while ago and just remembering, with six young American guys who approached me at the train station and said would I join them to keep costs down? I went on a date with a Murano factory owner in his motorboat — longer story — and at some point hot-footed it back there to the safety of the blokes whose names I don’t think I ever learned.)
All of the above? Reminders to myself as much as anything.
© Wanda Hennig 2016, story and photos.