And so to Vientiane
Today was a travel day, so not too much excitement. We were picked up on time at our hotel and taken by our usual driver, (how quickly one gets used to these things!), to the airport at Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang International Airport is not a grand affair – in fact it is quite small. There are eight check-in desks although only four were allocated for our flight and, needless to say, we chose the slowest one! It seemed to take forever for us to check-in with a case each! Once we had finally checked in, we had to have our passports checked, (even though our flight was domestic only), by the security staff who were very friendly. Once through this we went through the usual scanners – for some reason I seemed to trigger the body scanner thing that you walk through, despite having removed all metal items including belt, watch and mobile phone. I had to stand on a box whilst they ran the hand scanner all over me, which didn’t trigger so all seemed fine. It was only when I watched others coming through that I realised everyone triggered the body scanner and nobody got picked up with the hand scanner. Very odd!
There was some confusion as to what aircraft our flight might be on. There were three ATR72 aircraft on the apron, (not my favourite aircraft as they are turboprop aircraft which are generally very noisy and bone shakers!), but my advance planned said that it should be an Airbus A320. There was no such aircraft at the airport, but then, in it plopped running about 25 minutes late. They seemed to catch up on the turn around and we left about 15 minutes late. Flight time from Luang Prabang was only 35 minutes, during which the cabin crew managed to serve a snack of ‘fruit crisps’ which were quite disgusting but caused us some amusement as we tried to work out if there were any nice ones. The answer was, sadly, no! The pilot managed to find air with lots of lumps in it, nothing too bad, but I really must have a word about this lumpy air they seem to have here!
Our arrival in Vientiane was interesting. It transpires that there is only one luggage belt in arrivals at Vientiane and this is the shortest belt in airportdom! Two flights had arrived at the same time, so chaos ensued. It really was quite amusing watching everyone vying for position to try and grab their bag before it fell off the end of the belt! Probably it was most amusing as I had stood at the end of the belt and Captain Clarke’s bag was the first to arrive followed by my own about two bags later, so I wasn’t actually waiting for the bags, merely watching the chaos. We were met by our latest friend who turned out to be an ‘Assistant Guide’ and was only doing the transfer from the airport to our hotel. This was fine and, although his English was not the best we have come across, (I didn’t want to embarrass him by speaking to him in my now, almost fluent, Lao!), he did manage to convey some interesting details about himself.
Our Assistant Guide explained that he had become a Novice Monk when he was 9 years old and that he had trained for 11 years to become a full blown Monk, (I do hope that is not disrespectful!). He carried on as a fully ordained monk for a further 3 years before he gave up Monking. He decided, instead, to become a teacher, but he really didn’t like teaching, so he went to college and learned about being a tourist guide which is what he is aiming to be now. He seems a nice chap, but I am not sure how you square being a tourist guide and earning tips with that of Monking. However, mine is not to reason why!
And so, to our latest hotel. It is called the Green Park Boutique Hotel. It is absolutely fine. I was wondering what was boutique about it but I think I have worked this out. It is the rather unique service! Take, for example, the bar. We all met up in the bar for a drink before dinner. Within seconds of sitting down we were all served with a glass of cold water. We then chose the drinks we would have and ordered them. All was fine. We could, however, have died of thirst in the time that it took for the drinks to arrive! When they eventually did arrive we had scotch served in a brandy glass – I mean, really! What is the world coming to?! Captain Clarke immediately took up the mantle and had words – the scotch was transferred to an appropriate glass and a difficult situation was avoided!
We chose to eat in the restaurant because, frankly, after a day of travelling, (albeit hardly a long haul flight), we didn’t really want to go out and find somewhere to eat. Great Uncle Bulgaria ordered a ‘Thai Green Curry’, Madame Cholet a ‘Chicken Sandwich and French Fries’, Captain Clarke ‘Chicken with Ginger and Lemon Grass’ and myself a ‘Dry Red Moo Curry Stir Fried and served with Vegetables’, (in my obvious grasp of Lao I can tell you that Moo is actually pork!). Great Uncle Bulgaria had also ordered a starter of ‘Deep Fried Camembert’ and Madame Cholet a ‘French Onion Soup’, (or FOO as she called it). The starters arrived and all seemed well. Then, to accompany his starter, Great Uncle Bulgaria’s Thai Green Curry arrived. It sat on the table until they had both finished their starters when the Chicken Sandwich and French Fries arrived, along with Captain Clarke’s Chicken with Ginger and Lemon Grass. There was no sign of my dish at all. Eventually, we enquired as to its whereabouts and were told it was on its way. It did arrive eventually, but instead of being the dry red curry that was stir fried with vegetables, it was, in fact, a standard Thai Red Curry! Oh well!
There are a couple of things that I have failed to mention so far in my brief reports, so whilst I remember, I shall mention them here. Both relate to accents and the difficulty that I have in understanding everything that is said. The first was in Bangkok with our first guide, Belle. Belle was very nice and generally spoke good English, she was also a very happy soul which made her company even more enjoyable. Having said that, on our first visit to a temple, (oh, so many have now passed!), she mentioned that the gold leaf and paintings were maintained by a particular department. It was only on our second day that I worked out that the ‘Fine Arse Department’ is, in fact, the ‘Fine Arts Department’! A similar occurrence happened with our guide on the boat and in Luang Prabang. When describing various things from the structure of a tribe to some basic religious principals, he used the word, ‘Farter’ an awful lot. It was only on the last day he was with us that he described his own, ‘Farter and Motter’, that I realised exactly what a ‘Farter’ is! However, I don’t wish to be critical – obviously I could conduct our conversations entirely in Lao by now, but it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the party! Sabaidee!! It’s RudyMenTerry!
See the photo gallery for this post here