Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Travels:Laos. Welcome to the TACKIEST park on earth!!

Day 3

Monday, December 22, 08.

We stumbled upon JoMa Bakery by chance last night and decided to give this one a go. It looks a little bit more swanky than the Scandinavian Bakery but the prices are a little less pricier. It's another local coffee shop, with chains at different locations in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. It is so refreshing to not see Starbucks or CoffeeBeans in Laos!!

The first thing that caught our eyes at JoMa were the pastries. If the French left anything in this country, it was the architecture and the art of making good bread. The choices were enough to make your mouth water. We wanted everything: the apple strudels, the spinach strudels, the chocolate strudels, the muffins, the banana cakes, the cinnamon buns...the list can go on. But boring ol' me, settled for bagels and cream cheese with coffee. Husband J went for the kill: the apple strudels. I caved in after finishing up the bagel; I went in and ordered chocolate strudel. It was heavenly!!! The coffee was better than yesterday's at Scandinavian. We found out that JoMa serves great banana cake and cinnamon buns. Hmmm...Maybe next time, we will try.

After a satisfying breakfast, we hired a tuktuk to take us to Buddha Park, some 25km outside Vientiane. We paid the tuktuk driver 195,000 Kip for a 2-way trip! That's USD23!! J really wanted to see this park, so off we went. Tuktuk rides are by far the best way to see the city. We went through some pretty interesting roads, where we passed the 'Friendship Bridge' connecting Laos to Thailand, the LaoBeer brewery which the driver proudly showed us and, Daisy the Cow and friends taking a stroll down the busy, dusty streets!!

Buddha Park was an *interesting* place. OK, I was being polite.. it was a weird and very tacky experience for us. Basically, this dude decided to build this park adorned by Buddhist statues with this odd domed-shape house, depicting hell at the bottom level, earth at mid-level, and the next world at the top level. But soon after the communist government took over Laos, he was chased away to Thailand where he reportedly build a bigger and tackier park!! Anyway, the park was by the Mekong so the view at the bottom of the park was quite nice. As I walked around the park under the hot blazing sun, I still couldn't get my head around this place. It was just....weird!

Welcome to Buddha Park!!

Earth, Hell and the after-life, all in one dome!

Inside the dome: mid-level, earth?

Buddha Park: I just couldn't get my head around this place!!

We took the tuktuk back and had lunch at Nazim's, a halal Indian restaurant which seemed to be extremely popular with the backpackers. I had rice, alu gobi and some chicken masala dish; J had naan. Imagine, all the way in Laos, and we ate Indian food. I told J, we're not having naan for the rest of the trip!

The evening, as always, was cooler. We picked a restaurant that had bamboo sheds along the Mekong and sat on the floor as we enjoyed the sunset. Dinner was spectacular. Just as you think Lao food couldn't get any better, you find yourself totally enjoying another Lao dish. I had 'hotpot' - water boiled over charcoal in a clay pot, you put in the garlic, chillis, seafood (or meat), vegetables, glass noodles and eggs. And voila!! Amazing hot, soupy dinner on a cool night. And it was only for 30,000 Kip!!

Sunset by the Mekong

, is the life!!