We tried something a bit different this time around: Theme nights. Or at least, that was the idea. We managed to get one solid theme night in at least: China night! The evening began with Gongfu tea at our favorite little Chinese teahouse (perhaps the only legit Gongfu teahouse) in town — Tea Talk. Run by a charming young lady from just over the border in Yunnan Province, she and her operation are the real deal.
Noe even got to sample a bit of the Yunnan tea. He might not get another taste for many years, but we like to expose him to a variety of flavors and textures. These days, he pretty much eats what mommy and daddy eats, which is a good motivation to keep things healthy and balanced for ourselves. Long gone are the days of baby food or purees. If the pad thai’s on the table, this guy wants pad thai.
The newly renovated Namphou Park (at the location of the old Namphou Fountain and formerly Mix Restaurant) is just days away from reopening.
Yep, it’s Christmastime again in Vientiane, and the secular symbols touting Western commercialism abound! While a generally Buddhist (and…eghm…Communist) people, Vientianese love any excuse to shop, drink, and put up LED lights and gaudy gold decor everywhere, but we’ll save that discussion for another day.
…and yes, that is a passed out 18-month-old I am carrying around. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll still be doing this when he’s 10…
Watch those power lines!
During their visit in January, Lori and I sort of figured — this being Laos and all — that Grammy and Grampy might not make it back here for a while. So, we essentially gave them the full meal deal tour and didn’t leave a lot leftover for a next visit. Which actually ended up feeling surprisingly liberating this time around given that we could pretty much take them anywhere and not feel guilty that they might have missed out on this or that. We’ve been wanting to explore this Vietnamese temple for a while and thought it might be fun to do together — something we’d never do with first timers, because time is precious and we like our visitors to get a sense of Laos.
We also spent more time relaxing in coffee shops, cafes, and bars this time around — more of the places we go on a regular basis rather than the tourist hotspots. This made Noe quite happy as he got to play in all of his favorite play areas like this one at Common Grounds Cafe.
You may be wondering what happened to our friends (and Grammy and Grampy’s travel buds) John and Shirley? Well, they felt the lure of Chiang Mai and decided to spend some time up there. But don’t worry, they’ll be meeting up with us here in a few days.
Last visit, Lori’s parents, along with John and Shirley, spent a few days in Taipei on a long layover before Grammy and Grampy came to meet us in Laos and their travel buds headed to Hanoi to explore Halong Bay. We all eventually met back up for a couple days in Vientiane, then an extended weekend in Luang Prabang.
This time around (December), our four visitors flew into Bangkok and explored the city and surroundings on their own for the better part of five days before we all met up in Railay for another five. John and Shirley then took the train up to Chiang Mai and Lori’s parents came back with us to Laos, where they got about a week of solo time with Noe (and us), which brings us to…
…our return to Sanctuary Nam Ngum Beach Resort!
We spent my birthday weekend this past September in this peaceful and lovely place. We liked our stay so much, we decided to return in December with Lori’s parents.
We like coming up here to the lake with her family as it’s fairly close to Vientiane, not very touristy, and very relaxing. Last January, we stayed just around the point from here at Green View Resort. We still love Green View, but thought it would be fun to do something different with them. Plus, Sanctuary is just a bit more toddler friendly.
We got two adjacent cabanas on the pool side of the resort, which were also a very short walk to the restaurant.
It ended up being quite a bit chillier than September, and even rained a bit. So we spent a bit more time inside than in the past. Noe didn’t seem to mind. What he did seem to mind were the stickers. Oh…the stickers.
I thought we were having fun. Noe and I were playing with the stickers, then, I started to put them on his legs one by one. After the first one, he froze — the kid wouldn’t move an inch. But I kept putting them on. He wasn’t protesting, after all. Finally, the poor buddy pal lost it.
I quickly took them all off and comforted him (meanwhile Lori’s cracking up and taking pictures). When he was calm again, Lori said “Do it again!” At first I was shocked by mama’s request, but then understood she was just curious more than anything. Was it really the stickers or something else bothering him??? I tried one sticker on his hand and got the same result. Needless to say, we won’t be bringing out the stickers for a while.
Personally, I think the best time to be here in this place is in the evening, when the heat of the day has passed (not really an issue this time around) and all is quiet and calm. The buzz of longtail motors is replaced by the soothing slurp of paddles in water and the sound of nets being cast. And then, the stars begin poking out one by one. We didn’t see any stars on this trip, but got a misty shroud covering the water instead.
Lori and I highly value our time at home in Vientiane, but also find that it’s easy to get sucked into the day-to-day hamster wheel that persists even in Laos, albeit confined mostly to the capital. Vientiane is a very livable city, and many aspects remind us of the U.S. But we didn’t move 8,000 miles away to simply transplant our existing American life to a developing country in Southeast Asia.
Time away from Vientiane reminds us why we put so much time and energy into relocating out here and what makes Laos a refreshing alternative to an increasingly mad, mad world. Granted, Sanctuary is not the same as staying in a rural village hundreds of kilometers from the capital. But it’s close enough for us, and more importantly, close enough for Grammy, Grampy, and Noe.
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