It’s a cool December night and On and I are sitting around a small table at this outdoor café along the banks of the Mekong River just across the street from the Inter City Hotel having dinner.
I got in about two hours ago after a ninety-minute flight on a propeller driven Lao Aviation ATR from Hanoi to Vientiane’s Wattay International Airport. It was a real sweet flight, not a bit of turbulence and some decent in-flight service. It was awesome flying over the mountains into Laos with the sun beginning to set.
Once I arrived at Wattay International Airport it didn’t take too long to get my visa on arrival (only $35.00) and go through immigration. It was probably a good thing that I took the less-crowded flight from Hanoi to Vientiane: only a handful of people had to apply for a visa. I was in and out of there within twenty minutes, walked downstairs to get my baggage and then walk outside to the arrival area where On was waiting for me.
It had been three months—three very long months—since we last were together in Bangkok and had been looking forward to this week-long holiday ever since.
Exchanged some money at the airport, which turned out to be a good idea because the rates were not as good the rest of the time I was in Vientiane. However, the cashier made a mistake and gave me more Kip than I was supposed to receive and later, when On and I got to the hotel we got a phone call from a panicky bank employee telling us of the error. When you exchange money, they make a copy of your passport and ask for your hotel name—which ended up being good for them because they could quickly contact me. Interestingly, the way that the cashier was able to reach us was by calling the taxi driver who had taken us to our hotel.
Once we got that sorted out and left the extra Kip with the hotel staff, we checked into our room and then decided to have something to eat. More about the Inter City Hotel later, but for now it was a good idea booking this hotel when I was in Korea. Rooms are a little pricey—54.00 a night for a deluxe room, plus a buffet breakfast—but from what I have heard it is one of the better deals for hotels in Vientiane.
Across the street—Fa Ngum Road—from our hotel, a trove of outdoor cafés and drink stalls line the banks of the Mekong River. Most of them sell fresh fish and other seafood as well as spicy papaya salad and barbecued chicken. Feeling a little jetlagged and On feeling a little tired after her ten-hour bus ride from her village south of Savannakhet, we stopped at one of these cafés closest to our hotel. Sadly, the service and the food was not too great, not to mention a little expensive, so we ended up having a late dinner at a small restaurant next to our hotel.
We did go for a walk along Fa Ngum Road and stopped at a mini mart—just past the Nazim Indian Restaurant—to pick up a few things. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem as crowded as I thought it would be for this time of the year, the peak tourist season. There were a number of people sitting outside some cafés and restaurants, but it wasn’t too crowded.
What’s really exciting though, is to be here in Vientiane with On at the end of the year and to begin 2008 together. That is what is definitely going to make this a special time to be somewhere exotic and special with someone special.