The road to Vang Vieng and a Green Curry Pancake – Laos style

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Another day and I decide to change the pace a little, so a bus ride is in order. I book a ticket for what is apparently a five hour VIP bus to Vang Vieng – another sleepy town which appears on the infamous Route 13 from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. As I had hoped, it is a beautiful ride. We travel through a number of little villages interspersed by old wooden shacks, nearly all with massive satellite dishes, which in many cases are even larger than the actual homes! All along the journey there are children playing on the roadside, buffalo and cows, goats, chickens, and dogs all run amok in the street and behind them little cafes are dotted along the way. This is all going on with a stunning backdrop of beautiful bright green fields and luscious mountains. The bus is precariously winding round and round the Z-bends, swerving to avoid oncoming trucks, as we drive higher into the hills the street life disappears and is replaced with a carpet of green shrubs, trees and dewy grass, the drive is exhilarating, there will be no sleeping on this bus, far too much to look at!

Eventually, we arrive at Vang Vieng, a tiny three street town wedged in-between the mountainous backdrop and the river, and everywhere I look there are angry roaring waterfalls. I am told this place is the capital of tubing, rock climbing, canoeing, cycling and partying for backpackers and those in search of the classic marriage between adventure and debauchery. As the bus pulls down a busy side street, I notice a backpacker wearing a vest which reads the following:

XXXX BAR, VANG VIENG

Drink Loads,

See Double

Take girls

Pretend you are single

My heart sinks, to come all this way into such a stunning location, and to see this? It is as though the drive lulled me into a false sense of security, the beautiful surroundings, the calming views of the rolling hills, I never imagined I would end up in yet another party town. I lean forward and look through my window turning to look at the backpacker again, he is giving off that Australian vibe, long wavy hair, big muscles tiny vest, but he isn’t the only one. Indeed many people are wearing the exact same t-shirt, this really IS a party town. The driver catches my eye, he can tell I am not impressed and assures me it is also an excellent location to find space for those who are not that way inclined and tells me I will find plenty of peace.

Off the coach and checked into my little hotel, I head straight out on the town. Ideally looking for a good restaurant, I want to treat myself to something delicious, slightly off the beaten track, and away from all the younger partiers.

A small older lady with pretty features comes across to welcome me in. “Can we help you, sir?”

“Do you have green curry?”

“Yes, sir, of course. Come in, take a seat.” She leads me across the mosaic-tiled floor to a small wooden table at the side with a window view and a waitress approaches me with a menu.

“Ah, no need for the menu. I’ll have a green curry, please, with a side dish of steamed rice.”

“No, we do not have green curry.”

“But the lady on the door said that you do.”

“She is wrong.”

So I am off, all I fancy is a green curry tonight, as I pass the lady on the door she asks me if she can help me again! At the next stop, I request the same, walking up to a smiling man on the door.

“Can I help you, sir?”

“Do you have green curry?”

“Yes, Sir of course. Come in, take a seat.”

I sit here happily waiting for my curry with a large Lao beer in hand, again it’s an extra-large bottle and would probably serve five people, let alone just me!

A plate of steaming curry is placed in front of me. I look down confused. “It’s red!”

“No, this is green curry, Sir…”

“No, this really isn’t green!”

“Oh, you like more spicy?”

Oh God, I always thought the red was spicier than the green. The waitress takes it away and I sip on my beer again. Fifteen minutes later she returns with the red curry in a plastic bag! No rice, simply curry – in a bag. I am not impressed.

“I did not ask for takeaway.”

The waitress stares at me blankly and I see the manager come over.

“So sorry, Sir, we are very busy tonight,” he mumbles.

I look around and, honestly, there is one table occupied other than my own. “I didn’t even ask for a red curry take away, simply a green curry with rice to be served at my table.”

“Can you return tomorrow when we are less busy?”

I don’t even treat that sentence to a reply. I stand up and take off, leaving the steaming red curry in the waitress’s hands. This place confuses me beyond belief.

Still hungry and somewhat desperate, I am drawn towards the smell of a barbeque. I don’t even eat the stuff but like I said I’m desperate! I wander up to the restaurant to take a look at the menu and the man on the door begins chatting to me, he tells me he is the boss. His menu is hand written in English and is just about legible. I squint at it trying to discern the words and as I am scrolling down I notice towards the bottom of the list, after the standard pork barbeque ribs, and the not so standard pig entrails… I see those two little words for which I have been searching, although I certainly didn’t expect to see here!

‘Green Curry’

“Amazing,” I tell the large grinning man in front of me. “I have been to your neighbours in search of a green curry. It’s great to see it on your menu!”

I begin walking inside, when I notice his smile fading, his large arm stretches out in front of my body, and stops me in my tracks. “We only have drinks, kebab and beer. Come back tomorrow.”

So, dinner tonight ends up with pad thai in the market at a pancake stall!

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