Yesterday we arrived in Laos' laid back capital Vientiane for some much needed R&R. Despite being renowned as a peaceful and quiet place, the cheapest and cleanest room we could find just happens to be the noisiest 6 square metres in the city. For some reason, it's noisier up here than down on the street and with at least three Asian pop CDs playing on loop in the immediate vicinity, it's most definitely a case of getting what we paid for.
This aside however, the capital so far seems to be living up to its reputation. The tree-lined streets are by in large free from the heavy traffic and grime of its regional counterparts, and the sales technique of the local entrepreneurs is decidedly more low key. All this makes for a much more hassle-free stay than we had in Cambodia and a greater willingness to get my street grub on.
It seems like an age since I was wolfing down cumin dusted lamb kebabs on the streets of China so when I saw these I wanted to get stuck right in. What interested me most about these kebabs was the presence of sliced peppers, onion and cherry tomatoes along with meat on the skewers. This is how we eat kebabs at home but I've almost never seen them done like this abroad. The veg looked charred, wrinkled and juicy, and I couldn't wait for that little cherry bomb to explode in my mouth.
Unfortunately however I never got that far. It turned out that this kebab definitely fell into the dubious category of mystery meat - it looked like lamb, they said it was pork, and it tasted like crap. After about 30 seconds straight chewing we hit the ejector button and the veg never even got to see the light of day.
Next day whilst exploring the vast Talat Sao market things went a little better when we came across a few food stalls. The one that interested us most was of the pre-cooked multi-dish variety that is pretty common in Vietnam. I usually steer clear of these for hygiene reasons and my preference for OSOD (one stall, one dish) operations, but I was getting good vibes from the vendor and the food looked good so I made an exception.
10,000 kip (about a quid) bought a plate of rice with a few curries and vegetables. Both the chicken curry and beef with ginger were good but it was the vegetable contingent that really served with distinction. Green beans were fresh, hot and crunchy, and some bok choy had been sauteed in a sour cooking liquid with a vegetable I'd never seen before but resembled half a quail's egg.
On a completely unrelated note today we saw a Laotian guy with a t-shirt emblazoned with a swastika that said "White Power Division" on it.
Looks like this is going to be a strange place!