There are two things that I credit equally with making travel such an addictive undertaking. The first is the feeling of a new place where everything is exotic, and the world is full of possibility. The other is that feeling that strikes out of the blue when you feel a sense of familiarity in a place you’ve never been.
For me, as an American living in Bangkok, these opposing feelings are nothing new. It happens when we are seated on familiar wooden pews taking part in the familiar routines of a church service while the smell of spicy grilled fish wafts in through open doors. Or when I’m in a taxi darting through Bangkok traffic when a familiar American song comes on the radio.
It is that exhilarating mix of both familiarity and newness that I loved about Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang is a magical city, unlike any other place I’ve ever been. But to trail behind Frank as we pedaled around this sleepy town was to feel strangely, yet completely, in my element.
When we were hungry, we scouted out our lunch options on streets that were barely wide enough for a car. These crispy fried snacks of sesame-crusted seaweed came with spicy chile dip, and were light and addictive. Frank rightly noted their saltiness and crunch would be perfect with cold beers. We kept expecting the local sour sausages to resemble the sour rice-pork sausages that we frequently get in Thailand, but these had a more substantial, meaty flavor.
And of course, there was sticky rice. (I may have eaten my weight in sticky rice over the weekend.)
After lunch, we stopped at the National Museum to feed the koi (“for good luck” a woman told us), and tour the National Museum.
And by then it was time for something sweet…it was vacation after all. We parked outside of Joma to escape the mid-afternoon heat.
Several people recommended Joma for lunch. I was certain all weekend that Frank would cave to the siren’s call of their well-advertised turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce, but we stuck with local Lao food for all our meals. Joma was, however, a stellar place to grab an afternoon iced cappuccino and the best carrot cake I’ve had since I left the U.S.
By the time we got back to the hotel in the late afternoon, we’d been riding all day, but I was sad to say farewell to our little bikes.
I think Frank was too. He rode right past our hotel and would have kept going up into the mountains if I hadn’t stopped him.