The morning market is located behind the Talat So shopping mall, a short bike ride away from my hostel where I purchase some boring bread. I was overconfident in my consumptions the evening before, adding plain vegetables to my baguette and sticky rice diet and consequently getting a bit sick in the middle of the night. I feel energetically stronger yet my bowels are still unwell. Ugg. I am frustrated most by this circumstance, a situation that makes me feel like a bird with clipped wings, a caged animal unable to enjoy the pleasures of travel, the unique delights offered by the native culture. So much wisdom is gained through eating with local people in the markets and street carts. White bread carries no knowledge and no nutritional value. I mix in oral rehydration salts into my water bottle, a gift from my friend with dengue fever that tastes like Jersey Shore mixed with Kool-Aid, imagining the orange beverage to be one of the sweet colorful drinks offered on the street corners.
Not so yummy:
Well, at least I am eating my sticky rice like a true Lao…with my hands. Grabbing a chunk out of the bamboo container I squish the rice together and roll a ball using the tips of my fingers. And in honor to the nation of India I am only using my right hand.
I visit Pha That Luang, the Great Sacred Stupa of Laos, perhaps the most important national cultural monument symbolizing the coming together of all Lao people. The stupa is 45 meters tall and is believed to contain a relic of Buddha; the gold spire imitates the curve of an elongated lotus bud.
In countries where temples and stupas are on every corner like pretzel carts, it is easy to become disillusioned by each of their magnificence and beauty. I am fortunately not feeling any less in awe, moved deeply by grandeur of Pha That Luang and the surrounding structures on the property. The ceiling in the temple is particularly striking and I sit for a midday meditation under its intricate detail of art. My meditation is concluded by the sound of a gong bell, one summoning the monks for lunch. The food is placed in front of the altar first for blessing before the sacred men enjoy their final meal of the day. I switch meditation locations, lying under a tree and appreciating yet another magical view.
Bike, explore, shower and head to a different Vientiane night market (this one closer to the river.) This market is more youth oriented with trendy hipster clothing that only a cute Asian could wear without mockery, kids painting ceramics (which makes me reminisce greatly about the countless similar birthday parties I experienced as a child doing the same activity), fashionable silver jewelry, ice cream sundaes, shakes, Lao Lao beer. I hang out at a sushi/cupcake stand with girls who request I sit with them for a bit. We chat about cake decorating and such and I share some pictures with them (and interestingly they share that the cupcakes they are vending are from Thailand…which makes me naturally question the freshness of it all). It is all perfect.
I later spend some time chatting about travel with an old man from France after assisting him in purchasing some shampoo. He is as nutty as I.
I pray tomorrow be an easier day for my gut. Love to all.