I cycle to the Vietnamese consulate, a brisk and energetic ride past the Laotian “Arc de Triomphe” and the busy morning market. I am the lone visitor to the sizable white edifice bounded by an electronic heavy gate. The officer explains I can have a visa in 10 minutes for $55 US dollars, one prepared the next day for $50 US dollars, or two day turn around service for $45. As I have exhausted my time here in Vientiane and am ready to fly, I seek same day service. Inquiring about the price in kip, the local currency, the fee is increased by another 5 dollars. So I find a bank to exchange kip for dollars, another comically fun experience where a man makes me fill out an exchange form twice (I suppose my penmanship wasn’t too swell) and then back to the consulate where I am handed back my passport in precisely 3 minutes. A simple sticker is affixed and I am ready to roll. Chào Vietnam, Hello!
I celebrate at a local outdoor food stand with a Vietnamese dish called “dry noodle salad,” the translation from Vietnamese to Lao to English seemingly losing some of its flavor because it well deserved a title with more excitement and glamour. A heap of thin white noodles were placed on a bed of curly lettuce greens, scallions, lemongrass, mint, and cilantro and then topped with tons of crushed peanuts. A side dressing of red chile vinaigrette was poured on top of the salad tableside and a bowl of sweet onion broth served to sip and balance the heat. Holy fresh yum.
I have continued male energy surrounding me and being of assistance, via visions and crossing my path. An old friend from Balthazar Restaurant present in my dreams the eve before counseled me on how to cure my body and also told me I have to start eating meat….I am not quite ready to accept the entire recommendation although I thank him sincerely. At a café another Israeli guy advises me on the Islands of South Thailand. He shares information about locations where the beer buckets and youthful backpackers are few and nature is pristine. (And naturally as I am staring at the sink brushing my teeth before bed in the communal bathroom at the guesthouse, we catch a glance of our familiar faces in the mirror and chuckle. He is staying in the room next door to mine.) Two swanky Asian dudes later feed me cookies. I am embracing it all with gratitude.
Strolling, biking, appreciating my last evening in Vientiane I conclude at an alfresco Indian café where I chat with the swarm of Indian men. I am simply seeking a cup of tea, I swear! Well, it is true that call girls sit enticingly on this riverside street, a few European males adoring their invitation for exploratory playtime. The ladies ride in pairs on their motorbikes, straddling the seats with quite short attire and outrageously high heals. Girlfriends, you are brave.
Asia certainly provides something for everyone.
Tomorrow I head four hours north to an Organic Mulberry Farm to volunteer. Perhaps my dreams tonight will be filled with water buffalo and cows.
“I see humanity now as one vast plant, needing for its highest fulfillments only love, the natural blessings of the great outdoors, and intelligent crossing and selection. In the span of my own lifetime I have observed such wondrous progress in plant evolution that I look forward optimistically to a healthy, happy world as soon as its children are taught the principles of simple and rational living. We must return to nature and nature’s God.” –Luther Burbank