Posted by: Richard | November 13, 2009

Buffalo skin isn’t meat….

Well, to begin with, I cannot stress how great    netbook is.  This little beauty (Lynn calls him Harold, I’m still on the fence) is fantastic.  We can skype, we can email, we can get to a town, get a coffee and logon to free wifi and check out the guesthouses (specifically – which ones don’t have fleas….).

Today has been another great day in Laos. I love the speed of this place and I really like the national psyche (or at least as much as is evidenced through restaurant staff).  Everybody is very friendly, but a bit bashful/unsure of etiquette.  It makes the country very pleasing, as not only are the locals a bit unsure if what to do, we’re also unsure.  When do we bow our heads, when do we take off our shoes, can I walk around in bicycle shorts?  The answer, after 48 hours is: all the time, everywhere and for sure.

We went to a lovely set of waterfalls about an hour from the city today.   There were a lot of people (falls were very nice).  In one deep area, people could jump off a fall (about 10′ drop) or take a swing. If there were tables, I would have sat there all day.  Watching exuberant youth trying to impress each other through a series of painful looking leaps from trees and falls was fascinating and very satisfying.  Lynn kept on urging me to jump off the falls (I think she wanted me to show these little young fellas how it is done).  Alas, the only thing the scared me more than jumping from the falls was climbing the slippery tree to get on the rope swing.  There was one local guy who was a master at both, and managed a swing with a double summersault into the water.  Obviously, the exact move I was planning on doing…..

Now, onto a funny part of asia.  What is vegetarian.  Starting in Frankfurt, vegetarian on our flight included chicken.  Strange.  In Hong Kong, our dim sum provider (also known as Lau Kee Restaurant) was astonished that our vegetarianism included pork “ok, no meat, but you eat pork yes?”.  Thankfully, he understood true vegetarianism (obviously we didn’t eat any meat, but we had to eat prawns) and brought us an assortment of boiled and steamed prawn dishes.  In Bangkok, we were in Nirvana, eating heavenly veggie food (if I could combine the Mussalman curry from Ranee’s and Tom Yum from Mai Kaydee’s it might be my best meal ever).  Now, in Laos, we have been served meat twice.  Both time buffalo skin.  The first time, obviously I didn’t specifically ask “does this have buffalo skin”.  I assumed that the “no meat, no chicken, no pork, no beef” would be clear enough.  Especially when ordering rice with chili sauce (every other dish listed the meat).  Well, I was wrong, as buffalo skin was the key component of the chili sauce.  bugger.  Then tonight I got had again.  This time, I specifically said “No Meat, we are vegetarians” while ordering off of the ‘vegetarian’ menu.  Of course the reply was “no, no meat” (Note to self, in retrospect, maybe he was purposely giving me a double negative, tricky bugger).  I then replied “no buffalo?”  He replied “no meat, no buffalo”.  “Good” I thought as I popped my 66oml BeerLao.

Fifteen minutes later, what should arrive but delicious fried Mekong river weed (I’m serious, this is what I ordered (against Lynn’s obviously intelligent request to order a spring roll).  what should be in the middle of the fried weed assortment…..Buffalo Skin!  I hailed our friendly/shy waiter who was wholly unprepared for what I was about to say.  “we don’t eat meat.  we are vegetarians.  Is this buffalo?”  A look of uncertainty crossed his face, while he stammered out “not meat, skin…buffalo skin…not meat”.

Oh, I wanted to add this.  We had the most dodgy meter on our airport ride to Bangkok.  The airport is 25 km from our hotel, however the meter showed we travelled 74 km in the 25 minute journey (an incredible feat for a 15 year old toyota camry with no discernable signs of maintenance).  Yes, this would mean we travelled at approximately 165km/hour in busy bangkok traffic.  I had watched this happen the entire ride out (hey, I didn’t want to point this out in the middle of nowhere and have to find another taxi).  The meter would tick over 100m every 10 seconds or so on the freeway, and then tick over 100m every second or so for about 20 or 30 seconds.  The ratio of legit ticks to unlegit (or too legit to quit?) was about 5:30.  Getting to the airport, our $15 cab ride was $50.  I pulled a Wendy Campbell and threatened to report him to the authorities.  I also started to write down his taxi licence with a dry pen.  He quickly entered negotiations which resulted in a $16 taxi ride.

Tomorrow, we head out on the Mekong for the day and see some caves.  We will again be awaken at 4am by the monks banging the drums (it’s like a bango drum rave outside our guest house in front of the main wat).  At 6am, we will finally wake up, and take several hundred photos of the monks accepting alms from the local population.

Lynn says hi, you should see her hair.  full of body and very shiny.  It looks fabulous.  If anybody has skype,  please skype us, if for no other reason than to see Lynn’s hair….

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