Tag Archives: savannakhet

Lao Saunas

21 Mar

Z showing off his blue toenails

Metrosexual Toes, Hue, Vietnam

Laos wouldn’t seem the most obvious place for a sauna, particularly not in the lowlands, during dry season, but after a pedicure from doctor fish in Cambodia, and a dose of Vietnamese nail art in Hue, a traditional Lao herbal sauna seemed like a great thing to do on a quiet afternoon in peaceful Savannakhet.

Z loves Finnish saunas, scampering from the dry, pine-scented heat into the snow, making angels in the snow with his arms and legs, then rushing back into the heat. So he was keen to experience the Lao version. Continue reading

X Marks the Spot

11 Mar

When staying in a guesthouse whose name is variously transliterated Xayamounghkhoun, Sayamungkun, Xayamunghkhung, etc., in a town where almost no one speaks English, and you do not speak the language, it is wise to make a note not only of the name, and, for that matter, the address, but also of the pronunciation.

Particularly since Lao contains no fewer than six tones, none of them easy for the Anglophone, and each capable of completely changing the meaning of a word. Continue reading

Dinosaur Bones

10 Mar

So today we got to hold real dinosaur bones! And get a sneak preview of some very large, very impressive, and as yet unidentified skeletal pieces from a dig a few miles away last month, still in the red rock that holds them. (No photos, sadly, for reasons of academic privacy.)

It’s a rather eerie feeling, encountering something so old, so close. A surprisingly delicate chunk of the hipbone of an as yet unidentified carnivore, it looked as though the creature could have been alive within my lifetime, yet weighed cold, dead and heavy in my hands. Continue reading

In Praise of Crap Towns

9 Mar

Here we are, in Savannakhet, Laos, the third-largest city in the People’s Republic, as all 120,000 inhabitants would, I’m sure, be pleased to tell you, if they gave a shit, and loving every minute of it (although I am slightly mystified by my son’s ineffable instinct to seek out the single most expensive restaurant in any one-horse dorp he hits).

The bus was a bit crap, as buses should be, and late, c’est-la-vie, but full of local people, also present and correct. When we got off, there was ONE (count him!) tuk-tuk driver.

“You want tuk-tuk?” he says, after a decent pause. Continue reading

As Conservationists Quietly Weep…

9 Mar

Jar of rice whisky with bear paws, service station, Laos

Will You Be Wanting Fries with That?

Some way into Laos, fresh out of Lao Bao, Vietnam, and heading for Savannakhet, our bus stops at what I guess is best compared to a service station/gas station/Little Chef.

You know. You have a pee. Eat and drink a little. Do a bit of shopping. Stretch your legs. Standard roadside stuff.

Now, rice whisky with snakes and scorpions in is pretty standard tourist stuff. It’s got similar “traveller chops” status in Vietnam to the Mezcal with the worm in it in Mexico, or those crab-infused cachacas they have in Brazil.

Bear paw whisky, on the other hand, is something else altogether. Continue reading