Thursday, June 02, 2011

Coffee Lao

For the foreigner who finds himself in Vientiane Laos there are a couple of things that are very special.  One of them is Coffee Lao.  It’s thick, it’s strong, it’s sweet and it’s delicious! The original stuff is made using a bag to which the coffee is added.  Going to Vientiane?  Going to be near the central bus station (it’s the once where you would catch the bus to Thailand or points South).   Well across the street is the back side of a mall, loading docks are what you see.  Nestled up against the loading dock is a little coffee stand.  They even have a table or two on the loading dock.

Taken from the Bus Station, find this and you are on your way to a delicious coffee!

The people are really very lovely. It seems the wife does most of the work, the husband is there to offer advice and, if necessary, collect the money.  The oldest daughter was also working.  She makes coffee and delivers it to nearby locations. 
She is making a coffee for me! 
This coffee is served in a glass and with it is served a glass of green tea.  Green tea is great for cleaning the palet.  Coffee then green tea, and each sip of coffee tastes like the first.  
My new favorite coffee!
Gentle reader I would not have found this to share it with you had it not been for my new friend Michael who I met on the van trip.  Michael I thank you!  
What it lacks in ambiance it more than makes up for in atmosphere and flavor! 
Not many, but the photo's from this last trip are on Photo Bucket. 

Abundant Blessings,

The Oscar Factor

Gentle Reader,

The name Oscar conjures up various memories for various folks.  For me it used to be the great author Oscar Wilde, that prize given by the American Movie industry and of course Oscar the Grouch from the Muppets.  Now the name means something totally different.  Have you ever been stuck on a van with several people; one or more of them totally obnoxious and likely intoxicated?  Does this obnoxious person show up at business and social occasions?  Would you rather he not be there?  Does that person seem to make the trip much longer than it would have been had she had the grace to miss the whole thing?   Gentle reader, we’ll call him or her Oscar.  Allow me to describe my most recent set of Oscars and maybe you will be able to write me with your own stories; if you do I’ll keep this segment going with your input.  Fair enough?

Sunday evening I took a van from Chiang Mai to Vientiane; this is pretty common as it represents the first half of an obligatory visa run for many people.  The driver tooled around the city picking up various passengers.  The last stop was at a hotel that had lost it’s power.  The driver called the passenger several times.  Finally this guy shows up and loudly declares “I AM OSCAR”!  He can’t get in the van because the bank had ripped him off and his bag was still upstairs.  The Thai are such patient people.  The passengers, including myself, all wanted to drive off and leave Oscar to sort it out for him self.  The driver would wait.  Oscar tells the bank story again and finally stumbles to get his bag.  He’s complaining that it’s on the sixth floor where he left it.  No electricity, no elevator.  He loudly announces he’s talking to the tourist police and now will go get the bag and be back in 5 minutes.  20 minutes later Oscar re-appears apparently a bit more inebriated than he was when he left.  He’s carrying a tiny bag and a beer can.  On the van he goes.  Now, he’s telephoning people and telling them about the bank who ripped him off, and also the story about his being beaten the day before.  Frankly, Oscar could have used a shower before he joined the group and he certainly could have used some instructions in social graces.  After he hung up with the 3rd or 4th person, or maybe the same person 3 or 4 times, I really don’t know, he started explaining to the now trapped audience in the van all about the evil bank and the people who beat him up.  Finally, finally the guy sitting behind him offered him a swig out of his rum bottle.  A few minutes later Oscar declared he would return to Chiang Mai on Tuesday evening.  I grimaced and I wasn’t the only one.  He passed out and we all were granted some peace and quiet about 3 hours into the trip.  Tuesday evening I showed up at the Vientiane office ready for my return to Chiang Mai.  People were still talking about Oscar.  He didn’t show up and we won’t miss him.  If you see him thank him for this inspiration, would you?

The trip back had a slightly different very silly Oscar in the persons of two young fellows from France who claim to live in Chiang Mai, where Thai currency is the order of the day.  One is all decked out in a bright pink skin tight t-shirt and his friend looks just a bit more reasonable, but not much.  You need 40 Thai Baht to process your entrance into Thailand.  These two have no baht at all.  Their fellow passengers, other tourists and of course, the Lao police now have the privilege of watching them run around the immigration area like a pair of chickens with their heads lopped off trying to find an ATM machine that dispensed Thai Baht.  These Oscar were only mildly irritating, especially after the first one.  

Oh yes, I forgot to mention the emaciated Thai woman who, fortunately, only took the van as far as Nong Kai. We’ll call her Oscar. She quietly shared with me that she was going to Bangkok on the bus which was leaving the train station.  She preferred the bus to the train because she needed to go to Mo Chit.  My Thai isn’t great so I asked her to repeat what she said (I love practicing speaking and listening Thai).  Unfortunately she seemed a bit stoned and declared that she could not talk to the police about her bag.  I was really glad the drug enforcement folks didn’t decide to search her and all the people and bags on that van.  This Oscar could have been a real problem!    

When you go traveling look for Oscar and if you can let me know what he’s up to.  She might be a she when you see her or he might be a he.  No problem, you will recognize Oscar as the one who has the mission of making your trip a bit longer and a bit less comfortable.  There have been several instances of Oscar who smoke right in the door of the van, usually filling the thing with nasty smoke.  This Oscar has been threatened by both drivers and passengers, but seems to have a birth right to smoke anywhere he pleases, especially if she’s drunk at the moment.  There are several acceptable solutions for Oscar including rehab centers, 12th step programs and if he’s not careful incarnation.  Having said that try to avoid being the one that give him the beat down.  You could end up in the clink being an Oscar complaining about Oscar.

Happy travels!