Monday, March 24, 2008

Laos is for Losers (who forget to wear sunscreen)

Who: VN Managing Editor Aurelia d’Andrea
What: Phase Two of a SE Asian holiday
Where: Vientiane, Laos, & Bangkok, Thailand
When: Early March
Why: Because I forgot to wear sunscreen

The Scoop: In issue #50, I penned a VegVacations piece on Cambodia wherein I cautioned VN readers to slather on the sunscreen should they visit this part of the world, since the equator is practically right there and the sun’s intensity matches its proximity. Well, I neglected my own advice on my most recent vacay with painful, potentially skin-cancer-causing results. Leaving Koh Chang earlier than anticipated meant I didn’t get to volunteer at the local animal shelter as hoped, but I did manage to squeeze in one day of awesome snorkeling before redirecting my focus northward.

VN columnist Caitlin Sandberg recently returned from Laos (look for her travel story in the May+June 2008 issue) and it sounded intriguing in a non-beachy sort of way. So, off I went by overnight train, from Bangkok to the Laos border and, ultimately, the capitol of Laos, Vientiane. Days were spent temple hopping on my single-speed bicycle, cruising the Laos countryside on the back of a motorbike, and discovering new and exciting food. My favorite restaurant was simply called “Vegetarian Food” and offered a killer all-you-can-eat lunch buffet (see plate #1 of 4 above). I’ve got loads of food recommendations for anyone traveling to Vientiane—email me if you want leads!

Back in Bangkok at an early hour, I sniffed out a street stall on a quiet alleyway for a yummy breakfast of unrecognizable grains and beans topped with hot soymilk and a side of Chinese donuts for dunking (see below). My final night in SE Asia was spent eating dinner not just once, but twice, since two new vegan restaurants have opened up in the Khao San Road area since my last visit. The newest is Ethos, and the Tom Ka—loaded with fresh vegetables and tofu in a spicy broth—comes highly recommended. The English guy who helps run the place is pretty nice, too.

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