Sunday 12th October
Unbelievably we are still with a broken down Landcruiser. The myriad of garages, cannot get to the bottom of it. Courtesy of another couple of garages, we have managed to fix a few things like the fridge and air conditioning but the gears are toast!
However, on Tuesday we are due to receive our Cambodian car papers, courtesy of the efforts of friends, Melody and Matthieu, better known as Les Cheris to Jim and I. So soon we will leave Vientiane and start limping off towards Cambodia. The palavar to get the car across the border is incredible. Les Cheris have now set up a Facebook site dedicated to spelling out the details. It involves having to abandon our cars at the border between Laos and Cambodia, taking transport to the Capital Phnom Phen (8 hours) and negotiating the release of documents from both the Ministry of Transport and separately customs. If there are Bank Holidays these processes which might take two or three days, can take more than a week. Then the whole journey has to be repeated in reverse before the car can be driven through. This potentially means having to get loads of extra visas to go back and forth.
Before we set off to tackle this headache, in Vientiane, we have virtually become resident and we are enjoying the company of our hotel owner and friend, who have good stories and are happy to visit bars and restaurants with us, sharing their own personal favourites.
We have had a pleasant respite today from the overpowering sticky heat as rainy weather threatens to drift across from Thailand which experienced flash floods yesterday.
Here we have cloudy skies and a light breeze and a low probability of rain. Our warm gear in the car is just taking up precious space and it is hard not to consider it ballast to be jetisonned.
In the small homely bargain basement hotel, in the best room, we have our own nice balcony with flowering creepers intertwined through the walls. Even though it is shady during part of the day, it is usually too hot to sit out!
Between the thick array of mind boggling electricity cables which drape the upper street levels throughout town, we can see the canopies of grand old trees opposite and hear nearby, the clunk click and occasional whoops of joy of Lao men, playing endless games of Pétanque in the dusty forecourt of the adjacent semi-derelict heritage building.
This morning, after a short spell doing chores on our laptops in a high speed wifi cafe, we went to lunch with I&B. This time they issued us with bicycles and off we set, out into the undisciplined traffic. Has anyone ever seen Jim on a bike?
Rest assured that I have never managed to get him in the saddle but Isobella is very pursuasive.
The destination was a hidden gem of a slightly grubby cafe - Kung’s, popular with ex-pats working in local NGO’s, secreted away down a tiny residential alleyway with traditional houses on each side.
We feel as though we have had our own personal guides in Vientiane and we would never have ventured to this place without them.
The eatery straddled the narrow alleyway and during lunch the odd motorbike drove between our tables under the shady awning stretched across the pathway, decorated with hanging gourds, and many other green plants.
The food was traditional Lao Thai style and Pad Lao noodles were topped off with iced banana and coffee drinks and mango pancake.
We are beginning to look forward to Christmas and Thailand and very much hope the car gets that far! Our close family are due to come out and it will be strange seeing them so far away from home. But there are many kilometres to drive with our dodgy gears and tricky borders to cross before we are safely at our festive destination.