For a typical northern Lao town of its size, Pak Mong stays up pretty late. Large buses plying the marathon routes between Vientiane & Phongsaly/Udomxai/Sam Neua/Luang Namtha all stop by here in the evening, as well as huge trucks running between China & Vientiane.
The buses pulled up right in front of brightly-lit restaurants with TV sets tuned in to Thai channels showing the 37th King's Cup Thailand vs. Vietnam football match in Bangkok, which did a brisk business feeding the dazed passengers in search of a proper seat & sustenance that the buses disgorged. The match was at about half-time, which would make it close to 8:15PM. Kids in the family-run establishments were kept on their toes clearing tables, taking orders, picking up fallen chopsticks & serving steaming bowls of noodle soup. After a week in northern Laos, the cat had forgotten what it felt like to be in a place with more than 10 people that wasn't a market, bus station, songthaew, boat or bus.
Just-as-brightly-lit roadside stalls sold tangerines, khai phaen, bananas & the usual liquids - bottled water, sickly sweet orange juice, M-150, Pepsi, Fanta, Lactasoy, etc displayed on low wooden tables the height of kindergarten classroom desks:
khai (presumably from the Lao word for moss 'khai dton mai') phaen (maybe the Lao/Thai word แผ่น meaning 'sheet'?) is a type of moss plucked from the riverbed, dried & made into sheets & seasoned with stuff like garlic, sliced tomato & chilli, & sesame seeds:
Someone's photo & a Bangkok Post article on the production process. The cat was told that the best comes from the Nam Khan, which is why it is a Luang Prabang specialty.
After dinner, guesthouse owner & her daughter, Boten grandpa & the cat sat on tiny wooden stools at their stall in front of their guesthouse, watching buses, trucks & life go by:
The cat tested out its newly acquired ability to recognise the names of major northern Lao towns in Lao script on bus signs. Boten grandpa tested his Chinese vocabulary on the cat. He can speak Vietnamese & a smattering of Chinese, & was on his way to Vietnam to visit friends, waiting to hop on the Vientiane-Sam Neua bus when it passed through. Bored daughter of guesthouse owner doodled away in her exercise book, & Boten grandpa nagged at her for not spending the time, ink & paper on studying. A few doors away, PS pored through the language section of the cat's copy of the blue backpacker bible on 'overnight loan', copying out English words & phrases & the corresponding Lao script translations into his new notebook that had survived the Nam Ou soaking in a ziploc.
end of day 8 (241206):
noodle soup/pho/feu/khaaw soi eaten to date = 07 bowls