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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

20 November 2018

Eating off the pavement

In the cloud on Phu Chi Fa

In the cloud on Phu Chi Fa

16 November 2018

Today began… inauspiciously. For a start, 4:30am is no sensible time to be getting up. But we had to leave our lodging by 5am to have time to drive and then trek up to Phu Chi Fa in time for dawn at just after 5:30. Except we trekked up through thick cloud, and sure enough the cloud never lifted. So we enjoyed the spectacle of about 100 mostly Asian tourists standing on top of a mountain in thick mist, taking photos of each other out of boredom while the awesome views into Laos failed to materialise.

It was made a little more surreal by the tiny local children dressed in authentic hill tribe costume who marched up carrying a karaoke speaker, and then proceded to blast the mountaintop watchers with crappy pop music while they danced and sang along poorly. Hoping for money, of course.

Tiny child ambush

Tiny child ambush

Then the sound of tinny pop music was drowned out by a high pitched screech. Amid much frenzied arm-waving and squealing it became apparent that a Chinese girl had a leech inside her ankle sock. Moments later 2 or 3 of her companions discovered similar blood-suckers on their own ankles. Cue our own departure from the mountaintop, still in mist. The steep muddy track down was treacherous underfoot, and now there were tiny local children dancing to crappy pop music in traditional costume literally every hundred yards to waylay us.

Surreal. And of course, bit disappointing. Luckily there was congee for breakfast back at our lodging.

I love me some congee. Rice porridge, or perhaps rice soup would be more accurate. It’s very soothing, usually with tiny scraps of chicken or pork in it, maybe some diced up spring onion and coriander. You can doctor it with chilli and/or soy sauce, but for breakfast I like it quite simple.

Pork noodle soup

Pork noodle soup

At the other end of our day’s drive, in Chiang Saen, we had further amazing Thai food experiences. When we set out to explore Chiang Saen’s ruined city walls we didn’t realise how hungry we were (no real lunch). Bit desperate, and in a residential area, we dived for the first place we saw that might be an eatery. The lady in charge knew zero English, but luckily Or (I’ve spelled it how he said it) the barber next door popped over and grappled manfully with his own half-baked English to help us get 2 bowls of really delicious pork noodle soup with a deep, dark and delicious stock.

Later we had a couple of skewers of sweet grilled liver, just because the smell of it as we passed the stall was impossible to resist. It tasted just as good.

Street food kitchen

Street food kitchen

And finally we had our second dinner. The night market in Chiang Saen is right on the promenade above the bank of the Mekong, and customers sit on cushions and rugs right on the pavement while the stallholders cook up amazing feasts from their tiny mobile kitchens. The food always comes out in about five minutes, and we were treated to a brilliantly grilled river fish in an insanely spicy curry gravy with oodles of Thai basil leaves for fragrance. Bliss.

Addendum: what we have since learned is that we had actually managed to randomly stumbled on two of the local specialities; the dark pork noodle soup and the river fish in hot basil curry. Very lucky!

Ready to eat off the pavement

Ready to eat off the pavement


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