Another post by Mila as we continue to catch up. We’re on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand right now, but want to post more about Laos, first.

As Waco mentioned in an earlier post, end-to-end months of travel can take their toll and we all ended up with colds. We spent extra days exploring the city while regaining our health in Luang Prabang. Luckily for us, the city offers some creature comforts that helped us with our recovery. Exhibit I, JOMA Bakery Cafe. We are naturally inquisitive about local foods wherever we travel. We typically eat meals the way they are eaten by the people who live wherever we happen to be, but when you don’t feel well, exploring new foods is one of the last things you want to do. Enter JOMA, a cafe that offers items that we no longer take for granted: lattes, unsweetened brewed iced tea (VERY difficult to find), fresh vegetable sandwiches with REAL cheddar cheese on focaccia and moist banana bread. We felt better with every delicious bite.


Enjoying a Lao iced tea

JOMA makes great Lao/Thai style iced tea, too

guesthouse street

feeling better on a walk in Luang Prabang

Typical buildings along the main street of the old city

Typical buildings along the main street of the old city

Schoold kids

School kids

On the main street of the old city

On the main street of the old city


Picking up some fallen frangipani flowers…my new favorite!


cooling off at Big Tree cafe

Nice big tree

the “Big Tree”

Buildings facing the Mekong

Buildings facing the Mekong River

Life outdoors is everywhere. As we walked and peeked up side streets, we would glimpse bits of daily life. Here, a woman is getting a pedicure from another woman who travels around town with her pedicure station.

Alley pedicure

Time for a pedicure

Seed pods

these seed pods were gorgeous

Traditional meets modern

traditional teak architecture with a heavy dose of modern minimalism

We enjoyed a nearby restaurant called Cafe Toui, not only because the food was delicious, but because one of Jette’s favorite furry friends was always there, too. We named this sweet dog, Little Brownie.

Little Brownie waiting patiently for Jette

“Little Brownie” at one of our favorite restaurants, Cafe Toui

Jette and Little Brownie

Jette with “Little Brownie”

Colorful decorations

enjoying the colorful temple decorations

One of the nicest aspects of Luang Prabang is being able to dine along the Mekong. In addition to having relied on the “Mighty” Mekong agriculturally, for transportation and as a major trade route, the city understands that the river has a natural beauty and has developed it into an enjoyable amenity.

We had dinner at one of the nicer restaurants across from the river one night and each ordered a basket filled with traditional Lao foods. We all love sticky rice, which Laotians eaten with every meal, as an accompaniment to savory dishes. It’s also used as a base for many other dishes, including sweets. My favorite Lao savory snack is crispy river weed. The most familiar food that I can think of that even comes close is Japanese nori, but it’s still quite different. The process for making river weed can be seen here. On our heaping basket of food, the river weed is in the top left corner just behind a small bowl of dipping sauce; it’s sprinkled with sesame seeds. Both Waco and I enjoyed the Lao eggplant dip, too.


basket of Lao food

Dinner with a Mekong view

sunset on the Mekong

The main areas of the city can be easily accessed by a group of low-emission, electric tuk-tuks. Quite progressive!

Electric tuk tuk map

electric tuk-tuk map

This display was one we couldn’t bypass without documenting. These vessels are filled with reptile-infused alcohol, and the owner has posted some informational material to entice passers-by.

Snake infused alcohol


incentives for imbibing

Indulging in some comfort food and a few days of rest provided enough energy for the seven hour long bus ride to Vang Vieng, Laos. Both Jette and I get motion sick, so we stocked up at the neighborhood pharmacy with some preventative tools. We bought ginger lozenges, mint chewing gum, and a menthol inhaler. In Asia, many people carry menthol inhalers and use them to help alleviate motion sickness. On our first long bus ride, a very nice Thai woman had seen Jette suffering and offered us her inhaler. The inhalers are small tubes that are about the size of a chapstick that people open and insert into their nostrils. We respectfully declined, but decided we should carry our own and test its possible potential beneficial effects.

About to board

Bus station

Bus station

Laos bus

We’re ready for a loooooong bus ride

A lovely day for a ride

The scenery was absolutely stunning

We drove for several hours and finally made it halfway. The driver pulled into a Laotian style rest stop which looked like this:

Lunch stop

a rest stop halfway to Vang Vieng

Snack shop

At the rest stop, a steady stream of kids on bikes with colorful umbrellas (aka portable shade) rode past.

Kids coming home from school

Kids with colorful umbrellas coming home from school

Thankfully, the bus ride was fine and we arrived in Vang Vieng in good spirits. Our initial impression was that Vang Vieng was a small dusty town, especially in comparison to Luang Prabang, which had initially seemed smallish and charming, but now felt downright cosmopolitan in hindsight.

We had booked a guesthouse by email and hired a tuk-tuk for the short ride there. As we drove through town, it was hard to miss the natural beauty of the green mountains and lush tropical plants that played majestic background to all of the simplistic foreground.


Our guesthouse

Our guesthouse

This type of raised seating with flat cushions is common in Vang Vieng and we enjoyed it during breakfasts at our guesthouse. This was their covered patio lounge space with the prettiest view.

raised seating

raised seating



View from our guesthouse to a new road being built

After relaxing for a bit, we set out to explore. A simple sign spotted from the road into town had grabbed our attention and we decided to investigate a little place called Amigos.

Back for more Mexican food




by Jette

We’re ready for Mexican food

We ended up having dinner at Amigos three out of the four nights we were in Vang Vieng, at Jette’s request. We chatted with the lovely Australian owner and enjoyed her mom’s absolutely incredible chocolate rum balls. We felt welcomed, the ambiance was lovely and it was clear that a tremendous amount of effort was being made to create a beautiful environment and a successful business. Oh, and yes, the food was yummy, too! We would typically walk from our guesthouse to dinner and take in the local culture.

There were lots and lots of chickens roaming the streets of Vang Vieng, and other chickens in oversized, overturned handwoven baskets that were used as cages for the birds.

Street chicken

Street chicken

more street chickens

more street chickens

chicken hang-out

two cuties

two cuties

dogs love Jette

Much of life happens outside in most Asian cities, and that concept can be quite literal at times. We enjoyed watching a game of Sepak Takraw, above and had the chance to peek in on many other activities. Case in point, hair salons. This one was between Amigos and our guesthouse, so Jette decided to get her hair washed one night after dinner on our walk “home”. They did a nice job and it was a lot of fun.


hair salon

Jette was getting so into the concept of living outdoors that she decided it would be fun to lose her eleventh tooth while walking around one day!

I just lost a tooth!!!

Losing a tooth walking down the street

Can you eat ice cream with a missing tooth?

Some of the most extensive limestone caves in Asia are found in Laos. We were interested in a spelunking adventure, and selected Ban Pha Thou as the cave we wanted to explore. We hired a tuk-tuk driver for the day, stopped at a street vendor for one of the tastiest treats of our trip (slightly sweet sticky rice cooked in bamboo) and drove about eleven km north of town through vibrant green, natural beauty.

in our hired tuk-tuk

this lady makes the best sticky rice!

this lady makes the best sticky rice!

sticky rice in bamboo

so good

We travelled some very bumpy roads and the skinniest suspension bridge we’ve ever seen.

you can barely see the vehicle

He’s transporting mattresses

tiny suspended bridge to cave

tight squeeze across a suspended bridge

Our driver stopped near some water buffalo who were going about their day.


we made it

water buffalo family

water buffalo cooling off

There was one small bridge that we had to walk across. It was quite simply three hollow bamboo trunks tied together with bits of string and very few vertical supports. We pondered how wet we would be getting as we had very little confidence that the “bridge” could support our weight, but our concerns were unfounded…bamboo for the win!


my turn


it actually works!



almost at the cave

a bike that's been "parked" for a very long time

a bike that’s been “parked” for a very long time


View from the cave entrance

Walking to the cave (1)

A family inside this small hut rented us headlamps

hello down there!

pretty walkway to cave entrance





climbing to cave entrance

climbing to cave entrance

up up up

headlamp works


we're ready

cave entry

cave entry (1)

it's dark in here

it’s dark in here

I love caves

about to go in


We explored the dark cave by ourselves for some time. We exited hot, dirty, tired and in need of a snack. We found our driver and requested a stop at Organic Mulberry Farm on our way back to town and we’re so glad we did. We tried a mulberry shake which was surprisingly pungent and strongly flavored. I bought a small wedge of their house-made goat cheese. Cheese is not an ingredient of Asian food, so to find a specialty goat cheese in such a rural spot was quite exciting. Waco ordered Thod Khao, fried sticky rice with egg, which turned out to be a much more delicious dish than it sounds. We were very happy campers and Jette and I will be making some as soon as possible with minced vegetables like the ones from Organic Mulberry Farm.


Organic Mulberry Farm goat cheese

IMAG4976 (1)

Sampling a mulberry shake

We spent our final days in Vang Vieng enjoying the views of the Nam Song river, Laotian food and shady sidewalk cafes.

Canoeing the Mekong



We were more than a little excited to discover a family who sold ice by the bag full

Vang Vieng cafe

It was time to renew our Thai visas, and we needed to get to Vientiane. A four hour bus ride later, we were there.