Laos Eatery

Market breakfast eatery at Pakse Laos

It was already afternoon when I arrived in Pakse. I changed some of my dollars to Kip then had dinner nearby. A few years ago, dollars were accepted in Laos but now the government urges tourist to use their local currency instead. At dinner, I was plotting where I would go the next day. Pakse is a fairly small town and most of the sites in Champasak are at least an hour away. The only way to go around was by motorbike. There are motorbikes for hire around Pakse but I don’t drive bikes so I decided I should find a driver/guide with me so it’ll be easy to find the places.

Laos Tree at University Grounds

A leafless tree at Pakse University grounds in the morning

After dinner, I passed by Lao Chaleun Hotel, one of the popular hotels renting out bikes. I went to their reception desk and met a couple of Lao guys somewhere in their early twenties talking to a middle aged guy. They seemed to be sharing stories when I excused myself to ask about hiring bikes. It’s quite an effort at first since I have to gauge how much English they could understand. But each time we had a short conversation, they would converse by themselves in Lao first and then talk to me. The youngest of them Lomee, was the one who can converse in acceptable English. What’s good about Lao People is that they seem to have the same phonetics as Filipinos when it comes to reading and pronunciation of words and alphabets unlike say Vietnamese, so it’s easier to understand.

Laos Pakse University Grounds

Pakse University barracks

With more than half an hour of conversation we finally plotted where we’ll be going in Bolaven Plateau and agreed on how much. Since I don’t know much about the area we’re going and the travel time from each spots I had to rely on Lomee, who agreed to be my guide. There’s a limit on how much we understand each other with our language barrier so I’ll just have to wing it when we’re there.

Lomee came in a little past 6am in the morning. In Laos it’s still a bit dark at that time and would around 5am in the Philippines. We filled in a liter of gas for 10,000 kip then we headed first to Lomee’s university. I thought at first he was just showing me his school where he was on his final year of his studies but he went there to get another helmet for me. I told him we should try to find a place to eat breakfast before we headed off to Paksong, the Capital of Bolaven Plateau.

Laos Beef Foe Breakfast

Laos Beef Foe (Rice Noodle Soup) Breakfast

We went to the a market near the bus and sawngthaew terminal. I told him I’ll order what he’ll order. I wanted to eat what Lao people would eat for breakfast. While waiting he opened up regarding the payment. He said that I should pay now before we go. It seems he’s been trying to tell me that earlier while still at the university but only understood now. Usually I would pay after the service is done I told him but he said it’s not okay. I took the 200,000 kip we agreed upon and showed him that I’ll give the first half of the payment now and the second half later. I saw the look on his tense face as he told me it’s not okay. It seems we have a little trust issue here.

Laos Condiments

Chili and sugar condiments

To settle everything, I decided to pay give him the full amount. I really have no choice here, if that’s the only way to get his trust then so be it. There were several scenarios running in my head at that time that he might ran off while I was away taking pictures. That I may find myself hiking along the road to head back to the city. It’s officially my first exploration in Laos so I already braced myself on whatever would happen. After giving him his money, he seemed to loosen up and we went on with conversation about his bike, how he learned his english by himself, his studies and about Lao people.

Laos Paki (shrimp paste) and Chili Pepper

Paki (shrimp paste) and Chili Pepper

Breakfast was served. We had a Foe (rice noodles soup) which he pronounced as “fur”. He put in a bit of all the condiments from the chili, sugar, pepper and soy sauce. Topped in the vegetables over the soup. It was really delicious with a kick of spice which is sure to wake you up for the morning. The beef on the noodles were real tender. I actually liked it. Along with the meal is a small plate of long chili pepper. Lomee told me to dip it on a paste sauce which he calls Paki and eat it. I tried it out and the Paki taste like a concentrated bagoong (local shrimp paste) that goes well with the spice of the chili. While its good, I only could eat a couple of those.

Laos Pakse MArket Goods

A few goods sold at Pakse Market

I really enjoyed that breakfast, perfect for that cool morning weather and break up a little sweat while eating. I asked him how do I say “thank you” in Lao. It was “Khawp Jai” (khob chai). I paid only 12000 kip for each Foe meal which I thought was really cheap and said Khawp Jai Lai Lai (khob chai la lai) which means Thank You Very Much to the canteen owner and we finally set off to Bolaven Plateau.

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Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.

15 Responses to “Laos: Learning the ropes in Pakse”

  1. Photo Cache

    My husband’s officemate and good friend is a Laotian and I can tell you they have very good home cooked noodle soup akin to pho but more spicy I thought. It’s fun going over to their house and sample their cuisine.

    BTW, what a brave soul you are my cyberfriend. Can’t wait how this adventure progresses.

  2. lagalog

    the foe looks definitely interesting. it’s always fascinating to sample what the locals would have in the course of their day. swell that something good came out of your dealing with lomee, strange as it may sound that you have to pay before the service is actually rendered (it’s not as if you can run away that easily from him). i definitely am looking forward to more of your laos post amigo 😀

  3. “acceptable English”… hmmm! that’s a nice way of putting it after my 10-minute call to levady accommodation. SIGH… hehehe! good luck to us when we’re in laos na. dala kami nang maraming pasencia biscuits! 😛

  4. I really like the taste of their Foe Rice Noodles Photo Cache! It’s like Vietnamese Pho but with the Thai spice. On about being brave, I guess on some things, you just have to wing it.

    Things went interestingly well with Lomee Og as you’ll see on the next few post on Laos.

    Hahaha! Barok, samahan mo na ring ng creative sign language to communicate.

    Laos is still developing Kyels, most of the structures here rise up only up to 5 to 6 stories except for some high end hotels, But it’s a really nice laid back place.

    It also taste great Dom!

  5. paul asthor

    Sabaidee Baw, yeah laos is a nice place, had work there for a year, in central laos… sana you can visit also the northern part and see the secret airport there used by the cia during the vietnam war.. hehehehe..

    kop jai der. and sok dee to your adventures

  6. ahhh, so “Foe” pala tawag nila sa rice noodles. all along akala ko “Pho” ang tawag sa lahat ng rice noodles, hehe. bano ko talaga. grabe ‘tong adventure mo Ferdz, umpisa pala nakaka-excite na tapos mag-isa ka lang! grabe, idol na talaga kita. parang kung ako matatakot din akong magbayad agad. kahit naman sa Cambodia/Thailand/Vietnam they usually get the payment after the service has been rendered. i mean, ano ba naman ang tsansa na di magbabayad ang customer e sila ang foreigner sa lugar di ba? i’ve learned to like and crave for spicy foods, iba yung appeal nya. o baka dahil tag-Bicol din ako. so malamig pala nung nagpunta ka sa Laos. looking forward to the coming series. ;-D

  7. I am glad i subscribed to your feeds, i keep updated with your travel progress. It is really entertaining and educational reading this blog. Imagine the descriptions are complete and the photos are really amazingly wonderful. Hanga ako sa tapang mo mag travel mag-isa. I would love to do it also but i am not good in directions, so needs someone if possible. I love the way you share all these things with us.

    I don’t know how far Pakse is from Vientienne, but in case you will be there you can visit AVRDC and my Pinoy friend can accomodate you in his guestroom (i will give you his name if needed). Just tell him you are my friend in QC and in blog and flickr, hehe. He can also tell you some nice places, he is already there for >2yrs, commute from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia. We will visit Batanes in April and i will be using your Batanes guides. Thank you.

  8. Sabaidee Paul Asthor! Wow, I think it would be real interesting to work there for a time. I only got to visit up to Luang Prabang up north. Maybe next, given more time I could visit other places as well. Kop Jai La Lai for visiting.

    Haha! Bicolano ka rin pala Rayts 😛 I love the spice in Lao food more than the Thai spice. I just have to earn his trust at that time. But fortunately it turned out okay as you’ll see.

    Hi Nindy! I’m glad to hear you find this blog entertaining and educational, that really made my day. Sometimes it takes guts to go out there, but I’ve seen a lot of people do it, especially foreigners so I thought I could do it too.

    Pakse is around 10-12 hours land trip to Vientiane. Too bad I’m already here in the Philippines. Maybe next time I have a trip I’ll post my plans here for people who can host me.

    Hi Shoshana! I travel when I can. 😀 Medyo di ko pa na complete ang Asia. I did experience food poisoning in Cambodia that I almost admitted myself at the hospital there but fortunately, medication was able to remedy it, but it was a hassle.

  9. do you think it’s safe enough for women to travel solo in laos? i’m planning to go solo to vietnam and then pp in cambodia and some parts of laos (mid july). i’ve done siem reap overland via bangkok some few years back.

  10. I’m thankful I opened En Route! I will be leaving for Pakse in a month or so. Your travel journal gave me helpful info about the place, much on their culture. Aside from the ‘money value’, I think your driver tested your trust when he asked you to give him your full pay ( as what I read from an article). Then, you had your friendly conversation huh. . . Culture.
    I enjoyed reading your travelogue. Thanks a lot!

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