Not the banana pancakes you're thinking of from Saturday morning breakfast. I'm talking about a roti; A cross between a tortilla and a pita, fried in a frightening load of butter and oil, topped with anything from hairy pork to chocolate to, you guessed it: banana.
I don't actually like this Jack Johnson song much but its name matches the phase of traveling Lisa and I have entered: the SE Asian Backpacker scene. Rotis pop up all over the region as a safe to eat (germ-wise, not calorite-wise) street food. The banana pancake trail marks all of the must-see spots in the region by those intent to live it up. Up to now, we have pretty successfully stayed out of the drunken hippie wearing traditional clothing and Chacos world.
We took the overnight train up through the Isan and crossed the border into Laos. We met a New Yorker with a money exchange problem, which I was able to help him with (me and my hard core thai skills at least). Problem solved, we got to talking- he came with a New Yorker girl burnt out on the city and an Australian history teacher. Before we knew it 2 became 5 because 7 became 10 became 12 or more. Border transport turned into drinks turned into to dinner turned into a night at the bar (where we opted to come home and read scriptures before bed instead) turned into a city wide bike ride wtih the half left over the next day.
Yes that is a Hello Kitty bikeFacebooks and emails were exchanged. BFFs for life, guaranteed. This is a normal day in the life of a backpacker, I'm sure, but it's a brand new world for Lisa and I. Very different, but very fun.
This bicycle breakdown brought 4 Lao helpers and no actual successThe bike ride around the city gave a little personality to an otherwise somewhat lifeless city. Vientienne is a small country capital with few sites outside a handful of charming french-colonial pockets. It is a communist country with long ties to Russia and the architecture shouts it even through the odd smattering of French cafes and sweet shops.
Sweet old car by a traditional stupa and the US embassyWe had lunch with a sweet expat family and dinner with the senior couples (Love them!) grilling them about life in Lao and not too sadly moved on to Luang Prabang (after raiding the seniors' bookshelf of course. I love bookshelves!)