Daddy Days In Luang Prabang

We were in Luang Prabang this time around for Lori’s work. So naturally, she had to spend some of our visit actually working. Her work team is conducting end of the year site visits to their partner Provincial Rehab Centers around Laos. HI is a key supporter of the work that these government-run facilities do, which is particularly important in the Laos context, which I’ll talk more about in a later post. Noe and I paid our own way to accompany mommy on these work trips, which generally fall between a travel day and weekend, so it’s worked out well for us so far.

Of course, that means that Noe is in my exclusive care for a couple of days — not that that’s unusual in itself, as that’s essentially been the case since we left the U.S. in mid-September. What makes these trips different is the fact that we’re living out of a guesthouse and I don’t have the full range of tools to address the Mister’s diva-like wants and whims. So, of course, we improvise, which works — until it doesn’t.

Traveling every couple of weeks means that Noe’s rapid development also keeps me on my toes. What may have worked for him a week ago may no longer work, or he might just be out of sorts because he’s a baby in a strange place — O.k., we are still talking about Noe. This kid knows four constants: mommy, daddy, his favorite toy elephant with the crooked nose, and change. He gets more out-of-sorts if he’s cooped up with the same old scenery for the day. So, yes, developmental changes. First morning in a new setting, Lori’s off at work, and I discover this:

Oh crap. Really, dude? You just now decided to start rolling over in your sleep? Today? This of course changes everything. For one, we’re going to have to start unswaddling his arms, which means there is going to be an adjustment period with him trying to figure out how to sleep with his arms free and flapping around. We generally have the A/C on, so that also means that during his day naps, his arms are going to get chilly unless I change him into a long-sleeve shirt. And I haven’t even mentioned the biggest challenge in all of this: Noe’s found something new and fun he can do to avoid sleeping! Which means more over-tiredness, more fussing, and so on and so forth.

Now, before I get a barrage of tips on how to address this new issue, I’ll say that it all seemed to work itself out in about a week and he’s more or less returned to his regular sleep “schedule” (I use the word schedule loosely — he pretty much tells us when he’s getting tired and we initiate napping protocol). One thing that did help in Noe’s case was unswaddling his arms at night, but swaddling him completely during the day while he napped by my side on the bed. After a week or two, he graduated to full arms-out position.

Alright, enough baby talk for one post. On to the bagels!

Yes, the sandwich that launched a thousand memories from our honeymoon — the JOMA Cafe Bagel Egger. There are a half dozen JOMA locations across Southeast Asia, and we’ve visited most of them. This location in Luang Prabang was our first.

Fortunately for Noe and me, the weather gods decided to smile upon Luang Prabang this morning…well, we’ll call it a faint smirk.

So what do you do with a 4.5 month old by yourself for eight hours in a UNESCO heritage town? You do a lot of walking — with 20 pounds of baby and gear.

More remnants of the recent flooding in September:

Surprise! Noe chillin’ at another coffee shop.

Actually, this is a really cool cafe/bar called Utopia that Lori and I hung out at in 2012.

Noe and I were on a walk and it started to rain, so we took cover at Utopia. Noe quietly played with his favorite elephant toy and ball while daddy had an iced coffee — a lot of great iced coffees in Luang Prabang, but this was not one of them. But it’s all about the ambience at Utopia — chilled out, lush and built right over the Khan River.

The rest of the afternoon was spent trudging through the rain back to the guesthouse and napping while the storm made its way through.

In another bout of good timing, the rains seemed to let up just as Lori was getting back from work. Me thinks a drink is in order. How about this place?

This is one of our new favorite places in Luang Prabang — Lao Lao. Earthy jungle vibe set into the side of a hill with an extensive food menu and good happy hour (2-for-1 local cocktails). We liked it so much, we visited twice in the same visit, which is rare for us.

We ordered some sort of coconutty deliciousness. True to the name of the place, servers also came around with shots of Lao Lao (Lao moonshine) and grenadine. Noe thought the liquid was particularly fascinating. He wrote the following in his journal that evening:

Never, ever, in all my weeks and months, have I laid eyes on such an embodiment of pure perfection that makes the heart sing and dance as if it were heaven itself come down in liquid form, deposited in a dainty little vessel such as this. Bravo, I say. Bravo!

Kids say the darnedest things…

Across the River Khan, Dyen Sabai looms brightly over the river. In the dry season, a bamboo bridge connects both banks of the river. This time of year, a free boat shuttles passengers back and forth.

Another fantastic Lao meal in Luang Prabang, thanks to Bamboo Tree restaurant. Here, you’ve got all the basics covered — Mekong sausage, fresh spring rolls and sticky rice.

The guesthouse we ended up in was actually pretty nice, and I would definitely recommend T.T. First Guesthouse so long as you can get an upstairs room with a balcony.

Note though that there are actually two T.T. Firsts, one closer to Chao Fa Ngum Road, and one closer to the Mekong. I believe that the first First is first and the second First is second, but anyways, you definitely want the T.T. First nearest the Mekong. A great deal for what you get.

The second morning with daddy was spent a lot like the first — full-bodied walking, without the coffee shop filler. I stopped in briefly to grab some breakfast, but Noe made it very clear very quickly that he wanted to be out and about.

Walking around the peninsula, more reminders of the floods. Suffice it to say, we did not linger.

More crazy walking, followed by even crazier napping. Just a crazy, crazy day. Crazy.

Lori was delayed a bit in getting back that evening due to a meeting that ran long. When she returned, it was after dark (it gets dark here between 5:30 and 6p these days), but things were just starting to ramp up in town.

After three stormy days, the weather seemed to have rounded a corner, and people were out in the streets as if they had just awakened from a long winter’s nap. A great evening to hit Luang Prabang’s famed walking street night market!

These little guys are Lori’s new favorite: Khao nom kok (Lao coconut cakes).

Khao nom kok in the making.

Lori wanted to visit Utopia as well, so we made a trip back there after dinner. The night scene is just a bit different.

Beautiful, dry night on the river. Relaxing vibe, minimal bugs, and Noe slept most of the time. Can’t ask for much more than that for a night out.

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