A Sticky (Rice) Situation
Tay Xang Travel Blog› entry 72 of 115 › view all entries
The 9 strong backpacker rabble (apart from a 20 year old Russian guy Demi who chose, that's right chose, to walk the 37km distance) stuck at the border post settled down to wait, and wait, and waaaaaait... until a white mini bus suddenly appeared out of the drizzly gloom like a valiant knight on a (slightly rusty) charger. Following negotiations with a Thai girl in our party named Nok (the Laos and Thai languages are remarkably similar) they agreed to take us to Muang Mai. But only after completing a brief return trip across the Vietnam border. Our Nok cleverly hedged her bets thinking that at least one of the vehicles would be coming back - fat boy 4x4 or white minibus man - didn't matter which one, so long as we escaped at some point in the day.
The mini bus then trundled off, only to return 40 minutes later. Unfortunately this was not to collect us but instead to correct an immigration paperwork error on the part of the Laos guards that has been spotted by their hawk-like Vietnamese counterparts Laurel and Hardy. Minor admin cock up corrected, the bus trundled off into the gloom for a second time. Meanwhile, without bothering to let us know, a border guard who was mates with our 4x4 mercenary belled his big-boned chum and told him not to bother collecting us as we had now secured a lift with the mini-bus knights.
The upshot of this was that we waited and waited. Then waited just a little bit more - just for the hell of it. Ho hum - I ate a packet of shrimpy crisps to stave off the boredom - Mmmmmm - they were about as tasty as potato-based crustacean snacks get. Eventually it got dark, increasingly windy and downright cold. Some of the 'packers began walking laps of the white and pink building to keep warm.
Eventually, Javi, the male half of a Spanish couple, and I decided to go and ask if there was anywhere that we could step inside and not freeze our proverbials off. The English-speaking guards were at first reluctant but, after further polite Spanish/British diplomacy and more effective Thai convincing (not what you're thinking!), we got an empty room next to the staff quarters to wait in or, if necessary, sleep in.
It was pretty clear by this point that Mr Mini Bus was not rushing back to shift us anywhere tonight; so we prepared to spend the night in our new home. The guards took pity on us and gave us a big wicker container of sticky rice and sold us some dried buffalo strips. It filled us up whilst we chatted away in candle light before settling down to a night on the cold, hard cement floor. "Look on the bright side," I said before the candle was extinguished, "at least you don't have to pay for a night's accommodation!"
Salad's Sweet and Sour
Another segment in a somewhat infrequent cuisine series in which I taste what's known in my cosmopolitan home town as: "weird foreign muck"
No.2 Dried Buffalo Strips
I wouldn't serve up dried buffalo strips as a starter in my forthcoming trendy London eatery Salad Days*. But don't get me wrong; they are an interesting and exotic taste of Asia. Exotic that is if you like your Asian delicacies to taste rather like smoked cow hide crackling: dry, powdery, vaguely beefy and liable to break a molar during mastication if you aren't careful. They are however the perfect accompaniment to the chewy starch overload of a mouthful of sticky rice. So there.
*This is a lie - I would serve them if only to see Southern food snobs gnawing and grimacing like bone-chewing mastiffs. I just don't have a forthcoming trendy London eatery. Yet.