In Lao we were introduced to a new concept of salad named Larp (also known as laap or larb). Larp is a wonderful meat salad, a classic within Laotian cuisine, consistent and delicate at the same time, easy to make but complex in textures, definitely not just a simple greens salad. Being the salad lover that I am, you can imagine how happy I was when we found out that a salad was one of the most traditional Lao dishes.
Larp salad - We cooked it at the cooking course in Luang Prabang
Larp can be made of chicken, fish, beef, tofu or pork. The minced meat is cooked in a wok with just a little bit of water. Once cooked, it’s set aside and mixed with finely sliced banana flower, kaffir lime leaves, spring onions, shallots, garlic, coriander, lemon grass and rocket leaves. One of the key ingredients is the rice powder, which gives the salad a very interesting and different texture. Rice powder is just roughly ground toasted rice that is used together with fish sauce and lime juice to make the dressing for the salad. If you are looking for a new type of salad I would recommend you give this one a go, so simple to make and so tasty that you won’t be disappointed!
We had planned a second stop in Luang Prabang after our trek, mainly to break in two the long distance between Luang Namtha and Vientiane. The almost 9h bus ride between Luang Namtha and Luang Prabang was anything but short and comfortable. The road, or I should better say path (specially between Oudomxai and Luang Prabang), was as bumpy as hell and the suspensions of the so called VIP bus weren’t really doing their job. We even had to stop a couple of times to throw buckets of water to the wheels to cool down the breaks.
I think we saw the poorest side of Lao during the road trip. The skinny and clunky houses made of wood and bamboo that won’t probably survive a heavy monsoon, the broken clothes of the villagers, the dusty faces of the children…. it all made us realize again that we were in one of the poorest countries in the world.
Strange as it may sound, getting to Luang Prabang felt a little bit like arriving home… I think the reason we felt that way was because we knew the place already. We were staying at the same guest house as last time, so after freshing up we rewarded ourselves with a yummy foe at the night market. Our plan for the one day we were staying in Luang Prabang was clear: visiting Kuang Si waterfalls and trying Lao’s traditional massage and steam bath.
Llegamos a Lao (comunmente conocida como Laos) a Huay Xai por tierra, bueno o por rio ya que Huay Xai está justo en la orilla del rio Mekong en frente de Chiang Khong en Tailandia. El puesto de inmigración es pequeño y parece más o menos bien organizado, sin embargo cuando por la mañana llegan de golpe 100 personas es un auténtico caos y se forman largas colas. Nosotros madrugamos para pasar la frontera y la verdad es que nos alegramos de haber sido de los primeros. El visado de turista se obtiene allí mismo pagando 35 dólares y es válido por 30 días, más o menos el tiempo que pensábamos estar en Lao.
Una vez en Lao, nuestro plan era viajar en slow boat por el Mekong desde Huay Xai a Luang Prabang. Es un viaje de dos días en un barco bastante local, excepto por los asientos de autobús de quita y pon (algo raro pero bastante cómodo), que hace una parada en Pakbeng para pasar la noche. La mayoría de los pasajeros éramos turistas, desde gente joven que solo viene a Lao de fiesta y ya empiezan a emborracharse en el slow boat, hasta gente más mayor que viene buscando la belleza de los paisajes y la tranquilidad de Lao. Pero también había muchos locales ya que el único método de transporte en esta área remota del norte de Lao es el Mekong.