Leaving Anusone guest house the next morning, I went up the street and had a Beer Lao at "Banna," the restaurant that overlooks the Mekong, which is part of Seng Chalerm guest house, where I used to stay when I visited here in my early years. I would have liked to have had breakfast, but the menu is all in the Lao language and doesn't have any pictures. I knew how to order a beer and ice, though, and that's what I did.
The two women who had been around for years recognized me and greeted me warmly. Since I had an Internet connection here, I got caught up on my communications and worldwide news.
After one bottle, I walked to the market and ran into the owner of Khoun Ten. She seemed genuinely excited to see me, urging me to go on down to the restaurant and she'd be back soon.
The place wasn't open yet and there was no one around. Often, I'm the first one here because I don't like to stay up late. Moving around in the daytime, I can see things better. Plus, it's just safer in a number of ways.
I was relieved to see Khoun Ten still operating and under it's old name. They had gone for a name change awhile back, but I don't think it caught on. After a few other people showed up, I was also happy to see the floating restaurant/bar/karaoke spot still had its special vibe.
When the owner came back, she showed me a potato and suggested she fix it for me. I said "french fries" and she knew we were talking about the same thing. Although they seemed to take forever, the fries were good and went well with the Beer Lao.
Nothing much happened that early afternoon, but I enjoyed being back in my sweet spot. I really like being along the Mekong, at river level, looking out and not having to see buildings. Thoughts here often drift to some of the memorable moments that have taken place at Khoun Ten in just a period of five years: the late afternoon the rainstorm blew in (2012); the night one of the owner's daughters had to help me up the rainy banks to the cement stairs (2013); the afternoon I met Nuey and swam with the boys in The Kong (2014); the afternoon I met Duangtar, D'Dao, Somneuk and K'Kong (2015); times watching cargo boats motor by; many karaoke songs sung by boys and girls... Few adults venture here.
Seeing the list above, I have to admit that within the past couple of years I have not had a real stand-out moment at Khoun Ten. This may reflect my becoming more boring; aging; moving away from meeting young girls; and my focus shifting to friends that I already know.
After a while I made my way up to the market for my rendezvous with my friend Savath. At first, I forgot that he had moved his hardware store over to his house across the street from the market. Little to know overhead there.
Savath and his store manager welcomed me into the shop where I sat down and traded some simple conversation. I could see that Savath was in the process of closing out his financial books for the day, so I kept to myself and just watched. During that time, Savath sent out for his traditional gift of an inconspicuous plastic water bottle filled with lao khao from the vats he has them distilled somewhere not far away. He is, after all, the Beer Lao distributor for Pak Lai.
After Savath had completed his paperwork and prepared the bank deposit for the take of the day, we moved over to his house for beers and snacks. I got to meet his wife again and the grandmother -- not sure if it's his mother or his wife's.
Savath's associate Lav Su Sai showed up and the three of us prepared for the night activities. Last year, Savath had his sons' school teacher Sone as his interpreter for our conversations. This year, those duties fell to Lav Su Sai.
Being in Savath's house drinking beer, joking around, looking at the many pictures on his wall, I remembered the times I had been here before...