It's boat racing time! And with less than a week to go, the centre of Vientiane is fast filling up with balloon dart stalls, Chinese knickknack stalls, giant teddy bear stalls, colourful flip flop stalls, beer stalls, laundry detergent stalls, and pretty much everything you can put in a stall.
There must be a government department dedicated to stall planning because it's a mammoth job and yet so organised. The stalls start along the old river road from about the Landmark hotel all the way through town to past the spirit tree. They line the roads branching off from the roundabout for about a block. It's impossible to get into the centre of town in a car, all the vats have swung open their gates for parking, and the sound of popping balloons is a constant background noise. It's hard not to feel excited for this big Lao party.
There's also food stalls of course. Mde Xairung and I biked into town, got caught in an unexpected deluge and were forced to take shelter under an unused tarp. The rain poured down in such sheets that even the palm trees of nearby Thailand were shrouded in cloud. We were bordered by a derelict yellow building on one side and an oranges stall on the other. I took photos of the graffiti on the building walls, and Xairung bought a kilo of oranges. Are you going to juice them? I asked. No, she said, orange quarters are popular at Lao office meetings.
20 minutes later, the rain had cleared and we walked around the streets. The stall sellers unfurled their rain tarps as quickly as they'd thrown them on and it was back to business as usual. We came across a row of food stalls whose sellers all hailed from Ban Keun, north of Vientiane. Fronting many of their stalls were netted bags of hardboiled white eggs.
When I looked more closely I could see patches of brown beneath the shells. Not your normal hardboiled eggs then.
Khai louk, identified Xairung, which literally translates as "egg baby". In this case, baby duck embryos.
This is a common delicacy in Laos and other parts of south east Asia. The 3 stages of embryo development are a matter of taste; the Laotians seem to prefer stage 2. These were selling for 3,000 kip each (about 65 cents).
I wasn't about to try it myself - this isn't an Anthony Bourdain blog, I'm afraid - but Xairung chatted up some local high school students who were wandering down the road for lunch, and were happy to be our guinea pigs.
Hungry? C'mon down to Vientiane. And if you prefer your duck eggs without the Kinder surprise, there's the regular variety too, on a stick.