While taking the slow boat from Luang Prabang to Thailand, we found ourselves in a town called Pak Beng, a resting point for Mekong travelers and transfer point for Asian opium traffickers. It is by no means a cozy or cultural place to stay, however the local tourism industry has built itself up around travelers who stay for one night and then move on the next day.
Once past the wall of touts (sales pitches) that greeted us as we stepped off the boat, we made our way along the main drag in search of a place to hold up for the night. After choosing a place, we sat down to register with the young lady running the “front desk”. She took down our information and then asked us if we would like to pre-order some sandwiches for the next day’s boat ride. This sounded like a good idea, especially when the woman said, “my mother makes the sandwiches and she is the best cook in town. Everyone knows my mom. She makes the best food.” So we placed an order for two baguette sandwiches and made our way to look for some dinner.
The place across the street looked perfect, and since Pak Beng is known to be a place where bags go missing from rooms, we liked that we could keep an eye on our room as we ate. As we looked at the menu, the man behind the counter told us, “our food is really good. My mother does all the cooking herself. She is the best cook. Everyone knows her. She makes the best food.” Playfully, I said to the man, “I don’t know, the woman across the street says her mom makes the best food.” The man’s face contorted with a look of horror and confusion. “No no,” he said, “my mom cooks the best food.”
While waiting for our food I had to go to the bathroom. On the way back past the kitchen, I looked in and saw two teenage girls cooking our meal. There wasn’t a “mother” anywhere in sight. Chuckling to myself I muttered, “your mom’s home cooking eh?”
The next morning when we got our pre-ordered sandwiches, we were a little disappointed to find they were half the size of any other sandwich we’d had in Laos. When we asked the woman about this, she pointed across the street to a woman who was selling sandwiches from a cart and said, “I got them this morning.” “Oh,” I said, “is that your mother?” The woman’s face contorted into a look of horror and confusion, “No,” she replied. Amused a little I said to her, “but… you said your mother…” I trailed off and looked at Arienne. Hmm… how about that!?