We fancy ourselves explorers; always ready to head off to a new country, try new food, and meet new people. But in the rush of wanting to see something new, maybe sometimes we miss out on being a part of the place we are visiting.
Let me give you an example. We love food. One of our first priorities when we arrive at a new destination is to scope out the restaurant scene. Then we decide which ones will provide us the best value with the best variety so that we can sample a complete taste of the region. At each new establishment we meet new servers and, usually, new owners. We almost always receive efficient friendly service, yet impersonal service. After all we’re strangers, and to boot, tourists.
But in Nong Khiaw, we found Alex’s. This rickety, dirt floor, table-propped-up-with-rocks establishment had character, but most importantly it had Alex. Alex could cook up a mean German dish with the best of them, but was really in her element when cooking Lao cuisine. Our first time at Alex’s was for lunch. It was cold, so Lao noodle soup would do nicely. While waiting for our soup, a Canadian traveler at the adjoining table highly recommended Alex’s breakfast called ‘The Farmers’. Although she had tried a few other places during her stay, she always ended up back at Alex’s. The food was great and Alex made her feel special.
So back we went the very next morning for the infamous breakfast. As we entered the place one of the family members was watering the floor to keep down the dust. From the kitchen, Alex spots us, smiles and waves. She remembered! Breakfast served with a glowing smile and a “Ah, you come back!” Breakfast; excellent, as advertised. Enjoying our little Alex moment we decide to go back for dinner. Again, we’re received with a big grin as she hands us our menu. She tells us about her menu and makes some recommendations. After another very good meal, I head up to the counter to pay. While I dig out my Kip she pours me a shot of the locally distilled moonshine. “We make this here”, she says. She takes my money as I down the gut burning elixir.
We’ve run into this feeling of connectivity over and over again when revisiting an establishment. So it’s a fine line. Do your research and get a good sampling of the area’s food, drink, sights, etc., then if you find that special little place, like Alex’s, then go back and enjoy ‘a locals moment’.
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