Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.
When compared to a vacation abroad, settling in and living in a foreign country for two years sounds like a long time. It is. And it isn’t – real life stuff tends to take over that I’ve-got-to-see-everything-in-two-weeks motivation of a vacation, and the longer we postpone playing “tourist” the less likely we would take the time to explore in order to take it all in. One gets busy in the demanding rhythm of day-to-day life and we easily become entrenched in our comfort zone of sticking with the familiar. And when more and more things become familiar, the more we take it for granted, no longer seeing it’s novelty with fresh eyes or interest.
So I’ve been playing tourist a bit more lately, but not to the obvious sights and guidebook recommendations. Part of the beauty of making local friends is getting local knowledge about some of the best kept secrets around, and of course I want to share them with you.
One of those places is “The Little House Cafe” on Mathatourath Street between Fa Ngum and Setthathirath Streets near Wat Xienghuen. It is literally a little house that sits back off the street behind a white picket fence. If you didn’t know what it was, you would not wander in. I introduced it to a friend who first came to live in Vientiane in 1995 and is back here again after intermittent years in other parts of Southeast Asia, and she had never been to this cafe despite walking passed it many times before. And maybe that’s the way the proprietor wants it to be.
The Little House Cafe is a low-key, unassuming, oasis of Japanese-Lao fusion where the staff sits on little bamboo chairs patiently sifting through coffee beans by hand before roasting them in a back room. Every order is freshly ground and carefully prepared. There is no take out orders. The menu is modest with a few baked goods and green tea in addition to the house roasted coffee. They also sell lovely Lao silk and cotton textiles made with designs and color combinations that, like the rest of the cafe, ring of Japanese influence. Makes me wonder if the proprietor works with the producers to specifically design these particular ones. I’ll have to ask her next time, although she seems like an incredibly private person.
The ambiance of the cafe is calm and relaxing in that way that the Japanese do so well with lighting and placement of objects that is pleasing and alluring. The interior is a unique mix of Lao rustic with Japanese orderliness. There is something about this that made me want to take pictures of everything, but I couldn’t because the owner didn’t want me to. I could only sneak in a few shots here and there when no one was looking. Here are the rest…