Cycling May Make Me Fat

Red chilis drying near the road.
Red chilis drying near the road.

I have an insatiable appetite, especially after a long, hard ride. I wake up hungry. I go to bed full but usually wake up in the middle of the night wishing I had a snack. Every few hours during the day, my stomach starts to growl. Couple all this hunger with delicious, French inspired Laotian cuisine and I can’t stop eating. I think about food all day and when I’m not thinking about it, I’m actually eating it.

I start with breakfast, which here in Luang Prabang, Laos includes delicious pan fried eggs, bacon, potatoes, crusty bread and coffee. Then, I immediately start looking for the perfect cafe for lunch. I finish lunch – stuffed I might add with cashew chicken Lao style with red chilies, green peppers and plenty of onions, and start looking for the perfect sidewalk cafe for an afternoon coffee, lemon tart and vantage point to watch people.

After watching the swarms of tourists in bright shades of elephant pants, some with three-foot long dread locks, heavily worn sandals with broken straps, North Face zip-off cargo pants, sunburns, sun glasses and newly purchased silk scarves to cover their bare shoulders when hiking up to ancient temples, I start the dinner discussion with Eric. Of course, I’ve got many options because I’m always looking for good places to eat.

Should we relax by the river sipping a delicious wine and fresh fish steamed with lemon grass in banana leaves and BBQ’d pork tenderloin with a side of home-made sweet and spicy red chili paste? Or should we head to the busy night market street for homemade Luang Prabang sausages, delicious locally grown mixed vegetables – the mushrooms are to die for – gently sautéed in a tasty, light oyster sauce with no MSG (at least that’s what the menus advertise).

Should I be satisfied eating one entire basket of crispy French bread and butter before dinner or should I throw all cares to the wind and order another? I’m sure I need the carbohydrates  for tomorrow’s 78 km ride of which about 30 km is uphill. And what about that fresh banana shake to complement my meal? I’m sure all those bananas will help me avoid leg cramps.

I’d like to admit that all the above mentioned food is hypothetical, but it’s not. I’ve consumed everything mentioned above and then some. Don’t forget the Lao beer…Ok…beers…As much as I would like to stay here for a few more days and consume all the great food this town has to offer, I guess it’s time to get excited about hills and dales (but mostly hills) with only small, non-touristy villages (translation: non gourmet food with starving free-range chickens, questionable refrigeration, and non-existent hygiene practice) for the next five days.

Luckily, it’s time for my last supper in Luang Pragang.