Extra Hours and Unexpected Encounters in Vientiane, Laos
Candace Rose Rardon is an American writer, photographer and artist who recently returned to the United States after ten months living and traveling in Asia. She sketches as she travels, and these sketches, combined with the stories behind them, charmingly capture those fleeting, layered moments that are the stepping stones of travel. Wanderlust will be presenting her on-the-road sketches-and-stories — her sketchbook of serendipities — in the months to come.
After a long weekend in Luang Prabang, my friend Carter and I descend from the hills into the country’s steamy capital of Vientiane.
For days we have been moving the puzzle pieces of our trip back to Bangkok around, and when the shifting finally stops and the itinerary of our return has been set, we find ourselves with an extra ten hours in Vientiane – and with just one question left to answer: How exactly are we going to fill them?
I decide to do a sketch, and because it seems an obvious choice, I decide to sketch the iconic Patuxai Gate – a war monument that was built between 1957 and 1968 in honor of those who fought for independence from the French.
I find a shaded spot on the sidewalk beneath a tree, spread out my scarf, and sit down to sketch, but am immediately feeling the heat, the hard concrete, and the exhaustion resulting from our all-night journey from Luang Prabang.
Not long after I start sketching, a boy of about 10 or 11 years cycles past and stops to watch. At first, he stands with one leg on either side of his bike, arms resting on the handlebars. A few minutes later, however, I hear a click. He’s popped the kickstand out and sits on his haunches next to me, elbows now resting on his knees.
Another half hour goes by before it occurs to me to offer him a sheet of paper and a pen. Nam and I speak exactly three words of the same language, and yet a sense of connection grows anyhow, as improbable as the weeds pushing their way through cracks in the sidewalk beneath us. We munch on fried sweet potatoes from a nearby cart and sketch with our flip-flops kicked off, passing locals casting bemused glances our way.
It may have taken a while for the ever-shifting puzzle of our day to come together, but here on a Vientiane sidewalk, I’m glad it left room to meet Nam.