I wasn’t planning on eating a meal (let alone an entire fish). I was just sitting at an outdoor restaurant, minding my own business, drinking a Beerlao, when the guy working at the outdoor restaurant next door fired up the barbecue and started barbecuing some fish. I have to admit, I was pretty mesmerised. The fish were stuffed with lemongrass stems which poked out of their mouths, and then before they were placed on the barbecue, they were slathered with coarse salt. The whole thing was a salty, charcoal, smoky affair. As I watched, I felt a little sad and lonely. Loneliness is a feeling I don’t often feel. I kind of really enjoy my own thoughts and I’m naturally introverted, so I rarely feel lonely. But the thing is that there are certain foods which are just not meant to be eaten alone, and I think it would be fair to say that an entire fish grilled on the barby would be on that list. But I figured, “Ah, to hell with it! It’s a hot day, I could use some extra salt!” and after I finished my Beerlao at the first restaurant, I walked right on over to the second restaurant.
The fish would have been much too much for me to have eaten on my own, but along came a beggar lady. Beggars in Vientiane have come to a rather surprising but ultimately extremely intelligent and effective realisation: if they ask for money straight up, they will likely not receive much (if anything), but if they tell you they are thirsty or hungry and point to where you can get them something to drink or eat, they are much more likely to be successful in their endeavour. So a beggar lady came up to me and indicated that she was hungry, and I’m like, “Yesss!!” and gave her nearly half my fish.