Published: December 19th 2010November 15th 2010
Piroque and Pigs
BTW this is not Max
So I met a man named Max. And I was wondering what I was going to write about South East Asia and found it hard to select anecdotes that sum up my feeling about this region. Anyway on discussion with Max he suggested that I write a blog about him so here it is!
I boarded the ferry to Luang Prabang, the day was beginning to heat up by 9am but the sun was by no means in full force yet. We had got up early and eaten french bread with tuna mayonnaise, a luxury that is unheard of in China. Then we made our way to the quay avoiding the ticket touts. Laura discussed for 30 minutes of unadulterated French to the ticket man to give us the local price tickets not the Falang price, which amounted to a half fair. Falang is the local word for white faced foreigner here synonymous with Mzungu and Gringo.
The steep bank was coated in a layer of mud which the hungover Falangs from Thailand lumbered and skidded down with the backpacks. The much shorter local population, with dark skin and the required agility to traverse the slope safely
and rapidly, often offered to take their luggage to the boat for a small fee, most of which were kindly rejected. So instead they stood at the top chuckling at the strange rich people who had enough dollars to buy the boat but to save a dollar were quite willing to carry their luggage and risk a soaking in the Mekong below.
The boat as it left was full to the brim with Falangs, some catching a much needed sleep while splayed out in the open part of the boat allowing them to soak up the scorching rays of the tropical sun. And then we waited, for hours we waited for the unseen sign that allowed the boat to leave. Murmurs of discontent swirled round the boat as the deckhands served overpriced beer and crisps to the hungry masses. By the time the sun was pointing its beams vertically towards the timber and canvas vessel, the bow was pointing down the Mekong and we had begun.
As we sat there we saw a man, whose appearance, demeanor and actions were unlike the other Falangs that draped themselves on the hull. He was quietly studying a book
in a foreign language with writing that must have been inspired by the whirlpools of the Mekong and its snaking turns. He had a rough beard and hiking gear that implied that he wasn't the kind of person to be found upside down in a ditch smelling of weed. His hushed tones gave him an heir of subtly in his character. He sat alone, and was content without the attention of the cohorts of gap year students.
We discussed where he was from after having exchanged a glance or two and a small welcoming smile had crossed both our faces, as if there was some understanding of the absurdity of our circumstances. Laura had wondered if he was from the continent (of Europe), and I had a feeling he was from a Northern European country where cold was not uncommon but not a Scandinavian as his hair and eyes were dark and he wasn't so tall.
Eventually, over the course of our journey to Pak Beng, a small village on the banks of the Mekong we found him to be pleasant company, a Scotsman and a gentleman on all accounts. On arriving at Pak Beng we
thought to share lodgings with him but on arrival at the quay he disappeared and had broken away with his light pack from the touts that vied and scrummaged for position on the banks.
That was my first impression, but it was not to be my last.
There are more photos below