Dirt roads and horrible roadside food stands fuel us onward when the going gets tough.
Monday February 12th 2007, day number 500 (if this is innacurate please forgive me as I've lost count several times and Ryan is more or less in charge of maintaining accuracy in the trips official day count). I woke up in what's been nicknamed "the hole" a windowless cell beneath a family home in Laos, conveniently named a "Guesthouse" on the front though it's nothing more than a total dive. We're all fairly certain that our bathroom was used as a set in the horror film "Saw". That's what happens when you insist on paying less than $3.00 for a place to lay your head. It's so bad in fact that I refuse to post pictures.
We've had some illness in the trip, the food here in Laos seems to be taking it's toll. Either that or the everflowing beer Laos. Laos seems strange to me, last night we crammed what seemed like a dozen people into a tuk-tuk (the back of a pickup truck that has benches and a roof) and went to a bowling alley. Bowling? It made no sense to me until I realized bowling was just a codeword for drinking. It seems they've really clamped down
We nearly died on the ride there but it was worth it.
on late night drinking locations and the bowling alley succeeded in convincing somebody that it's not a bar, though when I walked in there were probably 50 people drinking and dancing, half of them on the respective alleys themselves.
Yesterday we woke up in "the hole" though power had been cut for some reason and we couldn't see anything. I stumbled out and was blinded by the bright sunshine. Once my eyes adjusted and I confirmed the entire town was out of power I went back to the hole and it seemed even darker than before. I tried to sleep and failed. I went out for breakfast with Trevor to meet Chantel and Patrick. We ordered breakfast but only half of it came, I was one of the unlucky ones. The food that did come looked terrible though (stale baguette highlighting the ensemble) so I quickly considered myself lucky and stuck with a bottle of water. What time is it anyways? I think it was around noon. James wasn't feeling well but decided that cheap Indian food would be the best route for his breakfast after we all ate. I picked up a sandwich with him and had a
Pha That Luang
The national symbol of Laos, and easy to find on bike.
beer with T-Bone while I watched in horror as my brother ate his paneer butter masala (it's a sight to behold). We started haggling with a local about a tuk-tuk out to the nearbye waterfall -we're told it's gorgeous. He wants $3.00 each but we know we can get a minivan for that and minivans are far more comfortable than tuk-tuk's. He says $2.50 (per person) and we say 20,000 kip (about $2.20 here in Luang Phabang though about $2.00 even in Vientiane the capital) we haggle for about half an hour over 30 cents a head. The driver finally caves, maybe because it's late in the day and he doesn't have any customers yet. He drives out to the waterfall -the roads are all dirt and he's mastered them well. Avoiding full drifts in the tuk-tuk we scream along the dirt roads almost hitting a herd of water buffalo and a lone rooster strutting his stuff. We cling on for dear life as we scream past graters and dump trucks trying to repair the dirt on the road. We all declare the 20,000 kip well worth the price of just the ride in his truck alone and quickly he
This shot was taken sometime after the party set forth on the tubes, probably before we won another volleyball game and also I think it's before I lost my sunglasses, James his wallet and T-Bone broke his sandles.
earns the nickname "Michael Schumacher" (though it wasn't my doing).
We arrive at the waterfall, though we have to pay to enter and hike a ways to reach it. This suits us just fine as our tuk-tuk driver goes to hang out with the dozen or so other tuk-tuk drivers that spend the day in a dusty parking lot waiting for their customers to finish exploring the falls and return back to Luang Phabang. We get to the waterfalls and hike them in their minimal entirety. We go for a swim in the water that seems ice cold but certainly isn't that bad. Near the waterfall they have a tiger named Phet that is caged because of what poachers did to it (and it's mother) and she can't exist on it's own anymore since she was rescued. Apparently Phet had been sold 2 times by the age of 4 days old by the evil poachers. Phet is healthy now and I'm amazed by the size of her paws as they seem about as big as baseball gloves. There's another cage of asian bears, which are really strange to me because I'm used to the bears at home. These ones
Wall painting from a temple in Vientiane, Laos. I can only assume this is an artists representation of one of the sacred white elephants discussed in the Journeyer.
can climb trees almost like monkeys and although they look like small black bears I feel they don't deserve the name "bear".
We return to the dusty parking lot to find our tuk-tuk driver gambling in the back of another tuk-tuk and I'm unable to determine whether he's up or down -but he smiles at me anyways. I tell him I'm going to get a green coconut to drink (5,000 kip). We all stand around in amazement as one of the daughters of a local vender (age estimated at 2 years old) hacks away at a coconut with a full sized machete and we all fear for her life. I've already got my coconut at this point but we're not sure whether we should step in and take away the machete. Kids seem to start work here younger everyday.
We take the tuk-tuk back to town, our driver though has slowed his pace down incredibly and we're actually travelling back like all the other tuk-tuk's. We stop though to pick up two English mountainbikers who were abandoned on the road after their bike ride because their tuk-tuk driver got absolutely hammered while waiting for them and didn't want
I think it's similar to the snake variant we drank in Hanoi but I can't be certain. Needless to say it was the freakiest stall in the market.
him to drive them back. We see their tuk-tuk driver barely able to stay in his seat across the road.
We arrived here in Luang Phabang a couple days ago after a long stopover in Vang Vieng. Now Vang Vieng is a very strange place. Picture a small town in probably the poorest country in southeast asia. Now picture it completely taken over by backpackers. The main street (which I later saw on a tourist map and was called "Movie Street") is lined with nothing but internet cafe's and restaurants with couches that play television shows on repeat. While it all seemed to bizarre I must be dreaming, it quickly became a fun place to hangout -mainly because it was created for people like me. The main highlight is the nearby river that provides an excellent opportunity for people like me to float down on an inner tube and drink beer. This was so much fun we did it three times. The first day I lost my $350 CAD sunglasses that I've had for 2 1/2 years and didn't even care that much. I think I lost my tuque as well (it was cold in the morning when
I can't say for certain how many times I went on this thing, but expressing how much fun it was in word form simply won't be happening. Finally, yes that do be me moments before the ultimate human cannonball.
we left and it made sense for some reason) because I haven't seen it since. My coveted sandals from Brazil broke (and then my heart soonafter) before the next day saw James lose his wallet (we pretend we spent all the money). Finally on the third day I forgot a shirt at one of the river bars and James his sandals as well. There's not much to see beside nice mountains and the river itself, but littered all along the shores are bars constructed of bamboo that serve 650ml beer Laos bottles (much like their Chang cousins in Thailand) and have huge swings, flying foxes and other platforms that spell disaster when combined with alcohol. While we didn't injure ourselves (still not sure how) we managed to have an absolutely fantastic time, so fantastic in fact that we might just return. Once the day on the river concludes, we go sit on couches and watch T.V. until later going out to one of the nearby bars.
Though some part of me certainly thinks this whole process strange, the rest of me once I experienced it finds it outrageously fun. So did dozens of other people who linked up with
On the River
The last known photograph with my sunglasses (left behind T-Bone). Had I known at time of purchase they would last almost three years and finally find peace at the bottom of a river in Laos I'd have been (and am right now) quite content. Thanks Claire for the lovely photo.
us on our pathetic trip downstream (I call it pathetic because we never made it more than halfway due to all the bar and swing stops) in fact most of the river we never even saw I think. So that be just about it for my second instalment on Laos, a good, fun and cheap place.
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