China was still deeply in our minds whilst we were entering a new country. Loas seemed like a child trying to catch up with either of its neighbouring fellows. Having copper and gold in its mountains it still felt like an exotic yet poor land. In nature terms it felt like an extension of southern China – rich jungles covering mountains, where in the morning you see a light mist floating above the trees.
It’s easy to enter Laos. You pay 30 $ on the border to cover the visa expenses and off you go. The beauty of this country sincerely jaw dropping and seriously mysterious. People suit well to this exotic exterior. Kids colour is the same like deep red ground, and their houses on poles almost like a part of the nature. No artificial element in it. Outside the house one can see various activities takig place. Women comb their hair, pluck their eyebrows, feed their babies. Kids playing with each other or chuckling in the swings. Men sit and stare what the street life can offer them to watch at.
Pravažiuojant bananų laukus. � While passing banana fields.
When we entered Laos, the mist was still covering the thick leafy mountains. The heavy clouds covered all the sky, and the rain started to pour down hopelessly. We instantly got soaking wet. The rain here though is the one to save us from heat stroke. At times it gets so hot that you think you are going to evaporate instantly. The buckets of water help you for another ten minutes. You don’t feel thirsty, but very soon you will suffer the headaches and general dizzyness. It’s hard to breath in the daytime, but it doesn’t get any easier at night. You feel you just running out of oxygen, but there is no chance to get it back. You ought to sleep in the tent however you would like to sleep in the slighly more fresh air outside. The fauna around us doesn’t let us to do that. We have noticed the snakes and there is plenty of other animals or insects to disturb you at night, hence the only option is to stay inside with your tent zipped carefully. You don’t want the mosquittos to ruin your poor night sleep either. These the ones you should be slightly careful of. Malaria is the last thing you would need to take as a souvenir. So the random shacks and shelters that we found unexpectedly were the best options. We had our mosquito net with us. The shelter is usually built on poles, so you are preserved from any unwanted animals to visit you. You just hook the net up on the ceiling, and you have calm night with much more fresh air.
You also get used to frequent rains, lightnings and thunders. Every night if not the rain you would go to sleep with the worry you would wake up soaking wet as the shack won’t be able to hold the torrents of rain.
Laoso kalvos. � Laos hills.
The jungle is beautiful from outside. It’s tempting, the carpet is patched with hundreds of different shades. The palette of sounds is as diverse as one can only imagine. The birds and insects orchestra doesn’t stop at night either. Some of them have their exact hour of perfomance, they produce their weirdest sounds for some time and then they stop. There was one insect on frequent occassions announcing loudly about onself like 4am. It would sound like some factory echoing the fellows in the distance.
But the jungle inside can be not as elegant as its exterior. The palm trees only bear the upper leaves freshly green, but the bottom ones are dry and no more nice. Nobody goes to chop them down. There is also a lot of fauna chaos. But you take it all as collection unsorted and you can feel the life out there.
From the Laos border
Besimėgaujant vėjeliu. � Enjoying the wind.
Two Chinese fellows one after the other gave us a lift for approximately 50 kilometres. It was a fair start after waiting near the border for a good couple hours. Hitchhiking near the border is always a big burden. Once you are deeper in the country it gets much easier. Not in Laos though. The scarcity of cars doesn’t make the situation any easier. Often the drivers communicate with you smiling and showing they are going to turn to the next village meaning ‘Im no use for you’.
We walked a little and we stopped near the school. The study hours were obviously finished but the teacher was still there. He was wearing immaculate white shirt and black trousers. It seemed he was very much prepared to be a good example of intelligence. The last kids on their bikes left the compound, and the teacher continued to wonder around. Fairly soon the grown ups on their motorbikes started to gather around. They parked their vehicles and went into the building. The course for adults commenced.
It struck us how people are eager for knowledge here. Whilst we were waiting for those rare cars to stop to us a young boy came to us asking in good English what was my name and how do I spell it. He had five textbooks in his hands holding them closely. Geography, English lessons. When you see people genuinly feeling how education is important for their future you no doubt want to improve yourself too.
Perlipus Kinijos-Laoso sieną mus pasitiko visai kitoks pasaulis: skurdus, paprastas, nuoširdus. Tranzavome šalia mokyklos, kur vaikai ir suaugę žygiavo į pamokas. � After crossing China-Laos border we entered into totally different world of poor houses, simple and smiling people. We hitched next to a school were grownups and kinds were going to their lessons.
6am. Last night’s rain had freshen the air slightly, but the heat was still floating somewhere. We needed to do our exercising though, and the morning hours are the only possible time to do it anyways. We have noticed 2 women on the road slowly jogging. At first it seemed they might be in the rush to get somewhere. Very soon it became obvious, that they are doing their exercises as we were doing ours. We exchanged few hand waves. I was amazed. I was nicely surprised that somewhere in the village people would care about their health or figure.
Our tents were very close to the village. Last night children were playing close. They cheered up as well as got shy around camera. In the morning they were back again. Like little birds they gathered around and curiously observed how we cooked our breakfast and packed our things away.
The flocks of kids walked to the school. Each and everyone wore clean clothes. They all were surprised to see some foreigners near their village. They began shout hi at us or wave their hands.
Rytiniai paukšteliai. � Morning birds.
We move further. Another chinese truck full of waterworks workers gave us a lift. We quickly shoveled our backpacks and sat down with our hair blown by the wind. The next lucky car that day was full of Thailand tourists. They are the ones to move us straight across the country and save our hopes to actually achieve any of the kilometres. We would have seriously struggled to get anywhere. They were construction engineers, which obviously was a serious business out there. They had come from Thailand to have a bit of sighseeing in their neighbouring country. They were jolly ones. We stopped for a lunch in one of the restaurants somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The hotel and restaurant was set up in the colonial house. Bear in mind, Laos as well as Cambodia was a French colony, or proctectorate gaining their independence only in 1953. Hence there are houses – souvenirs everywhere.
The dinner is fresh and lovely. The view is stunning. Outside is the garden with blooming bushes and flowers. In the distance sit mountains. Thai people offer the coffee for a desert, and after a long time we thoroughly enjoy sipping our milky drink. We also get our shower here. If you can call it shower. The bucket you use to fill it with water from a big barrel. It’s filled plenty with water so you don’t need to save it carefully as we used to using the bottles of water to freshen us up at night.
We planned to have a rest and work weekend in Vientiene. There were lots of writing to do as well as mending our backpacks and certainly to get a proper shower. Our clothes haven’t seen a thorough washing for some time now, so we need to do some laundry too. The nightstay is cheaply cheap – like few dollars a night, so there is no harm made to our budget. Tourists are as not as frequent as lets say around Christmas or Easter time, but there few of them wondering there and here. We got used to being only with locals, so seeing people from Western world makes feel uneasy at times. We simply do not fit into the bright tshirt evenly suntanned girls and boys, who share their stories about how they drink lots or take valium and get asleep in the toilet whilst the bus leaves them there. It is much more difficult to get to know the local culture in places like that. You can feel the strange and artificially welcome attitude. People here mainly spend or to gain money. There are goods and activities along the lines too, but mainly we talk about dollars to be exchanged.
We go out for a stroll along Mekong river. The people don’t come often here, they rather stay in the centre to walk in the market or stick among people. It’s only few hundred metres away, and you walk on the soft sand and set the sun down.
We order some fish for the dinner which comes along with sticky rice and spicy salads. We try to get used to that overwhelming fire in your mouth, but sweat and tears work on its own.
On the way to Thailand
Drakonai. � Dragons.
The walk out from Vientiene was long and tiresome. The midday heat, our 30 kilo backpacks and the constant chaos made our 5 hour journey a bit challenging. So when we had few sweet mangos for our rest, it gave us a new fresh start. But very soon we decided to try and hitch a car despite the fact we are still in the middle of the city. Few seconds to go, and the car trailer stopped to us. We placed our bags straight on the platform and enjoyed our ride on the new type of vehicle we ever hitched.
9.000 kip (around 1.5 dollar) over stay fine. We purposly spent all our Laos money knowing that there is no chance we will be able to exchange it elswhere. ‘Overstay?’ we wondered. ‘If you come after 4pm, you need to pay a fine’ one official explained. Besides, you cannot cross the Friendship bridge (no mans land between Laos and Thailand) on foot. You need a busride for that. It doesn’t matter if it costs only a dollar. We have no more left money for that. Luckily I found some local money and few 1-dollar banknotes in my secret wallet. We are saved. We thought we are sorted at last. But the visa on arrival process on Thai side nearly costed us a trip back to Vientiene. To be continued in Thailand part.
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