Pretending to Be a Backpacker


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Asia » Laos » South » Si Phan Don
February 26th 2006
Published: February 26th 2006
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My bungalow in Champasak
My month in Laos has come to an end; I head to Vietnam in the morning. I am real excited about Vietnam. Since I have been out here I have heard mixed reviews about the country, but after the extremely mellow atmosphere of Laos, I think I’m ready for something a little more fast pace.
I am alone again, and that is a good thing as well. I had a great time with Neal and Claire, but we had our last night a few nights ago in the south, and I feel more adventurous now that I am on my own again. Back on my journey.
So Southern Laos…hot. Real hot. Suck the life of me hot. Beautiful, but hot. Somebody said one day that it was 41 degrees (around 106 F), with about 30-40% humidity. I don’t know if that was true, but it very well could’ve been. I guess that wouldn’t be so bad if you were on a beach or something…but when there is nowhere to swim, and no air conditioning in your room…and you are out exploring all day…it kicks your ass!
We took the local bus 13 hours from Vientiane to Pakse. There is not much to do in Pakse, but it’s the base of which to explore the south. We spent 2 nights there just because we couldn’t bear moving after the bus ride. Claire and I left Pakse on a slow boat (a real slow boat, with no benches or anything like that) to Champasak. It was only a couple hour boat ride and was quite a nice ride. We got a couple bungalows right on the river, and I was in heaven compared to the city life in Pakse. Nothing really to do in Champasak…but it was just nice and relaxing. We rented a couple bicycles and rode around for a bit…but the heat got to me quickly. The only problem with Champasak is the bugs. At night, most of the places to eat are on the river…and you eat by candlelight. Get the picture? Let’s just say I probably did some damage to the moth population without even knowing it. Tastes like chicken!
The one big attraction near Champasak is Wat Phu. It’s the ruins of an ancient Khmer religious complex from around 6th century. I couldn’t get myself to go explore it during the day (once again too hot!), so we got up at 5:00am and watched the sun rise over it. Really beautiful and glad we did it that way.
There were a few other Westerners around, so we met up with Neal again and all hired a sawngthaew (a truck with benches in the back) to take us down to Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands). This is when I decided I couldn’t do the south during this time of year. The book says that it is unbearable in the islands in March…well, I’d say it needs to be revised to include late February.
The 4,000 islands is a series of islands in the Mekong River. The Mekong is very wide down here near the Cambodia border. Over 8 miles wide. So there are all these little islands…some not so little. We stayed on Don Khong and did a day trip to Don Det and Don Khon. They are beautiful little islands…most people just lay around in hammocks, smoke local herb, and seriously veg out. This is great…and I was all for doing nothing for a week or so. I had a couple books with me…and was looking forward to relaxing. But I couldn’t. I could’ve jumped in the river…but there was no beach or anything to get out to. So I decided to come back north and get into Vietnam.
That being said, I am really glad I did get to the south. It was a great experience, and it made me realize some things about myself. Some of them I’m not too happy about, but I guess that’s the way it goes. I am learning that it is easier to come face to face and deal with my imperfections that it is to keep concealing the truth from myself. Neal mentioned that I am ‘pretending to be a backpacker’. He said this because I came back to Vientiane, got myself a nice room with air, a bathtub, satellite TV…and have been eating at nice restaurants every night. And I think he may be right…maybe I am pretending. But what I like about being out here is I am me and that’s it. I feel like I play so many roles back home…and out here I am just Kevin…nothing more, nothing less. It’s a good feeling.

Happy Birthday Tiffany…and belated to Amy!

Miss you all,
Kevin




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Khon PhapengKhon Phapeng
Khon Phapeng

One extreme to the other...from water like glass to this. The Mekong is really an incredible river.


26th February 2006

'Pretending'
Maybe that comment says more about the person who said it than about you. What is a 'backpacker'? It is different things to different people. Some people think that you can only be a 'backpacker' if you stay in the cheapest places and eat the cheapest food and spend the least amount of money so that they can say that they have 'roughed it' or some such c**p etc. But maybe a backpacker is simply someone who carries a backpack! And there is nothing wrong with staying in more expensive places etc and putting more money into the economy of the country you are travelling around. Maybe your label for what you are is a traveller - not a tourist - but a traveller. Anyway - they are all just labels - and there are too many of those in life. Just enjoy it and be there doing what you are doing for your own reasons and for your own self. Dont be influenced by other's lables. Continue to be your own person.
26th February 2006

Thank You!
Thanks for the birthday shout out, Kev - that was totally sweet of you. :-)
28th February 2006

I don't even know you anymore!!! When the hell are you coming home? I haven't had access to email in a while because my computer isn't working again, so sorry I haven't been in touch. Anyhow, stay safe, have fun...all that. See you later.
28th February 2006

Miss You:)

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