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Published: November 6th 2010
The spring behind Vat Phu.
All is quiet in Southern Laos
The last post took almost two days to make. The slow internet connections make especially the photos quite demanding, and that post became so long and had so many photos that it took forever to get it done.
But I did have a chance to enjoy Luang Prabang all over again. One of the things I indulged in was massages. When you travel with men it just not the kind of thing you do together, but I have really enjoyed how my newfound status as a lonely traveler have made it possible to do exactly what I want. At least one massage a day and I am becoming quite an expert.
When I got massages at CCI it was pure business. The company wanted us stay as healthy as possible so that we wouldn't get any sick-days. That is fine, but it meant that I was greeted with a "Where are the problem areas?" question every time. Journals were kept and we "worked" on my shoulder and neck problems caused by the extensive flights.
This is SOOO different. A lovely young girl or lady-boy will spend an hour making you feel
Everything you need
Southern Laos has everything you need. And some things you really don't need.
as comfortable as possible. Their surprising strength means that it is not all fun during the process but afterwards you feel fantastic. When you get two in one day you are actually floating rather than walking afterwards as invisible hummingbirds carry your feet.
I have done foot, neck and full body massages so far. I am building up the courage to get an oil massage. Hey, I may actually get a facial sometime soon 😊 Best thing is that unlike in Vietnam you are not confronted with the horrible "happy ending" question that really, really ruins the entire experience.
The best one was at DokChampa Massage across the street from Pakse Hotel. I was asked whether I wanted soft, medium or hard and I went for hard!
A young guy gave me a set of wrap-around shorts and t-shirt and pushed me not so gently onto the mattress. And then he went to work. Squeezing and pushing very muscle from the feet upwards and twisting my limbs in ways never done before. As he was sitting on my back almost all the air was forced out of my lungs in rhythm with his punishing movements. And
quiet music made it even better. I faded back to the hotel. Comes highly recommended!
After three days of pretty nasty and windy weather I finally woke up to a bit of sunshine and proper sweat-inducing temperatures. So I rented a motorcycle and drove south to see the Vat Phu. It is a temple complex that was the center of the Khmer empire before they started building Angkor Wat. So it is older and much smaller and quite frankly a bit underwhelming. Still nice though. But it was the drive that made the day great. Feeling the wind in my hair again and passing through the Laos that I have come to love.
Like the Beerlao brewery south of Pakse. At first I went past it, but then I found myself making a u-turn to go back and pay my respects. The Laotians are spectacularly proud of this beer. Carlsberg owns half of it just like many of the breweries in Vietnam and it is a brilliant strategy. First of all they can throw in their expertise and make the production a lot more efficient and the beer a lot better. But since they don't buy the entire
Stairway to heaven
The broken stairway at Vat Phu.
thing then it is still considered a local brand. And that works very well in Laos. I have no idea how many times Laotians have been bragging about it or asking me "It is a good beer isn't it?" and left me struggling not to show my misplaced national pride and bring up Carlsberg's involvement. And it is a good beer. Nothing extraordinary but very nice. And cheap at a little less than a Euro for a 640ml bottle at restaurants. So there I was stupidly taking photographs of a brewery outside the gates and unfortunately I resisted the temptation to simply drive up and ask for a tour. That would have been fun, but I become less gutsy when I'm travelling on my own.
The ferry across the Mekong was another highlight. They are basically made of a bridge floating on three barges and then a truck-engine at the end. And they do the job admirably even though they look like they could fall apart from the tiniest gust of wind.
The area on both sides of the Mekong in Southern Laos is quite different than further north. There are some mountains looming in the horizon but
gone are the dramatic hills towering directly over the river that made the landscape so intoxicating further north.
Upon returning to Pakse I arranged my transport out of town the following day. I was going to Si Phan Don or the "4000 Islands". In fact there are only about 1000 of them but they make up an inland archipelago that seems like a laid-back version of the actual delta in Vietnam. It is really, really quiet here.
Don Khone is King
It was Tom who got me settled in on Don Khone. He has bought a plot of land here and is building a bungalow and has plans of expanding it into a guesthouse. He has his brother and some French friends to help him, but they do everything at a very Lao pace. He is just a very friendly guy.
I have been looking for a place like this. Somewhere to just sit in a hammock for a few days and let my soul catch up with myself. A place where the only distractions would be chosen ones. My laptop, camera, music from the Iphone, a good book and the occasional beer. So let me
Tom and his boat
Tom and his brother in their right element.
try to paint with words the picture I have seen today.
In the hammock my legs up front. Scars from countless bites, stings, rips and cuts. The three massive moon-crater-like ones from the hornets on Sumatra are still the most impressive ones. Two-and-a-half months old and they still look nasty. I think they are there to stay. In front and beneath the balcony the Mekong is blowing by like a storm. A small branch is between me and a small island some 50 meters away but it joins another bigger branch just a breath further down. Boats fly past with engines sounding like over-sized lawnmowers. One of them has a front from a Made In America bomb. It's red-painted tip looking like a grim smile as it splits the water. "Haunted" by Chuck Palahniuk spread out in front of me and terrorizing and amusing every fiber. Masterpiece in front of masterpiece. Music from the Iphone. Around 4 I go get an afternoon beer. This is about the same time that the two goats and seven buffalos congregate at the tip of the island in front of me as they do every day. You can set your watch by them.
The view from the hammock. Sweet bliss.
Along the way the black goat is enjoying itself jumping up and down the two termite nests. That is the same goat that engages in head-butting fights with all the buffalo cows as the meet on the tip of the small Island. Most of them just seem to find it a bit funny that this tiny thing is challenging them to a fight. Not the big bull though. The goat has to run for its life as HE charges forward once in while to get some peace and quiet. But then things quiet down. The buffalos just stand there for a while staring at a fixed point with no significance. And then they lay down one by one. The distinct smell of cannabis is in the evening air. A few hours later a white cat with black and red spots jumps up on me in the hammock and I happily start cuddling it into a comatose state of mind. For dinner Tom and his friends take me across the river to a restaurant and it is entirely enjoyable and I finish off the night playing asshole (a card game) with a group of Swedish, Dutch, English and German travelers. A
day wasted? No, well spent.
I hired a bicycle and went around both Don Khone and Don Det and it was a very nice way to spend a day. The rice fields that I will never tire of and the forests in between makes Don Khone nicely varied. And the Li Phi waterfalls were frightening. I've never seen water this desperate before. Every single molecule struggling to get down first. A brownish battlefield trying to defy the Theory of Gravity. Intelligent Falling.
As I am writing Tom has just been joined by another group of friends and well - there is a lot of very French greeting going on. More excitement than I have seen for a while. There is also a horrible smell of armpit sweat. The kind built up on a long journey to a tiny quiet island in the middle of the Mekong in Southern Laos.
But this is my last night. Tomorrow morning I will catch a bus to Phnom Penh in Cambodia and that is surely not going to be quiet.
The quiz II
My quiz (see "Oh My Buddha") has been tremendously unsuccessful. Only two entries at the moment.
Yup another sunset, but a really nice one.
I promise though that the prize would make it worth giving it a shot. In about ten days I will reveal what the BFCE actually is pick a winner.
P.S. I ran out of time to finish the captions. They will be updated soon.
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