Wednesday, March 20, 2013


There's been a delay in post so I haven't received your last letter, if you've sent it- so i'll tell you of my last days in Udomxai (ooo-dumb-sigh)and my journey to Laung Namtha (long-nam-tah). And even though I'm not touring the landscape since I can't really see it anyway, as I'll never tire of complaining, about the haze, I suppose the most ordinary events become the experience.

Being picked up on by a sheepish and drunk French man, only to be propositioned again by an older French man named Daniel, who as he left, just had to suggest that since we were alone we could enjoy each others company together. I laughed as you know, and waved him away- it's all about approach I guess, and an accent, because in any other context I would've been like, Creep! Even now I think it's a bit outrageous, but nevermind, somehow the disarming was right so that I wasn't aghast to his face, just amused and charmed. Oh the French!

Anyway, the next day I did infact switch hotels, for the better, and a Christian family who live in Laos invited me to come with them and another couple to a waterfall (as the dad saw me hobbling by and asked what happened). The gate was locked into the preserve so we crawled under the fence, and stopped by the small river instead. We played settlers of catan and it was a funny good time playing with people who could be my parents. Though the dad was nervous I was a reporter and then the son, and his anti-LA sentiment came bristling out (with the "your kind of music" comment)- as if he's ever even met a local. I am going to be one of those people as I get older- oh I'm sorry, have you met someone from LA or just a whole bunch of people from somewhere else living in LA. It's totally different. Of course objectively going off with complete strangers, in a car, into a remote forest preserve with a hurt foot and no phone... well there's my risktaking. A benign day by all accounts thankfully, despite the dead mosquitos on my fried khiew. So I stayed on the next day, just so I could hobble to the postoffice and buy an overpriced and terrible coffee drink and get hit on again- obviously.

After that I got up and managed to walk to the bus station- grab a good seat- and met my next travel partner Elena from Ireland. Which gave me someone to widen my eyes with when we stopped in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road to let the small bus cool down- and for the driver to ask us if he could take our waters to put in the engine... um, sure. We went slow, it wouldn't slip into gear, we stopped a few more times, once the guys all got out and pushed us, another guy got a bloody nose by the side of the road and started pushing leaves up into his nostril. I handed him some tissue as the blood was leaking out of the leaves and onto everything as he got back on the bus.

Then after what was suppose to be a beautifully paved road experience of fast travel we limped into town after over 4 hours on the road- oh but no, outside of town, 10kilometeres outside of town! which to varying degrees they do this to you in all of Laos (!^*#&$(*! So that you have to bargain and usually get ripped off by these tuk-tuk drivers (who if they weren't forced into this bizarre middle man position we'd likely pay them more in the long run)- they're like motorbikes with caged wagons attached basically. So we hop off the bus and usually there's some hearty discussion and one guy quoted us a price that was what everyone pays and then another guy comes rushing over and basically ups the price by degrees and soon they're all locked into overcharging us. The maddening thing is it's only for $1 or so. That's the problem. I asked two different people, the coffee shop guy who spoke a little English and I even engaged the bus drivers help- and they all gave me these fucking sheepish grins- and assured me that I was paying the same as Lao people- 10,000.Which is about $1.2 But neither of them would interfere with the mafia. Cowards! Technically with more people the price should drop to 5,000. But the guy with the one eye, mcfuckingshifty wasn't willing to take us into town for less than 20,000 each. Keep in mind our 4 hour bus ride cost 40,000. So you can see the astronomical nature of the price. Since the trip into town took maybe 5 minutes. It was weird and unusual because neither of us would back down and frustrating because Elena was unwilling to walk or to hitchhike- since I didn't want to give them the satisfaction. And I think we were all surprised that we weren't willing to overpay.

The bus driver told us that another bus was coming- in 20minutes (read an hour later) and then they'd take us. So Elena almost caved and having her with me was suddenly extremely annoying since even with my foot I would've hobbled down the road and found my way despite those assholes. And then after another 1/2 hour there were more falang to rip off and we all were on our way. I stared daggers at the ones who knew better and if I see them again I will say shame on you and wag my finger since they knew full well they were being jerks- bcs there's always one guy with a conscience and those are the ones you have to shake your head at. Meanwhile trash is being thrown out of windows into the forests, and onto the sidewalk and at my feet at the bus station, and a guy carrying around a dead raven that his bus had hit, and what was surely going to be dinner. They're just living by a different code out here- As frustrating as it is. What can you do. You take a stand. It's usually over something fucking stupid like a $1. That's what you get for being principled sometimes, and for being too accommodating in others- Because none of it is really OK. But you try to let it be until it's just not.

Elena did get to meet some Irish people which made her happy and I was able to crack a joke saying, we almost broke up over the tuk-tuk drivers, and we'd only just met on the bus. To which they replied, that's one of the fastest relationships in history. We all laughed and met up for dinner. We walked out to see floating lanterns with a warm orange color wafting up into the night like a fairytale, and then I had some amazing papaya salad, and a not watered down fruitshake! And while the woman in the market was trying to overcharge me for bananas and another woman was eating from someone elses plate, and I couldn't help wonder what the crazy womans deal was from the last town- as she ran around as crazy people do, half exposed, and nipping off the heads of plants and wearing eccentric hats, I can't help but think, ok Laos, let's play nice. There's some charm here and there, like the woman carrying her pet cats in a bucket on her back, and the baby puppies and the flowers in bloom. You and I are going to end on fine terms. A generous breakfast, a nice hotel, cost splitting and saving with Elena. 2 or 3 more full days... depending on when the plane goes. And then Home.

Let's all take a nap and meet up for lunch.
My love to you from THIS place,



bruckner said...

Believe it or not, I actually agree with your show of carnal restraint in this post and the previous (not that your corruptibility was truly tested in either instance). Neither of these men sound like the tall, dark stranger with an interesting upbringing and soothing accent that I have envisioned for you.

Then again, I do feel the need to point out that you are not getting any younger.

m said...