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Luang Prabang to Vientiane: Liquification

NEW ZEALAND | Thursday, 10 January 2008 | Views [874]

30 December

Since I've only recently penned an open letter to my motivation, I can't very well use this device again by composing an open letter to my internal organs and/or digestional tract and/or whatever foreign organisms may be living in either of the above. If I did, however, it would go like this:

Dear internal organs and/or digestional tract and/or whatever foreign organisms may be living in either of the above:

Please stop making me poo and puke. It's been three days now and it's getting old. I do enjoy my food, but only in one direction. Thanks all the same.


I'm holed up in a hotel room in Vientiane. Vientiane is the capital of Laos. I'm paying capital prices for my hotel room. What I am paying for is to have a comfortable bed in which to writhe in, air conditioning to cool my fevered body as I writhe, a TV to stare blankly at whilst deciding if I need to puke, a fridge so that when I come back from puking I can wash my mouth out with refreshingly icy water, and a clean private bathroom with a toilet that doesn't sing songs of a thousand arses.

Also a power point so that I can whine to my computer.

I came here from Vang Vieng yesterday. Vang Vieng, as described by my guidebook, is as incongruous as Las Vegas in the middle of the desert. It's all about the lights and internet cafes and the bars and guesthouses and bottle after bottle of BeerLao. The reason its such a mecca for backpackers (after all, what Lao person could afford such frivolities?) is the fact that you can hire a giant tyre tube and float down the Nam Song, buying lots of BeerLao at the wood and bamboo bars that flank the river before plunging back into the river from the end of a rope swing.

Yes, it's stupid.

There are other things to do around Vang Vieng that don't revolve around BeerLao (or Lao Lao, or Tiger Whisky), such as rock climbing, caving, kayaking and so forth. But the majority come for the drinking and floating. And that's what I went there for as well.

Actually I mostly went because I had been informed by a very jolly British woman that Vang Vieng was the most fun she had ever had in her life, and because all my travelling companions were heading there. Meh.

We jump on an uber early bus from Luang Prabang and meander our way through more hills and villages and curves and bumps. The little boy in the seat in front of me is practising for his adult life of hoiking and spends a large portion of the trip spitting out the window and invariably catching me in the crossfire. We're on a public bus (as opposed to the fancy schmancy VIP bus) so we again have bags of rice in the aisles, various interesting items strapped to the roof, with the exciting addition of Lao gentlemen carrying extremely large guns tucked into their jackets. These gentlemen sit behind me. I discover later that this is due to a problem with "bandits" on the northern routes. This isn't something I tell my mother.

We arrive in Vang Vieng and acquire Harry the Australian as we hunt for accommodation of a cheap variety, then gravitate towards the river for beers and noodle soup in hammocks beside the river while watching the sun set and engaging in conversation of various degrees of worldliness and depth. Yup, there are worse places to be.

Ahh, Vang Vieng. I did so enjoy your various pleasures for one day. I floated down the Nam Song with my orange umbrella to keep off the sun. Never have I used an umbrella to such comic effect as I did that day. Never have I drunk so much beer and then gone swimming. Never have I so freely admitted my adoration for a Lao girl for the simple fact that she was wearing a cowboy hat. I won't say I've never talked so much crap before, because I absolutely have, but not in recent memory. Never have I been so thankful for a fire as when the sun went down and we'd only progressed about 1km down our 5km route, and we spied a fire on the shore made by a kayaking group and hitched a ride back to town from there. Never has a hot shower felt so good. And so on, and so forth.

And never have I been so rueful of my cheap accommodation choice as the next day when my insides turned to mush. In a situation I've called "barfer's dilemma" I really needed to go puke, but my toilet seat was crawling with giant cockroaches.

I left the next day. Shoved a note under the door to Sebastian, then caught a pickup bus with Geoff who was fleeing the guesthouse before they discovered he'd filled up his wastepaper basket with overindulgence.

All the way to Vientiane. This laid-back capital more reminiscent of a provincial riverside town. The only harassment comes from the tuk tuk drivers who lounge around in hammocks strung up in the back of their vehicles, calling out "tuk tuk! tuk tuk miss?" any time you walk past. Where you can purchase giant barbecued fish and whole chickens from the riverside vendors and have a feast watching the sun go down over Thailand, just across the Mekong. Where you can dine on pastries and croissants and pizzas and more Indian than you'd think possible. Where you can get massages for $3. Hire a bicycle for a whole day for $1. Or do as I'm doing: Get a fancy hotel room with no cockroaches and then lie around in bed watching HBO (hallelujah).

Dear body.

Please get better soon. I promise I'll be kinder to you in future.

Love, Aletta.

Tags: On the Road

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