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Irene's Adventures

Laos - Vientiane

LAOS | Friday, 1 January 2010 | Views [506]


Ed still seems to be somewhat lethargic and has low energy.  However, on 30 December we headed off to Vientiane, south of Luang Prabang.  We got our bus ticket from the agency and were told that a tuktuk would pick us up at 8:00 for the 9:00 bus.  At 8:15 Irene went down to the agency, as it was only a block away, and asked where our ride was.  The driver was standing right there and he was put out by my query.  He said he’d be right there. OK, great, now we’re on our way.   After he picked us up he stopped back at the agency to pickup someone else, then on the way to the bus we stopped to pick up yet another couple.  THEN there was something hindering traffic (a van parked in the middle of the road, which is common) We could tell he was starting to panic as he was swerving this way and that to pass whoever was in front of him.  When we got to the bus, we barely had a chance to throw our bags under the bus and we were off.  The tuktuk driver, who seemed to have all the time in the world a few moments ago, basically threw our bags onto the ground and drove off, practically spinning tires.  As was commented before, they don’t seem as friendly here......

Thus began our 11 hour bus ride.  The road was paved, but no less crooked and only somewhat less bumpy.  There were a few occasions where we met a big truck and we had to back up to find a spot to squeeze over so the truck could get by us.  This was usually in a village, as the huts were built right on the edge of the road. This is something that perplexes us.  Rather than building a few meters back from the road, they are practically right on top the road.  Granted, they all seem to be selling something;  Lays potato chips and shampoo (???) but also the local produce.  On this journey it was oranges; mountains and mountains of oranges stacked ever so neatly into pyramids with sacks of oranges on the ground in front of the table.  In some cases, we could understand the need to build so close to the road. This road was even more mountainous than the Luang Nam Tha to Nong Khiaw road.  You certainly did not want to move over too far for oncoming traffic as it was straight down; with no guard rails of course.  These huts are built on the sides of these cliffs.  The front of the hut barely touches the road part and the back of the hut is on stilts holding it up from sliding down the cliff.  It is very precarious looking and we wondered out loud how many of the multitude of children that every village has went over the edge. 

These cliffs were at least 500 meters straight down.  More so than the previous mountains we went through, these mountains were truly made by giant, alien children playing with sand buckets.  They were straight up and straight down, but amazingly, they were not bare rock.  There were trees growing on these cliffs, no doubt in every crack and crevice that held a handful of dirt.  They looked like the sandcastles grew moss, as they were so soft looking from the fine-leafed vegetation. 

After going through hours of mountains we came to a valley that looked like something from an episode of MASH.  Huge lumps of mountains on either side of a lush valley that appeared to be one big tiered rice paddy.  There was mile after mile of rice paddies, all segregated by their little walls to control the water.  It was quite evident that this area was more prosperous than others, as many of the houses were plaster and brick with tin roof, not just bamboo with rattan roof.  An amazing thing that we noticed was that even the romotest villages on this road had electricity.  Albeit, many of the power lines were simply strung on bamboo poles leaning on other trees, they did have electricity, and satellite dishes!!  It was crazy to see these bamboo huts, barley hanging onto the cliff, with an outdoor pump for water (lots of clothes washing and bathing as we passed)and so primitive looking; but satellite dishes and TV’s blaring out of the huts.  Weird.  This brings to mind their love of TV here.  Even in the markets the vendors have a TV hooked up and blaring.  It always seems to be some soap opera.  As a result, the vendors are sometimes hard pressed to serve you.  They usually stand sideways so they can glance over their shoulder at what is happening on the tube while semi-talking with you, or even full on staring at the TV while talking to you.  The curse of modernization.......

The Kiwi lady who ran the cooking school in Luang Prabang has resided there for 15 years and she said that she has noticed a marked difference since the arrival of TV.  She said there never used to be domestic violence but with the onset of TV violence has become quite a problem, as well as the influx of tourists.  She said it used to be a very poor but close knit town.  There were women in here end of town who never even ventured to the other end of town in their whole life.  Ladies with baskets of goods would come by your house every morning, the market came to you, so there was no need to venture out. Tourist money has brought more money, hence they can buy a TV, hence they see violence on TV and act it out; because, after all, it’s on TV so that must be how the rest of the world is and we are poor and not as civilized as them.  The addition of surplus money has also created a drinking problem.  No more need to scratch out a living in the rice paddy, more leisure time, more time to drink.  It is a vicious cycle.  And we westerners consider ourselves to be the leaders of civilization and society...  YIKES!!!!

Ok, get off the soap box....

We arrived in Vientiane around 8:00 pm and got dropped off a block from the guesthouse we had reserved.  No idea why he dropped us off then told us it was a short walk when he was going in that direction anyway; but we got to the guesthouse only to be told we did not have reservation.  ????  At this point we are tired, sore and cranky.  We walked up the street a way and took the first one that was available. 

Irene was simply tired and had eaten some fruit and a bun that she purchased for the journey, so she went straight to bed.  We did stop for lunch but noodle soup does not go a long way.  Ed said he was going to find some food.  In the middle of the night he got a severe attack of diarrhea.  By morning he was throwing up.  We doctored him up with Grapefruit seed Extract and Colloidial Silver and thus he sleeps.  He did notice that every time he has a Lao Beer he gets sick, and he had a beer the previous night.  New Year’s Eve celebrations entailed us going to bed about 7:00 pm, as now Irene’s stomach is dodgy as well...... L

1 January 2010

Ed awoke feeling much better!!:))  We spent the day going to the weird Buddha Park, a temple museum that was not worth the time nor money to see, and the city’s version of Arch de Triumph.  We are killing time waiting for our night bus to Paske – supposedly with real beds!!  From Pakse we will go immediately to Don Dhet.


There probably won’t be any internet access on the island, so for those of you not liking the long and frequent e-mails, you get a reprieve. LOL


Irene & Ed


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