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Running away from Home

Keep on rollin' with the good karma

LAOS | Thursday, 18 March 2010 | Views [473]

I was awake ten minutes before my alarm went off at 5:00am. I didn’t know what time the sun would rise, but I figured it wouldn’t be up before 6:00. Right around the time the sky over the Mekong turned gray I climbed on my rented bicycle and pedaled down the road towards Wat Phu Champasak. This is a world-heritage listed Khmer-style temple that was built in the mid 5th century. The entrance for the ruins was about 10km away from my guesthouse. The road was blessedly flat. It was an easy bicycle ride in the warm morning air, but it took a little longer than I expected. By the time I reached the site the sun was an orange ball suspended over the Mekong flood plane. I missed the very first light of day, but there is still good light to be had in the morning when you have a temple that faces east. It was also a thrill to have the place to myself.

The admission to the temple is 30,000LAK, but there is no one to sell tickets until 8:00am. The gate was unlocked when I got there so I went on in. Do the Laos rely that heavily on the honor system? When I asked the bike owner if he had a lock that I could borrow so that no one would steal it, he told me not to worry about it. “No one will take it.” Ironically enough, even though there was no one selling tickets at 6:15am there was someone posted outside the bathrooms to collect my 1,000 Kip if I needed to answer a call of nature. I could have been in and out of Wat Phu Champasak without paying 30,000LAK, but for some reason, I went back to pay it. Since I am a novice traveler I have to rely on the kindness of strangers as well as good karma to get me where I want to go. Besides, I wanted to get a look at the museum that sits just inside the entrance, and that doesn’t open until 8:00. I’m glad I did too. It is by far the most informative exhibit that I have seen. I was always curious about the fact that Khmer temples started out as places to worship Hindu gods and ended up as Buddhist temples. I got some of my questions answered. Maybe not 30,000LAK worth, but……

I had been interested in doing a homestay while I was in Laos, but now, because of impending feminine circumstances, I am a bit reluctant. However, I think that I got the best of both worlds in my choice of guesthouse. I have my own bathroom and a lock on the door, but the family that runs the place carries on their lives in the common area right outside of my room. I can hear conversations, arguments, and the laughter and cries of children. I am starting to feel like the stand-offish teenage daughter who just wants to be left alone. I am sure that the family wouldn’t mind if I went out and sat with them during their afternoon respite from the sun and heat, but that’s just not my style.

As for the dining options in Champasak. Much like the Mekong itself, the tourism trade seems to have been reduced to a trickle and the atmosphere here is so laid back that I cannot tell if a restaurant is even open just by looking inside. Most places seem deserted. I dined tonight in the small restaurant outside of my guesthouse and the quality of food…..well, have you ever eaten a meal that was so bad you had to go and get food afterward to get the taste out of your mouth even though you weren’t hungry anymore? It was that bad, but tomorrow is another day and I have a ticket to go to Si Phan Don where I will find a guesthouse where there are no small children, and hopefully some better choices in dining.

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