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Running away from Home

My Don Khong bicycle tour

LAOS | Sunday, 21 March 2010 | Views [335]

I felt a bit sorry for the old woman with dark sun-beaten skin and even darker teeth, and so I rented my bike from her. She was just set up in the shade on the main drag in town and she was competing with all of the guesthouses for clients. I could see that her bikes were a little older, but the road was flat and it was just for the day. What could go wrong? I found out that the old woman must not maintain her bikes very well because my rear tire had a slow leak…..something that I didn’t realize until I was on the other side of the island trying to pedal in the midday sun with a gimpy back tire.

Around 10:00am the folks in southern Laos go looking for escape from the sun and heat so they were a bit amazed to see a white woman pedal past their house. Amazed, but very friendly. The children especially got a kick out of greeting the albino stranger, “sa bai dee,” they shouted to me. I returned the greeting and waved, even as I struggled to keep the bike moving forward. The road around Don Khong is 32 km long and I would have done the full lap if it weren’t for that doggone tire. I was able to find a small town on the sunset side of the island (my hotel is on the sunrise side) and I was able to rein late it there, but considering the luck that I have had recently, I took the road that cuts through the island so that I wouldn’t tempt fate.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of this ride. I thought it might be a good idea to leave my camera alone for a few days to see if it will dry thoroughly and get back to working order. I don’t know…… I promised myself that I wouldn’t make the decision to replace it until I got to Phnom Penh and I could do some comparison shopping. The added expense is going to put me way over budget.

I spent the afternoon relaxing on the shaded porch at the Villa Kang Khong. The colonial-mansion-turned-hotel is so quiet, but at least the owners do not chase you around trying to sell tour packages or bus rides to Cambodia. There was another fellow on the porch who seemed uneasy with the quiet. We chatted for a while and exchanged notes about our travels and our plans. He liked my Midwestern accent. I liked his travel stories. We got along well together. He is the second Dutch person that I have met that has an Italian name. What a wonderfully peculiar coincidence. Around 6:00pm I announced my intentions to go to Mr. Pon’s restaurant to get some dinner and try a laolao cocktail. He asked if he could join me, and we spent the evening swapping stories and slapping mosquitoes. Every now and then I thought about the possibility of malaria, but maybe the laolao was more than a potent cocktail. Maybe it is a defense against malaria and that is why the locals drink it. What happens to a mosquito when they get a nip from someone who is inebriated anyway? Do they fly in a drunken flight pattern until they hit a wall or a light bulb? By 11:00pm my Dutch friend had finished his last beer, and we had exhausted all conversation topics. I was ready to be alone again, but I am glad that he has added me to his very long list of friends (a true, true extrovert).

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