Lao PDR is a country that many people know little about; I mean who knew that there is no “s” on the end? The s was added by the French. Here’s a few more Lao Quick Facts before we get started. Lao PDR (Peoples Democratic Republic) is the name the Lao people call their country. In addition, people who live in Lao are not “laotian” they are Lao people. (Another moniker decided by foreigners, this time by the Americans). Lao is the poorest country in Southeast Asia, it also has the very sad distinction of being the most heavily bombed country in the world. yes, the world. So who would drop a gazillion tons of bombs on the poorest country in southeast asia? America, that’s who. And guess what, they weren’t even at war with us. AND we haven’t even attempted to help clean up the mess. I’ll write more about that in another post, most likely entitled “the most depressing & unjust things I have seen so far”, on second thought maybe I should re-think that title…..
So yes, there is some depressing shit about Lao, but it’s also amazing. The locals are warm & friendly (except in Vang Vien, and who can blame them really?), the scenery is spectacular & the food, ah, the food, is delicious. This post by Adventurous Kate should shed a little light on Vang Vien’s “culture” & why it’s not my scene.
Travel in Lao is not particularly easy. The roads are winding & rough. There are no trains. The buses are in need of repair, and,naturally, destinations are far apart. So, after a few long & bumpy bus/boat/tuk tuk rides I landed in the southern most point of Lao. The area known as 4000 islands. There are a handful of populated bucolic islands in the middle of the Mighty Mekong just north of the Cambodian border. There are waterfalls, and the rare Irawaddy river dolphins and tranquility and… weed. Lot’s of weed. (Happy shakes, happy pizza, happy cookies, c’mon everyone get happy).Travelers come here to watch the world go by, usually in hammock. Most stay longer than they plan, some never leave at all. I am a little concerned that I find myself content here.
I managed to score, serendipitously, a perfect bungalow on the water, with requisite hammock, comfortable bed, clean ensuite bathroom, free WiFi and all the cold beer lao I can drink. All for the amazing price of 8 USD.
There are 4 bungalows & we inhabitants are an odd mix of characters. The business is owned by a sad, alcoholic American. Think Mickey Roark in Barfly. The place is managed & run by a charming & young Lao family, and like any guesthouse in asia there are several cats & dogs milling about.
Our motley group consists of me, & a tall, skinny & hirsute Brazilian I call yeti. He has a massive head of hair & full beard. He has tattoos on his nipples. I know this because yeti doesn’t wear shirts. He spends his days with headphones on, staring at his netbook. Occasionally, he will laugh, a silly high-pitched giggle, like an 6 year old boy who’s heard new fart joke. He drinks a lot of beer lao & his diet seems to consist solely of mashed potatoes. He is an enigma.*
There are also the middle-aged gay germans. They are friendly hippies & always worried that the food will be “too much spicy”. There is another german couple here. They are young, in love & cute as they can be. They don’t hang out much with me & the boys.
I pass the days mostly by reading & napping. I took a boat out to see the dolphins & the waterfalls. (That was a BIG day). I sometimes ride into the village on my pink bicycle with basket & bell,to buy toilet paper & laundry soap, but that’s also big day out.
And so it goes: today blends into tomorrow, and tomorrow the next day. same same. The island will remain much as it has for sometime, the bungalows will see more travelers coming & going. All of us trying to capture some down time in paradise before we have to hit the road again…..
*The day after I wrote the text for this post, Yeti skulked away in the middle of the night, leaving quite a hefty bill. He is no enigma. He is a creep & an asshole & a thief.