Thursday, July 10, 2008

Forgot to Buy the T-Shirt

After having the time of our lives mudbiking our way around the Vang Vieng loop, the following morning we left town and Vang Vieng's "Spring Break/ Girl's Gone Wild" scene behind us then head north to LauPraBang. We'd planned to do more mountain biking--slipping and sliding our way over more unreliable footbridges and plowing through more pot holes which had turned to gravelly ponds.

On our way out of town, Kevin and his traveling companion Bilbo stopped off somewhere up ahead to tank up. I went past them not knowing or caring what had happened to them.

I had a gut feeling that I would never again have to sit with Bilbo when a tab arrived and watch her turn into that other creature, the hunchbacked hissy one, as she bent over the bill and went into a meltdown over who did or didn't have that second cup of coffee which added an extra 35 "precious" cents to the bill.

I rode for an hour, alone, in the mist, when my moment of epiphany arrived. I'd seen enough. I'd completed my to do list and if I turned the bike around, I could head back to Vientiane alone. Better than alone. On my own according to my schedule. I'd seen enough of Southeast Asia. I've seen it all. More than once. It was time to say goodbye.

Goodbye to the villages no longer untouched by Showtime, HBO, Star Movies or CNN.

Goodbye to the children working side-by-side with their parents until it's time to quit or until Power rangers comes on, whichever comes first.

Goodbye to the bus stop tourist traps which are not scheduled stops but are a necessary cog in the economy--they may lack clinics and schools but you'll usually find an ATM and some sort of burger on a menu.

To the monkey poop infested rivers.

To the side order of Salmonella with your noodles and beer.

And to the cats grown fat on gecko meat.

I've trekked up its mountains. Rafted its rivers. Drunk its drinks. Smoked its smoke. Strummed its strumpets.

Listened to the songs of the families working the fields.

So--now it's time to say goodbye to all of this "useless beauty".

And to start hanging with white folks again, maybe buy that house in Greece.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

War Wounds

Vang Vieng is cluttered with backpackers and adventure water sports for pussies. Tubing is considered an extreme river trip.

We biked around Hmong villages today and both K.and I received limp-worthy injuries from spills on muddy roads.

I'd been meaning to shave that leg anyway.

Well dressed laceration

Bolts holding Kevin's bones together from his last accident try to see sunlight after he nearly went head over heels over Honda into a river on a long, unforgiving footbridge overnot a raging one, but one that was mildy irked about something.

Vang Vieng is nice enough.Unlike Cambodia, I have yet to see a beggar with a prosthetic limb hobbling around the streets.

Luangprabang is north of here. Another 6 -7hours on mountain roads. Remote. It's where we're
going tomorrow.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Gimme One Reason to Come Down off the Mountain

Originally, I'd wanted to travel to Vientienne by first going back to Bangkok then catching an express train. However, Mr. K saw what looked like a quicker route on the map by heading north and exiting Cambodia through a no-horse town on the border. We passed through immigration quick enough seeinhs the place was a ghost town, but because this is a rarely if ever used route from Cambodia to Laos through Thailand, there were no hoardes of touts to meet us on the other side, pulling and pushing us this a'way and that a'way towards a taxi or even a tuk-tuk. We ended up spending a couple of hours at a petrol station where two plumply Thai women watched soap operas and scarfed down pork rinds.

I am grateful I was with me, with us. Realizing that no traffic passed through this junction--ever-- except for the odd rice farmer and stray water buffalo, I went into action.

Nobody in our party of three had any Thai baht. But I did have a Ben Franklin and since he was and remains one famous statesman slash inventor slash horn dog, he's exchangeable the world over. I asked the chubby soap fans if they'd exchange my Ben Franklin for 28 baht on the dollar. The rate is closer to 29.5. They stood to make about six bucks, so sure, why not?

Suddenly, we had local monies. Next, we needed a ride.

I walked to the petrol pumps where a Thai-ess was trying to keep the flies out of her noodles, and I asked if she knew anyone who would drive us to the nearest bus station some 130 kilometers down the road a piece. S'happens, here brother has a truck and he had the afternoon off.

She made a phone call, and five minutes later, K., Sara and I along with our gear were stacked in the back of the pick up and we were on our way to something resembling civilization. That reminds me--my companions owe me four dollars fitty cent a piece.

We sat in the first bus station three hours. The next five hours. Eventually, we puddled jumped bus stops all night long arriving in Laos around 10 this morning. Sleepless, hungry and stanky.

K. said next time, he's going to BKK and taking the exspress train to lLaos. I almost told him, "I told you so," but he's a sharp feller and it didnt need to be said. His phrasing of "Next tme" indicated contrition.

This morning we scouted around town to rent our cross country bikes.

I found a single cylinder, four stroke Yamama TW 200 ccm. The clutch is a bit sticky and the throttle is too hyperactive, so it tend to rocket on take offs, but the brakes are fine and the new tires will take mountain turns well.

I haven't snapped a photo, but natch went to Google images and found one, the bike I'm taking, same color even.

There are helmet laws in Laos which is a good thing because I have 'nother reason to come home safely now to the lovely missus Oliver and our 7 felines: I found the fifth and final season of "The Wire" in Bangkok! Omar has come out of his island paradise (despite its lack of Honeynuts) and despite a compound fracture he got leaping from an 8th floor window to elude an ambush, and now he has Marlo watching his back. Hated to see Prop Joe get touched. And McNulty has really done it this time inventing faux sexual serial killers who prey on homeless men, cases he's contrived for publicity trying to get a funding bump in the Marlo investigation budget. Bunk, his bestest bud, continues to be a mensch doing the police work properly. I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but I'm dying to know--because as much as she deserves it, I hope Snoop doesn't get got. Chris, on the other hand, needs to be got. Cold blooded mother fucker.