This is a long one, so click through to see the pictures and the rest of the post.
It was time to leave Vangvieng , even though it was a fun place, it functions much like a black hole. You get there, and simply don’t leave. I made sure to get up early (7:00) so that I could catch a morning trip to the capital. When Thad and I were leaving last time we made the mistake of waiting until afternoon, which put us in the city after nightfall.
I went to the station, and found a pick-up truck leaving in 15 minutes so I jumped on board. That is to say, I crawled over the Lao people and squeezed in between an old lady and a little kid. I was the only farang (foreigner) on the pick-up. You know when you see a bunch of Mexicans in the back of a truck and chuckle? Multiply it.
We literally had 24 people in this truck at once. I counted. Four hanging off the back, three across the front seat, and the rest jammed in the bed. My knees were less than two feet away from the woman across from me, and I had a guy with a kid in his lap between us. (who had one of my knees lodged quite tightly in his ribcage… He was on the floor and I was on a two-by-four bench, and I literally could not move enough to get my knee out of his ribcage, but he didn’t seem to mind.)
An hour into this trip all I was thinking about was how badly I wanted to move. Just a little – a full extension of the leg would have been bliss, but I would have settled for the ability to even shift my weight. Moving without killing a Lao was all that was going through my head when the child next to me loudly and violently threw up.
His mother looked at him, looked at me, looked at the rest of the people, then handed him a plastic bag and looked back out the side of the truck. He threw up several times afterwards, but always in the bag. I forgot about movement completely and decided my new goal was to avoid whatever 3rd world plague this child had. Whenever I heard a bout of vomit about to come, I would force my head out the side to avoid inhaling any of the spray.
So yeah… That was my ride to the capital city.
One of the things I noticed last time I was here, but don’t think I mentioned, is how proper all of the business names sound. “P.D. Group Construction Design & Surveying Co., LTD.” And they are all like this. Full name, industry, exact services, followed by Company LTD. Don’t know if they are just proud to finally have real companies or what, but they pay to have the full name written out on every sign and place board.
Once I arrived in the city, I was abruptly switched to a tuk-tuk for the rest of the ride in. Having been told by the driver that it cost 10,000 kip ($1) I knew that it was only 5,000 so I offered him that and he took it, but gave me a look that said don’t try to act like you know what you are doing again. I walked the short distance to the area I had stayed in before, but opted to check out some new guesthouses because my previous accommodations here had been shoddy. The first place I tried led me up four flights of stairs that will be quite impossible later on when I have had any more than one Beer Lao due to their steepness and the fact that at least two slats are missing, and into a single room that was devoid of any inspiration at all. That is, unless you call the single fluorescent bulb and hand drawn rules tacked on the half teal /half once white walls artistic. Sick of carrying my bags, and scared to carry them down the stairs I said ok, and forked over my $4.
On the agenda tomorrow: Mail a lot of stuff to several different people. Get my Cambodia visa. Trade in the stack of books I have been carrying around since Chiang Mai. Visit the US Embassy because I have never been to one in another country before. Book my ticket south.