Trip Start Nov 14, 2010
17Trip End Dec 22, 2010
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I woke up at about 5 in the morning to the sound of pouring rain, and as I write this at 9:30, it's still raining. I hope this rain brings with it the cool weather that I came here to experience.
Because of the constant rain I just stayed in my room for the morning - reading, working on my blog and watching Garry Shandling shows that I downloaded a few weeks ago and brought with me on this trip. I only recently discovered Garry Shandling when he starred in a movie that I thought was brilliant: "What Planet Are You From?". Since then I discovered that he had been a famous comedian with his own shows for many many years. I was out of the US when he was popular, which is why I had never heard of him.
I had breakfast in my room as usual (peanut butter and blueberry jam on whole wheat bread), went out to the morning market to buy some apples, and as I was trying to decide whether to go back to my room to drop off the apples I was made an offer that I couldn't refuse: A vehicle was about to leave for an excursion to the big waterfall. It had four passengers on board and needed at least one more to make the trip worthwhile (for the driver - from a financial perspective). I hesitated because it was 11:30 and getting close to lunch time and the tour wouldn't be back to town until 15:00, by which time I would certainly be starving. In the end, though, the convenience was too much for me to resist so I hopped on and joined the four French tourists on the truck for the trip.
Normally being the lone native English speaker in the presence of four Frenchies would be overwhelming, but in this case all four of them spoke good English, came from an interesting variety of backgrounds and were all intelligent, friendly and willing to converse.
One of them was born in Hungary and only recently acquired French citizenship. He left Hungary for Belgium with his family when he was eight years old due to his father objecting to the socialist idea of a physicist (like himself) earning the same salary as an uneducated, unskilled worker
His girlfriend is of Algerian descent and she had the most improbably long eyelashes I have ever seen on a human being. In Thailand, the girls wear fake eyelashes these days – but they still don't compare to the real ones of this young woman.
The other couple are on a one-year round-the-world trip. The woman of the couple had to return to France for a few months after breaking her ankle on a fall down some stairs in Mongolia. She has significantly recovered by now and has rejoined her boyfriend for the rest of the trip.
We had a very interesting discussion about a variety of topics on the 45-minute ride to the waterfall. At the waterfall site, which had a number of different levels, we were given 2 hours to look around and take pictures before meeting the driver back at the parking lot for the drive back to town. (Photos of the Falls attached.)
Back in town, I headed straight for the same place that I had lunch yesterday and had the same ginger chicken dish that I had the last time as well
As agreed, I went back to the hamburger restaurant at about 18:00 to pick up my wedding invitation (photo also attached), but I didn't eat there because I wasn't hungry yet and besides, I'm getting a bit bored with hamburgers (believe it or not), as good as they are.
Just as I was leaving the burger joint to go back into the center of town, it started raining. It's really not supposed to rain at this time of the year, but it rained yesterday all morning as well. The rain was so relentless that I couldn't eat at the outside buffet at the night market as I had intended.
While walking around waiting for it to stop raining, I ran into one of the very nice German couples from my boat ride a few days ago. I sat with them and we had a very entertaining conversation while I had dinner there. They told me a funny story about America by a German comedian. In America it is forbidden to smoke inside - and to drink outside. So this German, wanting to both smoke and drink at the same time, stood in the door of an establishment, with his drinking hand inside of the place and his smoking hand outside - in order to comply with the American laws
The dinner was disappointing as they didn't have what I wanted to eat so I ended up eating something that was very similar to what I had for lunch – which I'm getting tired of as well. This German couple will be in Bangkok in a couple of weeks and by coincidence they have booked a hotel one street away from mine so if I'm home when they are there, I'll have them over to my place for dinner.
Shortly after leaving the restaurant, I ran into the other German couple (the one from Berlin) that I've been seeing since we first met on the boat crossing the river from Thailand into Laos. We hung out together talking and shopping as they spent their last Lao money before they fly to Bangkok early tomorrow morning.
Woke up at around 8 and did my usual morning routine of having breakfast in my room and performing my morning ablutions. I was finally ready to go out for a walk by 10 – at which time it started raining – again. Not to be deterred, I went for my walk anyway – and it rained for the entire two hours of my perambulation
Near the end of my walk, on the outskirts of town, I was approached by a couple of Scotsmen who had just arrived in town late last night and who didn't know where they were. They asked me to direct them to the center of town and, being both and old hand in town by now as well as a generally friendly and helpful guy, I walked them over to the area with a large selection of guesthouses. We had a nice chat along the way and I found out that they work in the oil business back in Scotland and are in Asia for a vacation. One of the guys had a stitches and a swollen head from diving into the river at Vang Vieng. That's a town half way between Luang Prabang and the capital, Vientiane. Mostly young people go there to get drunk and go tubing and diving into a rock-filled river. Every year a certain number of them get maimed, paralyzed and even killed because of the misguided belief that “bad things can't happen to me while I'm on vacation”.
Disgusted by the non-stop rain, I went back to my room to try to dry off and to read. Unfortunately the book that was in my backpack got soaked. Fortunately, I happen to have an eBook version of this novel - and having to resort to it when the paper version got wet gave me another idea: Night time is the time when I most often want to read. However, most of the hotel rooms in this part of the world do not have lighting sufficient to read by. The solution? To read the same books at night on my computer that I read during the day out in the park in paperback version
Speaking of this novel (The Museum of Innocence, by Orhan Pamuk - mentioned earlier in this blog) it is really one of the greatest love stories I've ever read. It reminds me of the crazy things that I used to do when I was young and in love. It also makes me realize how much the capacity to love is programmed into us - as a way of tricking us into "mating". This is yet another way mother nature ensures that we propagate the species. If it were left up to rational thought, people just wouldn't do it. And since I am finally beyond the age by which mother nature intended me to have children, my capacity to love as insanely and intensely as the character in the above-mentioned novel is likewise greatly diminished. I simply cannot imagine myself feeling love so intensely as is written about in this book any longer at my age - for better or for worse.
Later in the evening I ran into the same couple of Scotsmen on the main street and we once again got into a conversation – mostly about women – and we decided to continue our talk in a nearby restaurant over a beer. One of the conclusions of our conversation is that marriage makes no sense whatsoever for men. It has a lot of downside - and very little upside.