THE LOOP - day 2

Trip Start Jun 25, 2011
Trip End Dec 24, 2011

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Bolikhamxai,
Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    We awake to Mr Sabaidee's huge breakfast (amazing) and as we are his only customers, he fusses over us and asks, 'good?' every few seconds. He tells us to keep in touch and we exchange emails. We say fond goodbyes and head out for the supposedly difficult part of the loop, 5 hours to Lak Sao.

The first part is rocky and bumpy, pot holes not dissimilar to the ones on the first day. The scenery is breath taking, with the haunting flooded trees on our right, and dense jungle on our left. After a while We become submerged in jungle, and the path narrows. For over 2hrs we see only 2 locals on bikes drive past and a truck of Lao workers who give us the thumbs up as we dodge them coming round a sharp corner. We stop a few times to take in the view and realise that we are also rising up a mountain, as we peer through the jungle and look down at the view below. At one point. a huge black snake slithers right in front of our bikes and we have to swerve to miss it. After a few hours we pass through some small dusty villages and the road widens. We stop for a cigarette and as we do, a dutch couple coming the opposite way spot us and stop. They are doing the loop the other way round from us and their bike looks muddy, they say that we arent far off (a couple of hours to go) but that it does get very muddy so to be careful. We arent worried, but we should be.

    We start descending down the mountain and enter a small village. We are met with a strip which is the width of the road that is sloppy watery mud. There are plenty of locals driving bikes over it (some as young as 12 and some with their whole family sitting behind them) and their aint no other direction, other than backwards, so we carry on. Jo leads and cleverly gets behind a local, as they seem to know what they are doing. At some points we drive through huge puddles dipping right down into them as there is no way of knowing how deep they are and the bikes slide and slip in the mud. After half an hour or so we seem to be doing ok... until it happens. Claire decides to be clever. Which ultimately ends in her looking really fucking stupid.
    As Jo concentrates on following the path of the 12 year old girl in front of her, Claire spots a patch of dry mud on the side that looks untouched. 'Silly Jo.' She thinks 'and silly locals! there is a dry patch here, it'll save me from getting splashed for five seconds.' However as she drives her bike onto it, she finds herself sinking into it. Obviously, he instant thought is to rev the bike harder (maybe so it will magically fly over the mud?!) but this just causes her to sink further. By the time she admitts defeat the bike is so deep in mud that the wheels are only just visable above the surface. Shit.
    After Claire throws her bag on the floor and quietly (and out of ear shot) threatens to punch the laughing children driving past Jo (sort of) calms her down and the next half an hour is spent desperately pulling, pushing and scraping mud away from the wheels. At several points we nearly lose our selves in the mud as our feet dissapear into it, but after a scruggle we somehow manage to get it out. The rest of the mud riding is done in silence and very, very slowly.
    We finally make it to Lak Sao after another hour, and although Claire's exhaust was spitting mud for most of the journey the bike miraculously is still working. However as soon as we get onto good road Claire notices that her front tire is as flat as a pancake. We stop to get it fixed (25,000Kip which is about $3) and the men laugh at us for clearly not knowing what we are doing. Before we leave one guy says to Claire, "are you married?" and she says, "yes. yes I am."
    We decide to push through to Koun Kham which is about 1.5 hours onwards. The road is good and we rise and fall with the mountains, averaging about 50km/hr and love every second. We even laugh at the mud fiasco.
    As we enter Koun Kham, we pass a huge fenced off area of smart looking identical bungalows. It is a hydroelectric plant and the bungalows are for staff. The small houses look really modern and fancy and are in stark contrast to the rest of Koun Kham. We drive down the main strip and find a room for 60,000K.
    Koun Kham is tiny and quiet and we don't spot many other travellers at all. We have dinner across the street from the guesthouse and eat sticky rice and vegetables sitting on a wonky bench made of bamboo. There are three 'tables' at this 'restaurant', one with us, one empty and the other taken up by the woman who runs it along with her seemingly endless amount of sisters. She sits with us once we have finished eating, and although she doesn't speak a word of English we have a basic conversation with our little Lao, gestures and her younger sister who knows a little englsih from school.
    After dinner we head further down the road to a bar we passed, for a beer. As soon as we walk up we are faced with a 65 year old fat ex-pat british guy who says, "ok!" (weird.) "join me! I live here!" He is obviously eccentric and introduced himself as Wobbly Bobby. He has the presense and looks a little like Monty from 'Withnail and I.' He doesn't need much encouraging to break into a barrage of information about his life and his travels with work, he even goes into his seperation with his wife in England within about 5 minutes of talking. He has been in Laos for 6 years and seems to love it. We quickly discover why. He is picking up a takeaway dinner for him and his brother and sister in law who are visiting. When he realises that he doesn't have enough money on him, he makes a phonecall. "Bring me some Kip, yes, good girl, ok." And in a few moments his 26yr old Lao wife, Pah shows up. And suddenly we realise we are meeting one of the men we have seen and talked about all over SE Asia. Then he says, "Why don't you girls come back for a drink, my sister in law will be glad for the company." When we ask him where he lives he says, "in the complex at the end of the road." He works for the hydroelectric plant. We agree and go back to get our bikes thinking, he seems horrid, but this will be fascinating.
We drive back down to the bar to meet them, (Wobbly Bobby wrapped in ridiculous leather making him look even fatter than he is and sitting on an equally ridiculous dirt bike, and Pah being forced to carry about 6 bags of takeaway on her little bike) and we follow them into the gated complex, the guard waving us through.
    Walking into the house we feel like we are walking into Ikea. Wobbly Bobby puts a Phil Collins dvd on his flat screen tv, and turns it up loud. His brother and sister in law are like cartoon characters. The brother, Charlie, is taller but just as fat as Bob, and his wife (also fat) wearing a dress that has her boobs nearly sagging out, and a beautiful set of wonky teeth. They are both heavily sunburned. Beautiful Pah, who hasn't said much, is straight to work sorting out the food. (this includes, chips, steak, deep fried fish and two bowls of lao soup filled with vegetables - these are only touched by Pah.) Wobbly Bobby tells Pah to "cut up the steak, my darkling!" To which the whole table (except Pah) break into laughter. We are then told that 'Darkling' means Monkey bum, in Lao. Niiiiice.
    Phil Collins blares in the background while they eat and drink Rose wine and Cava. (classy.) Pah eats in silence, only pushing Wobbly Bobby's hand away ever now and again as he tries to rub her thigh. It is clear that Charlie and his wife don't apprieciate Lao culture in any way. They have been staying with Bob for three weeks and look at us in sheer amazement when we say that we enjoy the food and the hairy bus rides. "But they like too much food cold! Its not like getting a Chinese or Thai takeaway at home is it?" No. It isn't. Mainly because its a different country... we think. (During our riveting conversation, we notice that Wobbly Bobby has now got Pah clipping his fingernails.) Other comments like, "they do everything in the rivers, don't they", and Bob saying, in reference to Thailand, "I don't like seeing older westerners and young Thai girls together, it's disgusting. Although Im doing it, I don't like to see it." We make our excuses and leave. Fascinating.
    Although we made an effort to speak to Pah during the meal, because nobody else did, she didn't seem very interested. And we leave thinking, well why the hell should she?

    We go back to the guesthouse with some real food for thought. Outside we chat with 4 Germans (two guys and two girls) who are doing the loop the other way around, and we pass on the warning about the mud. Everybody has a good laugh at Claire for being an idiot and we tell them about Wobbly Bobby and his house of freaks down the road. After a while a Lao tour guide who is stopping with his group at the guesthouse stops with us for a chat. We chat about the Lao language, taking the opportunity of his great English. It is a beautiful but complex language, and he explains that the tonal aspect of it is far more important than we anticipated. When Claire tries out her, "Koy Boh Kin Sin" (I don't eat meat) the guy falls about laughing. He explains that the word 'Koy' does mean 'I' or 'me' but can also mean other things if said in a different way. He says, "Listen, Koy (slightly higher pitch) Koy, (flatter pitch) Koy and Koy (some other pitch)" He then breaks the news to Claire that she has in fact been saying, "Penis no eat meat." 'No wonder', she thinks, 'some reactions from locals have seemed one of mild shock, and I thought they were impressed by a falang speaking perfect Lao'. How wrong she was. After some laughter, again towards Claire, we say goodnight by saying "Penis no eat meat" and head to bed.

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sophie on

wobbly bobby. what a disgusting excuse for a man.
honestly sounds like a character in a novel

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