The Reason Valium was Invented

Trip Start Jan 12, 2013
Trip End Feb 27, 2013

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Where I stayed
Inthira Hotel

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Khammouan,
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The reason Valium was invented was for bus travel in Southeast Asia.  My god.  I must be insane or stupid, or both, to continue to believe that the 'next' bus trip will be better.  Maybe I should try drugs...something with an amnesic in it so I forget these days. The ordeal of it all is just mind-boggling. 

First you catch a ferry off the island...but you can't....or at least you don't know why everyone already has tickets and you don't.  Why do they have these?  They got them from a travel agency.  Realizing you might miss the bus because you were late on the ferry you race up and purchase an overpriced ticket to your destination---Thakek only to return to the sand and...wait.  Arrive to the mainland amongst what I would describe is orderly chaos---but that is being generous with my description.  Guess what?  We wait some more.  Two hours past scheduled departure we get on a bus....but we don't leave.  We wait...and turn the bus at 1pm into a full on sauna.  Talk about having to go to your 'happy place'.  The air-con is just a tease.  It was so hot.  I simply placed my hands in my lap, shut my eyes, and practiced 'breathing'.  This could not last forever.  It just couldn't.  By sheer probability, I knew that I likely wouldn't die of suffocation on that bus...people survive for days in the desert...I could survive an interminable amount of time inside a metal bus. 

Finally, they shove more people on the bus so that they must bring extra chairs on and put them in the aisle.  When we actually started moving, the bus erupted in applause.  Now, I know I've been on planes before when this has happened, but in SE Asia where delays, overcrowding, and heat are the norm, it takes A LOT to get people aroused in this manner.  To me, it indicated just how insufferable it was for everyone else as well!

At some point later, we are shuffled to another bus.  It's a nice bus.  And, to be fair it's not really the buses' faults.  It's the roads and people mostly.  They just cram as much stuff and people on board as possible and don't crank the AC.  Then, the roads literally rattle you to death.  It's like being on a wooden roller coaster for 10 hours.  We made countless stops yesterday/last night.  I've never been on a bus that made so many stops.  I thought we were commuting to work.  To 'entertain' us, they played DVD's on the TV which consisted of karaoke and a terrible comedy show.  The issue was that the volume was at a level deaf people could hear and the speaker was right next to my ear.  My ears were physically hurting inside.  Hours of this.  Hours.  We had no food. The only option was full chickens filleted on a stick, which I had no idea how to eat.  At a few stops, the women actually barrel onto the bus shouting and shoving their full chickens in your face.  I couldn't even hardly get off the bus to go use the restroom.  Couldn't even get rice.  I had two Pepsi's to eat yesterday.  Yes, 2 Pepsis.  Those of you that know me know what a wreck I must have been internally.  I really feel like this is a Westerner's regime of purification.  How young boys went off to become men by living in the mountain caves for days and stabbing themselves...etc. etc.  Well, for Westerners, I believe this bus travel is our form of 'purifying the soul'.  By the end of this, I will have reached the state of nirvana.  lol. 

As my last and final icing on the cake, a girl got on and sat next to me.  She proceeded to spit phlegm in a plastic baggie.  Then, she began vomiting into that same baggie.  This cannot be happening.  She was obviously sick and I felt bad for her, but I didn't want to throw up myself.  Of course, the smell started wafting towards me and I just had to start breathing through my mouth.  Thankfully, we arrived at our destination soon 11:30pm.

All the food places were closed so no food.  The hotel was musty, gross, and expensive.  Gav and I left today.  We rented motorcycles and got a sweet deal on the nicest hotel in town.  I think I'm going to cry about it.  The pillows are actually soft....soft I say!  I haven't slept on anything softer than a bag of grain for almost a month.  Then, the shower....oh has a rain showerhead and is a proper shower---in it's own little room and everything.  There is real soap.  There is real internet.  Gav and I are supposed to ride to caves but I could just stay here...this is my vacation...this room. 

I may be reaching a point where I say to the hell with my budget and just get what I want.  Fly where I want to go.  Stay where I want to stay.  I'm so tired of slumming it.  I've experienced it.  Maybe this is the '1 month' turning point where travel weariness comes into play.  I also think that I haven't really recovered from the 2 day trek to Don Det followed by kayaking followed by sickness followed by full day bus trip.  The problem is, every day that I laze around is another lost day on my Vietnamese's been running since Feb. 1st.  I figured I'd do Laos in the two weeks that I'm waiting for Tet to be over, but I need to get to Luang Prabang in the north to make the flight.  It's funny how scheduling just one thing--the Vietnamese visa has put me on a schedule.  Tet threw everything off.  Oh well.  I think a few hours today at the caves then relaxing in the room will be okay.  Tomorrow head off again for the north. 

Interestingly, I have not been all that impressed with the Lao people compared to the Cambodian people.  I have not yet formed a full opinion, but mostly the people do not smile, the children do not smile and wave back, and people generally do not seem happy to do business with you.  It seems more of a chore for them.  It's odd because I've heard that the people are not unfriendly, just more aloof than Cambodians.  I don't know because even when I try to talk to them, they do not seem eager to talk.  I find this interesting given the fact that Cambodia in general has been caught in the middle of foreign wars more than Laos and suffered more from them, yet remain very open and least from my perspective.  We'll see what the next week or so brings.  (I didn't proofread I apologize for typos).
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