Laughing out Lao(s)

Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
Trip End May 31, 2008

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Sunday, March 2, 2008

I was trying so hard last night not to start giggling while having my first ever "aromatic therapy massage" not necessarily because it tickled but because with the amount of oil that was slathered on me I was surprised I was still on the table. I was also anticipating the tiny Lao woman to go sliding right down my back and onto the wood floor - she didn't, but the image of this happening kept forcing giggles into my chest which I swallowed back down. You know that once you get the giggles when you're mostly naked and covered in oil, that's it. You're in for a not-so-relaxing time. Thank god I'm not a hairy fat man because then I wouldn't have been able to contain myself, that would have been WAY too funny (....sorry Bobba).

After quite the journey of overnight train, bus, stopped at the border to get a visa, another bus and then a taxi I finally arrived in Vientiane, the capital city. It's expensive here and there aren't many options for places to stay but with my supernatural bargain finding abilities, I surprised this couple I met in the taxi by finding somewhere for half the price of everywhere else. And it isn't a hole in the ground either. Go me!

The couple I met is certainly interesting; a Brit married to a Lao woman but the Brit teaches english in Bangkok and his wife lives up here. I'm still trying to feel out if I like him or not. There's something suspicious about his arrangement with his wife and I don't really like the way he seems to enjoy the fact that she can't understand him half the time. It makes me wary but because of him she was able to quit working- she told me she's been working since she was 8 years old and had to leave school at 12 to work full time - which makes her happy so who am I to judge? Apparently, it is illegal for foreigners to have any sort of relationship with Laos people which explains their hasty marriage and if either one of them breaks the marriage agreement, they owe each other money. Interesting, no?

This city is very peculiar and every time I turn the corner I'm met with a disappointing feeling of "been there, done that" because of just how European it is. The architecture on half of the buildings is very French (Indochina - Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia - was colonized by the french but I didn't realize that until I got here) and even the signs have french on them before english. Most of the time there is no english and I'm very grateful, once again, for my french. The road signs even say "Rue -whatever-" which is very strange to see here. There are a million and one little french bistros and cafes playing irritating European folk music. Not something you'd expect to see all the way over here in Asia and not something I really wanted to see.

Luckily, I could escape all of that by sitting on the riverbank with a banana shake (best one I've had yet and I've had MANY) and a triangle pillow with my mosquito spray in hand. I had another one of those moments where I was just amazed that I was sitting there - next to one of the most famous rivers that just about anyone can point to on a map. I remember looking at a map myself only a few months ago and thinking how cool it would be to see the Mekong River and here I was, sitting right next to it. Whoa. You cannot buy moments like that and those moments are the reason I love to travel.

I have planned to leave tomorrow to Vang Vien which is a little more backpacker (Vientiane is less backpacker and more retiree on holiday) but also has things like spelunking, tubing and kayaking. Sounds exciting! Laos is very sleepy, as they say, and I'm enjoying the lack of traffic that, in Thailand, seemed bent on running me over. Here I actually feel like it would be safe to rent a scooter to see the countryside. Maybe I will.
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