Lost in Lao

Trip Start Jul 20, 2006
Trip End May 10, 2007

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Saturday, January 6, 2007

It is interesting how it is called, Lao People's Democratic Republic, seeing as the Communist flag sways in the air in every corner of the country. What is a Democratic Republic? Perhaps it is a third world communist country with 2-ply toilet paper.

Saturday morning began with visions of a tall, slender, bald Irish man wearing a sleeping mask, head bobbing like a bobble head as he slept in a Valium induced coma on the road from Chiang Mai to the boarder crossing in Chiang Khong, Thailand. Little did I know that the Irish bloke with the bobbing head and his mate, a one time dairy farmer and descendant of grey hound racing breeders, would be my new travel mates. And such is the beginning of a true journey lost in Lao.
The two Irish men, James and Ivor, I can't remember if they asked me to change their names...opps...provided for great times and our beerlao induced adventures are as follows:

The border between Thailand and Laos is my second favorite border crossing in the world. The first being from Costa Rica to Panama on the eastern seaboard. This border crossing is via dug out canoe which floats its way from one side of the Mekong River to the other. The immigration officer had to be woken up from his mid-day siesta  in order to issue me a proper visa. I was not ready to give into the commission cartel and have someone on the other side do it for me.

Huayxai is nothing but a border town with not much to do, other than prepare for the two day journey downstream via slow boat. That night at dinner, I looked at James and Ivor and pleaded with them to not allow me to attempt at keeping up with them and their amazing Irish capability to put a few too many back....I now look back at pictures of Lao and realize that all we needed was a large beerlao, a pack of smokes, a French baguette, and a few good friends to get lost in the land of Lao.

Day one of the slow boat was remarkable - stretched out in the back of the boat, cramped together next to the bathroom, the odor passing us over for the smell of the beerlao held in our hands. We met Canadian hottie Shandy Fox (the perfect porn-star name) and had become a fearsome foursome floating downstream with the hum of the engine vibrating to our ears and through to our backsides.

The view was spectacular. Jagged, black, karst cliffs cutting through the air. Men wearing maroon colored tighty-whities, knee deep in the Mekong, casting nets out over the water and reeling in catfish. Women on the banks, half clothed, slapping clothes against the rocks and washing pots and pans. Children splashing in the river and gleefully waving at the passing boat filled with random, rich, white people.

We arrived at PakBeng, 6 hours later and climbed the sandy banks to search for accommodation.  Our one requirement at this point was hot water. When we found a place with supposed hot water, we set out for a candlelit dinner. We were not trying to be romantic, there was no electricity in the city after 9 p.m. and apparently whether or not you wanted hot water had little to do with the fact that the there was NO running water. We settled into our beds for some rest, paper walls between us, when Shandy turns to me in the dark and claims "I think I heard the man next to me fart." We had paid 50 cents each to stay here. Take it for what it was worth.

Best conversation of the day, comes at dinner when a man comes up to our table and asks " do you want to buy some marijuana?" Ivor replies jokingly, "no, I only smoke heroin." The man's face lights up and he says, "ok, i'll be right back I have that too." With no inention to buy anything we begin a discussion on the legality of drugs in the country and ask the man "is marijuana ok to smoke here?" His reply, "of course it is, my brother is the police man and he is all the way over there," pointing to a mere bend in the road. We opted for the drug free choice and stuck to beerlao - but where the hell were we?

Day 2's boat ride was much of the same scenery, though we never grew bored of the beauty, I-pod's and X rated conversation came in handy. Take a good look around, these are the people with whom you will be lost with in Lao. We arrived in Luang Prabang and from there the next travelogue shall pick up.
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