Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in Laos

Ok, so I had toyed with the idea of staying in Luang Prabang (hereafter LP), but it would deter me from getting south in time for my flight to Bangkok (hereafter BKK). Its kind of unfortunate, LP is a cute little town. Still definitely Laos, with chickens running wild in the streets and women touting dried squid in the streets, Shelly and my's bestest bud...

Anyway, the day before Christmas, I decide to take the bus to Phonsevan, AKA jump off point for the Plain of Jars. If you are unaware, this is quite a place to see. Its thousands of enormous jars, whose origin is not definite. Most likely they are funerary urns. Definitely they are amazing. Also, they find themselves in the most bombed part of Laos, which if you didn't know, is the most bombed country per capita in the world, thanks to the good ole USofA. But lets not be political...

In the below photo, you see the markers put out by MAG (an organization that finds and destroys UXO or unexploded ordnance or the America's gift that keeps on giving). On the white side, you're safe, they've unearthed all the bombs. On the red side, could still be bombs. Notice the placement of the walking path to the marker:

So on Christmas Eve day we see these amazing jars, and an amazing turkey...

Mid Gobble:

Sorry, but I've never seen a real turkey all puffed up. I just thought it was a cartoon thing!

This sign I guess warns of the danger of baby-eating mosquitoes:

And this one is just terrible. Check the bottom right image:

A 3 story building using sticks for scaffolding:

Here's a squeasel drying at the guesthouse I stayed in:

Ok, so here's something from the market, a veritable variety of Squeasel. Actually, its a porcupine and a bowl of dried rats, and their owner taking a nap:

Eventually the Italian guy I'd been hanging with takes the bus to Vang Vieng (readers will remember this as the place shel and I lost all dignity) and I join a couple of Dutch guys for beers. They immediately miss their bus, so we have more beers and then we jump on a night bus to Vientiane. I know the bus has a toilet, so I'm not worried about having to pee immediately from the beers. As we're waiting to leave (the 7:00 left at 8:00, but that's Laos) a tiny Laotian man sits in my lap. Yep. I was sitting on the aisle, with my bag in the window seat. He didn't even attempt to communicate, "Move your bag", he just sat on my lap. And he ignored me when I tried to communicate with him. Eventually, I'm able to move my bag and myself over, all the while, he's in no hurry to get off my lap. He gets off...and I pants are wet. Soaked. My entire lap. Yeah. I jump off the bus behind the Dutch guys going to smoke before we leave. We all three smelled my pants and determined it not to be pee...hopefully... (either way, my pants are being laundered as I type) My guess is that he had washed his good pants to go into town, and didn't have time to dry them. More a hope than a guess I suppose. So I spent Christmas eve, and the early hours of Christmas, on a bus with wet pants and a tiny Lao man leaning on me. We passed a place where the road had fallen off down the cliff. Barely enough room to pass. Quite comforting.

The Dutch drunks get dropped off appropriately in Vang Vieng.

So I arrive in Vientiane, the capital of Laos around 6am Christmas morning. I take a tuk tuk into town. I want a good breakfast, no rice. I want to call home. I want to get some money from the ATM. So I get a fancy little candy cane mocha, some fruit with yoghurt and granola (usually referred to as Muesli, and one time we saw a sign that said Fruit with Yoghurt and Muslim) and a ham and cheese croissant. I felt quite decadent. And still it only cost about 5 bucks. I got some money. And I tried to call home. Not one of my family members answered the phone. So feeling a bit off, I headed off to the bus station, to continue my journey to Savannakhet. A town I thought would be nice to spend Christmas night in.

It was a nice enough bus ride. At some point, the girl next to me offered me an egg. Thankfully I did not take it. I believe it was in fact a late term abortion of a chicken. Quite gross to watch her eat. But interesting nonetheless.

I get to Savannakhet, to find a dull, boring shell of a town. I check in at my hostel, and go searching for anyone that might speak English to have Christmas dinner rice and noodles. No success. I did have a nice dinner of fried morning glory and glass noodles, but alone.

I get back to the hostel, and take off my shoes and try to take them upstairs, not wearing them, because you don't wear shoes in the house here. The owner doesn't want me to take them up. I finally get my point across that these have to be packed in my bag. Then he tells me to be quiet upstairs. What? I'm by myself, I'm not drunk, its only 830. Whatevs, I go upstairs and start working on my computer. Just before 10 I go to plug it up and go to bed. His rickety ass shelf couldn't hold up the weight and I dropped my laptop on my foot. Within seconds, he is banging on my window, yelling "I told you to be quiet! What are you doing in there! Be quiet!" I had nightmares all night about him breaking in. The ironic thing is, he never said anything to the neighbors about their dogs that barked ALL night.

So basically, Christmas Eve was pretty cool except for wet pants. Christmas day blew. But hey, I left knowing Christmas would be pretty much alone, so its cool. And today I met a nice Dutch couple, and we're going to dinner at an Indian restaurant. And the Pakse is nice enough, and I have a great cup of coffee. So things are cool.

Hope you had a great Christmas!

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