I’m back in Bangkok.
And I’ve been staying at Christoph’s place, a pretty luxurious apartment on the 22nd floor. Pool and gym in the building (not that I’ve used it…)
It’s a treat and a half to stay here and I’ve spend a few days watching chick-flicks and eating chocolate. Not great in combination with this lactose-intolerant-thing, but sooooo good.
I have spent the last three weeks cycling down Laos, I didn’t go to all the places I had planned to, mainly due to bad weather. It has rained a good bit, but I loved the bits in between where I could enjoy the scenery. Laos has some wonderful roads, it’s a fair bit of climbing but when you arrive in one of those villages build on a ridge with a 360degree view it’s absolutely worth it… And anyway, I Like climbing
I’ve pitched my tent more than ones underneath a typical Laos house, they’re build on poles so your tent doesn’t get wet when it rains.
During the day you see women weaving at looms sitting under the houses. In every village beautiful children wave and smile, shouting : “Falang! Falang!” (foreigner)
I cycled through one of those villages when a French guy (I soon found out) on a bicycle came the other way, we had a chat and for a change the villagers came to take pictures of us. He’s been on the road 2 years now and will be arriving in Bangkok soon as well. Might meet up, he’s heading for Australia too.
A funny thing in Laos was, I seemed to run into people I’ve met before. And not just last week in Thailand on the ‘backpackers-trail’.
One afternoon, enjoying a beer with two fellow Dutch cyclist while waiting for the ATM to work (it didn’t and ended up taking money of my account while not giving it to me:-( ), Wilbert cycled passed. Wilbert! They guy I cycled in Iran with over a year ago!
Another time I walked in Vientiane with a few girls when this Dutch guy asked me how we knew each other. My reply: ‘This is Christine from Germany; we had a great night out together in Katmandu. This is Lea from France, we had a chat when she passed me by jeep on the highest pass in Tajikistan, and this is Teresa from Australia, we went tubing together in Vang Vieng…”
got to love this traveling-thing.
Tubing is a bit of a phenomenon. I’ve heard people talk about it everywhere so when I finally arrived in Vang Vieng I couldn’t leave without trying. And I have to say, ones you get past the initial annoyance of standing in line, paying a ridiculously high price for an inner tube and getting a number on your hand while being herded into tuktuk’s like a bunch of sheep and having to listen to people saying things like :’there’s nothing else to do around here..’, it IS actually good fun. Not so much the floating down the river in the tube itself as well the makeshift bars on the sides with giant swings, loud music, half-naked people and cheap alcohol… All the main ingredients (…)
It didn’t matter at all that it was pouring down rain. Even when we lost a life jacket and I had to lose my deposit by not returning the tube we were still pretty happy and kept going till the wee hours in the morning with Teresa and a Czech couple I’ve been bowling with in Luang Prabang…
Another one of them things. I’ve been bowling in Luang Prabang. A world heritage city with lots of temples and interesting sites.
And I went bowling. Twice.
But what can I say. It’s the only place that stayed open late so you sort of automatically end up there and have Dutch guys buying you drinks in return for a mention on your blog… so, thanks Erik, Arnoud & Rik
But those places are a world of difference with the rest of the country. It seems a bit mad having these kind of places in a country so poor and damaged as Laos.
I was shocked to find out about UXO (unexploded ordinances) when I was in Vientiane. I never knew the Americans bombed Laos to bits for 9 years during the Vietnam War and a third of the bombs didn’t explode. Leaving the country a very dangerous place to live. But people who haven’t got any other source of income search and collect the metal and sell it. Even kids, who find ‘bombies’ that can explode. Leaving on average 100 people dead a year and many wounded.
And now America is the biggest sponsor for the clean-up action. They donated about twenty million dollars, about the same amount 9 days of bombing would have costs them…
At this speed it will take about 200 years to clean op the country.
Check out the work of Cope on http://www.copelaos.org/
But it is a beautiful country, the road between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng must be in my top 10 most dramatic scenery-roads I’ve cycled so far. And when I stopped in a village to ask if it be ok to put my tent up for the night I got invited to stay with a sweet young family. They shared the little food they had with me and half the village came over to see this ‘falang’. I couldn’t communicate too much but in the north, Omar had given me some English/Laos children books. So with the help of a guy who did speak a little English I read the stories to the kids of the village, they seemed to have a good time, and so did I. Even picked up a little Laotian.. (or what you call it)
I crossed the border back into Thailand with Teresa. We spend over a week together and she was on her way to Bangkok to catch a flight. On a whim I decided to jump on the train with her to be able to spend more time cycling in the south.
It was another wonderful train ride. Not the least ‘cause we met some very friendly (and handsome) Thai police men who then spent the next day showing us around Bangkok
And now I’ve sorted the things that needed sorting and I’m about ready to move on.
Tomorrow I stay here because there is a party at the Dutch Embassy.
And I’m Dutch.