A Day Abnormal By Any Other Standards

Editor’s Note: I wrote this about three weeks ago when I was still a Laos newbie. Might as well post it though.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. Proud? Amazed? Baffled? Today was a day weirder than most, and I will go to sleep entirely content. And also a little woozy.

5AM: Wake up to my alarm; consider going to watch the monks out receiving alms, but weird lump in my throat and rumors of strep going around the hostel make me decide to get a bit more shut-eye.

6AM: Wake up again. Think about packing up, but it’s raining. Sleep again.

8AM: Wake up again. Take a swig of honey (throat feels better immediately) and start packing even though it’s still raining. Maybe so visibly declaring my intent to leave will make the skies claer up in compliance. Wait for three hostel friends to catch their minivans to three different destinations.

9:30AM: Leave hostel on unloaded bike, in light rain, looking for food. Lady wants $2 for a bowl of noodles, so refuse and I head home.

10AM: Rain stops. Attach gear to bike, head out of town.

10:10: Stop for noodles. $1.25. Have sign-language discussion with Lao taxi driver wearing Korean auto-mechanic shirt. Somehow argue about the virtues of eating meat insofar as athletic exertion is concerned.

10:30: Stop at market to buy some bananas. People laugh at me as flagpole catches on each vendor’s umbrellas. Talk a vendor down from $1.25 to $0.75 on two bunches of midget bananas. Somehow explain in Lao that I’ve been on the road for 13,000km.

12:00 Noonish: After an hour or two of cycling in the rain, run into a Dutch (i.e. from Holland, right?) couple, both on bikes, who advise me that pretty soon there’s a 44km climb coming up. The lady gifts me a sweet device, widely available in Holland, that turns my cheapass plastic water bottle into an ultra-convenient camelback-like contraption.

12:30PM: stop in town for lunch. Pissed off because “Fried Vegetables” for $2.50 turns out to be sauteed greens with a couple mushroom. Why is food so expensive here?

2:30PM: Sit in a table at the corner of the restaurant, dozing.

3:00PM: Still raining. Ask Chinese people at the table next to me to recommend cheap hotel; go out in search. Nothing less than $8 to be found, except for the not-quite-finished building next to the post office. No windows, but a couple of the rooms are still rain-free. Decision made: tonight’s a camping night. Except, what to do for the next five or so hours?

3:30 until 7:00PM: Back to hang out with the three Chinese guys. Construction crew for a nearby hydroelectric station, also taking the day off due to rain. Drink 16 bottles of beer together. One guy is working on getting a lady (part-time prostitute?) to head off with him.

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The lady on the left, seemingly recruited by her friend to go home with either me or the other Chinese guy, instead goes home because she doens’t feel pretty enough.

Another guy, age 46, is married to a Laotion woman and has three kids who can’t speak Chinese. The third guy, 30, warms up to me quick. Married at 19, has a daughter of 12, is currently 30. Worked for four years for a Chinese company building roads in Pakistan, with military escorcts to protect them from general chaos. Also worked in Thailand, Myanmar, now 4 months in Laos. Misses home, family, daughter. Wants to go to America someday, alone, because his wife and kid are happy where they are, whereas he wants to see a developed country firsthand. Offers to buy me a room a prostitute, but I tell him that I don’t think it would make me happy. He says he understands. One of the three Chinese guys pay for all the beers, as well as for some cucumbers and fried noodles for me. I had previously often felt that there was something showy about Chinese hospitality, like they want other people to see that they’re treating a white guy to a meal. Here, clearly, nobody they know is watching. They’re just sincerely super-nice. (To foreigners who speak Chinese).

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7:30PM: Head back to unfinished building and pitch tent. Consume donut bought earlier in town. Pray that rain stops tomorrow and that I can safely complete upcoming 700m climb, 500m descent, and 1000m climb. Likelihood: about zero.

What kind of life is this?

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I’m telling you, I could die content tomorrow.

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2 Responses to A Day Abnormal By Any Other Standards

  1. ian says:

    i have to say that your memory is pretty good! you remembered the whole things happened in a day and the accurate time.