Dusty Roads, Dusty Faces: Getting to the Country


Well, friends, we’re back, after a long and dusty road of…dust. Seriously. That’s about all I can recall from our last couple of drives. We left Vientiane, having done all that city has to offer (like seeing the abandoned water park and trying to find the zoo that mysteriously disappeared at some point), two days ago, apparently a Tuesday. We never really know anymore.
The long road ahead


Getting a drink of water before heading on again.
 

We drove to a small town called Paxsan, one of those places where if you blink, you miss it. And we pretty much did. When we got close to the town we saw a guesthouse and decided to get a room there, as opposed to driving on and trying to find another one. The room was cheap, which was fine, but I’ll get to the not-so-fine stuff in a minute.

We dropped our things off, and headed back on the road to find a place with internet and food so we could do a little blogging. We drove couple kilometers and the small wooden buildings became ever more sparse so we had to pull over and ask each other if we had passed the whole city. We had, so we turned around and drove through the two or three streets of the actual town. And apparently the whole town is internet-free, so we satisfied ourselves with overpriced drinks at a bar outside of town, not blogging. Meanwhile, a few feet away from us, the ladies that run the place were sitting on the floor watching TV, while pulling wings off of giant bugs that they would later eat.
Ladies hard at work.


The final wingless product
If you want to see them in action, here's a video for you.



We ended up going back to our guesthouse where I debated taking a shower, but I decided against it. To do so would require me to stand against the toilet, over the flush-bucket (a bucket full of water and a scoop to dump water into the toilet when you’re finished. Also doubles as back-side wash water after a healthy number two), and far too close to a huge cockroach carcass being carried away by hundreds of tiny black ants. Instead, I took a nap, covered in red grit from the dusty drive.

 When I woke up, Ricky and I went for dinner at a karaoke place where no one was singing and there were 3 whole tables of people. I ordered “fried fish with basil.” What came to me was undercooked, boiled fish with onions and carrots, whole leaves of basil on stems, and sliced peppers in an unbearably spicy sauce. By the third bite I felt like even my teeth were on fire.

Now, there are a few things I really dislike: snow on my face, overuse of the word random, Crocs. But needlessly spicy food is at the top of the list. Everything from my gums to the back of my throat were tingling with some sort of mutant-power chili spice.  I had to take a break every couple of bites so I could down some more soda, and by the time I was finished (and given away the mushy uncooked bits to the begging dogs around my feet), I was so grumpy and in pain that I demanded we stop to find ice cream on the way home, which we did.

Today we got up and headed out of the guesthouse, once again not bothering to shower. The roach was gone, but when Ricky tried to rinse his hands off in the shower, the shower head fell off.  So we hit the road, not caring how dirty we were, because we knew we’d just get dirtier. And did we ever.

Now, I sweat. A lot. And here in Laos it’s incredible the way my sweatstache reappears just seconds after wiping it away. So when I’m covered in sweat and then driving on sometimes-unpaved roads, I get real dirty real quick. Take a look at this pic. That’s not tan. That’s dirt.


Here's a better view of the karsts behind us.



And an even better one.


We also had to drive through veritable clouds of white butterflies. Now, butterflies may look delicate and sweet, but when you hit them going 80 km an hour, they feel like rocks pelting you.

 When Ricky and I finally got into the village we were to stay at, I was so gritty and dirty that I could scrape off layers of it with my fingernails. We decided to eat before we really got settled, and while we waited for the food, I decided to have look at a nearby market for a loofah or bath scrub of some sort. What I found was a scouring pad, guaranteed to get rid of grease and grime. Well, I was covered in that stuff, so I bought it, and let me tell you, I’ve never felt cleaner.

Of course, the glory of my super clean and shiny skin didn’t last long, because the power shortly went out, so Ricky and I played cards by headlamp in the main building, while small children chased puppies in the dark and somehow did not fall.

So now the lights are back on and I am typing this while we wait for our post-dinner dinner. The Lao boy next to me is playing World of Warcraft and there’s a moth fluttering on the floor. I have to admit that the last couple of days have been pretty strange, but sitting next to this kid that thinks he’s a warlock is pretty cool.

 

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