We’re in a town called Khoun Kham today (tonight), and last
night we stayed in a town called…. Something or other. It was next to
impossible to find on the map because here in Laos the name of anything depends
on how you feel it should be spelt, leading to …some confusion.
I have to say it’s not hard to see this place was once a
French colony with all the ways they hide everything so no-one can understand
anything except the locals. Anyway, the town was called either:
Between road maps, street signs and what have you, I don’t
know how to spell it.Our journey here
to Khoun Kham was uneventful but very interesting. We stopped off on the road
to have a look at the “limestone forest” which was in all honesty, very
We found a room for 1 euro a day (about a buck forty to all the
‘mericans) which is an absolute steal, though I get a feeling that a zero may
have been omitted somewhere.
Once we got the room here in town I was doing a quick run
over the bikes and discovered that we had next to no oil in the engines so we
went to a local mechanic, who spoke oddly great English. The guy ended up
checking our bikes all the way over (all brakes, greased the chain, tire
pressure and complete oil change) for just 75,000 kip ($9.50) for both bikes, which
is very cheap considering he was working for almost a half hour between both
the bikes. We were well happy!
We wanted to blog loads for everyone tonight but a very odd
storm passed by town (no rain, just thunder and lightning) and there was no
electricity for a few hours, and despite the power coming back, the internet
hasn’t. So I am writing to you from the past, as I plan to post this once the
Hello future self.
Well now that our bikes, Betsy Black and Lady Stark (previously
Arya, but her title and surname has a better ring to it) are fit and healthy
and well fed, it’s time for us to venture from here to the 7.5km Kong Lor cave.
Why is that significant, you ask?
It’s a cave, and I’m claustrophobic. Also, it is home to not
Laos’, not Asia’s but the world’s biggest spiders discovered in the last
decade.And I’m arachnophobic.
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
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.