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.
Today started off as a normal day. I woke up quite late
because I couldn’t sleep. Meanwhile, Ricky was on the bunk below me, giggling
to himself while watching Top Gear. At
about noon, we got out of bed, had ourselves some cereal and prepared for the
Some of our plans fell through, so we decided to go for a
little drive and see a couple of sights.
We headed toward a huge golden stupa in the distance, and as we neared,
we saw that what separated it from us
was a massive empty parking lot, the kind you put a traveling carnival in. As
soon as we scooted in past a mostly closed gate (which should have been our
first sign), Ricky got a devious grin on his face.
“This is going to be fun.”
We drove around the lot for a while until we came to one end
and he challenged me.
“Naught to fifty to
So we backed up to the curb, counted down and took off. Much
to Ricky’s surprise I stayed right with him, and when I looked down I was
nearly at 55 kmph and slammed on the brakes.
My tail snaked around me, but I stayed upright, much to my own surprise.
Well, it was so much fun that we decided to go again so we
headed back to the start. Right behind us, however, were the coppers.
I smiled at them as they headed toward us, despite my fear
that I was about to be arrested, because I heard that was the best defense
mechanism for Lao police, and offered a cheerful “Sabaidee!” (hello)
They didn’t speak English, but sign-languaged their way into
telling us that we can’t be here and that we have to leave. We apologized
profusely, told them we would exit right away, and thanked them with a smile.
Before we had put our helmets back on they had driven away.
We were pleasantly surprised, because we had heard some
horror stories about foreigners being locked up or forced to pay outrageous
amounts of money.
Well, our time would come…
Later in the evening we met a couple from Spain and an
American girl they were traveling with. We sat and chatted for a while, then
went off for dinner. After dinner, Ricky suggested that we burn some cash.
See, in China, they sell fake 100 RMB bills for people to
burn in huge piles on the street. When they burn, the ashes and smoke go
upward, toward the person’s ancestors in the afterlife. There, they will be
Ricky had bought a stack of the money in China but we had
never gotten around to burning it. So we got the money and headed down to the
shores of the Mekong River to make an offering to our ancestors.
We sat in a circle, taking turns tossing bills into the
small fire, as we said who each one was for. Grandmothers, grandfathers, great
aunts, everybody. It was actually quite nice to take a moment and think of the
ones we had lost.
We had just burned the last bill and begun talking about how
we felt (awww!) when trouble came.
The police came to bust up our party. There was one who
seemed to be in charge, and a few lackeys.
The conversation went something like this.
Police: You, no here.
Police: You, no here, after 9. You mistake.
Us: Oh yes, mistake! We made a mistake, we can’t be here
after 9! We’ll just be going now!
Police: Stop! You, Thailand *swimming motion*
Us: No sir, we didn’t swim over from Thailand. See? We’re
Us: Sorry, we don’t have our passports with us.
Police: You, mistake, no here. Follow me, police station.
Us: What? Why? We’ll leave now. We didn’t know. We’re very
Police: Passports! You smoke?
Police: You smoke (something no one understood)?
Us: No, sir, we don’t smoke that.
Police: Bag! (pointing at Ricky. He then proceeds to go
through the contents of our backpack. He was
very suspicious of one pen.)
Police: You follow me police station. Give mistake money.
Us: Well, how much?
Police: (counts us) Ah, 5. Ah, $200 each.
Us: What? No way! We don’t have that! We’ll just be going
We began to walk away, ignoring a weak “Stop!”
We walked faster, feeling like fugitives escaping the law,
and when we were brave enough to look behind us, we realized they weren't following us. We walked fast anyway and hurried through the marked and out the
other side, back to our guesthouse where we caught our breath and thanked our
ancestors for helping us out, which was nice, after all that money we sent
So now we’re here, safe in our tiny dorm room, with a cement
floor and a window that looks out into the indoor stairwell, basking in our fugitive glory.
The Lao police probably aren’t hunting for us, and that’s
probably for the best, but being a fugitive for those couple of minutes today
sure was exciting!