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Thoughts on Laos

February 23, 2007 1 comment

Thoughts on Laos

Length of stay: 21st September 2006 to 12th October 2006  

Old proverb: “Vietnamese plant rice. Cambodians watch the rice. Laotians listen to the rice grow.”

I almost took the same route as my first trip to Laos. It started from Vientianne and head towards to Udomxay. This time, I detoured a little bit here and there in search of adventure and gun-toting desperados.

To my dismay, I didn’t find much of either.

Instead, I saw profound excesses of inactivity. Laotians who sway languidly in their hammocks. Idle men lawn-bowl from morning to evening. In the villages, dust-coated children stared at me with blank eyes. Teenagers laze on raised platforms under their bamboo huts. The world was winding down and the second-hand on my watch ticked slower and slower.

Pieter (A Belgium whom I met in Cambodia) once told me, “The Lao don’t care. Once they have made their five dollars for the day, they’ll say enough. ‘I will sleep in hammock now. I don’t want to do anymore business for today.’ And they do that! They’ll turn away all opportunities to do business!” 

Perhaps it is true that Laotians are remarkably indifferent. But they are also one of the most hospitable people that I’ve met. During my stay, I’ve practiced English with young humble monks, had a ribald lunch with a bus crew (I don’t speak Lao, they don’t speak English), listened to a teacher-in-training expound on the glories of his home province (of course, I was invited to his home for dinner), celebrated Buddhist Lent with crazy crazy villagers, listened to life stories and ambitions from young do-gooders and grilled my guide about BIG OLD jars sitting helter-skelter on mine-ridden plains.

There probably is a lesson that can be learnt from the Laos people. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it is.

My Laos Itinerary 
 

Place

Length of stay (days)

Vientiane

4

Ban Tha Heua

1

Xaysomboune

1

Vang Vieng

1

Phonsavanh

5

Luang Prabang

5

Nong Khiaow

2

Udomxay

1

Total

20

Categories: Uncategorized

Thoughts on Thailand

February 23, 2007 1 comment

Thoughts on Thailand

Length of stay: 26th August 2006 to 22th September 2006. 4th February 2007 to 15th February 2007.

Thailand was the first place that I went to on my own. It was the usual post-university trip that silly graduates take. It was meaningful for me – I would be able to see a girl whom I’ve been dating on the internet. Those two weeks were magnificent! I would gladly give up my ghost to relive those times. It couldn’t get better.

I was right.

It went downhill over the next few years and tears. During that time, we drifted from and towards each other. We just floated without knowing where we’d end up. It ended permanently when she blew up at me one fine night. So what if I got dumped by her? I could find another easily!

And so I kept returning to the Kingdom; a dog in heat looking for his bitch.
I never found another girl there.

I saw a Thailand trampled on by millions of tourists. Nothing is quite off-the-beaten track anymore; resorts and tour operators sell ‘Thai-style’ experiences for un-Thai like prices, fruit shake and banana pancake stalls serve farang taste-buds and there’s always a backpacker lurking somewhere.

But I was lucky. The Kingdom treated me well and showed me the stout hearts of its people: overloaded motorcyclists who gave me a lift for gratis, unhesitating offers of free accommodation and food and long intense discussions using words, charades and drawings. This time, I tramped aimlessly along the East coast, stopping every so often to listen to people’s stories.

It was… educational.

Addendum: I returned to Thailand after Cambodia. It was on the way home and I decided to head down to the smaller islands in the deep south of Thailand.

My Thailand Itinerary  

Place

Length of stay (days)

Betong

2

Yala

1

Songkhla

3

Nakhon Si Thammarat

2

Sichon – Hat Hin Ngiam

1

Koh Phangnan – Hat Rin

2

Surat Thani

2

Chumphon

1

Chumphon – Hat Sai Ri

3

Chumphon – Mu Ko Chumphon

1

Chumphon

1

Prachuap Kiri Khan

2

Prachuap – Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park

2

Petchaburi – Cha-Am

1

Bangkok

2

Aranyaprathet

2

Bangkok

2

Trang – Koh Libong

4

Total

30

Categories: Uncategorized

In Trang – Underwater Wedding Test Run

February 13, 2007 Leave a comment
There was a massive procession of brides and grooms on the street. It’s supposed to be for their underwater wedding ceremony tomorrow. Today’s procession is a test-run!

It’s quite crazy. There were school children lined up on the sides of the roads waiting to throw confetti at people. There were school bands striking up all sorts of music. There was a truck with a large oilskin drum on top of it. Bare-chested young men with flat stomachs and closely cut hair pounded wild rhythms and ushered the couples along. All sorts of couples walked in the middle: old, young, ugly, beautiful (I didn’t see any gay couples though). All of them were happy.

So much fuss for a very wet wedding?

Categories: Uncategorized

Cross-section of the trip…

February 5, 2007 1 comment
A few photos. Every photo has a story attached to it. I’ll get around to writing them up in a couple of weeks.
Categories: Uncategorized
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