Sunday, 20 November 2016

Doing what I do best: Luang Prabang day 2, Looking for Laotian Life

5 am.  Rather late for me to get up, LOL.

NO, I'm not going to the Alms-giving ceremony.  1st of all it has been spoiled and is no longer enjoyable. 2nd, I was too embarrassed yesterday. Guilt by association, I think it's called.

OMG,  Tomorrow is the day when I start going back to Vancouver.  So hard to imagine after all I've seen and done.

 7:20 Breakfast. Same old Same old

 8 am. I walk over to the hotel I'm moving today and ask them to photocopy my passport.  Why?

8:15 am.  Because I rent the same bicycle again and surrender my passport to the rental lady again.

 8:30 am.  It's drizzling. No, I think it's just the morning fog.   Do I pack now, or do I pack later? If I get everything done early I can chance the 30 km ride to the waterfalls.  Hang on.  There is no motor on that bike. Can I really do 30 km? What if I get stranded in the territory of a secret yet-to-be-discovered Laotian Hill Tribe?     Yeah right. A traveler's fantasy.    There is NOTHING undiscovered close to Luang Prabang ;-)

 9 am.  I'm pretty much packed.   What should I do?  Walk the shops with the snobby crowd?  Yuk!
A cunning plan is forming in my mind.   If I leave my backpack at the hotel and check out early, I can ride the bike 17 kms to the waterfalls.

I check out, promise to pay my minibar wine consumption later (I only have small Kip bills and a US$ 100 bill left), and hop on the bike.

 Nice to see the main street without tourists.  Where could they be?
 I maybe have pedaled for one single kilometer when the fake facade of Luang Prabang lifts like a veil.   O.K. I’m entering Laos now ;-)  
 The road is going to lead through hills, which is causing some trepidation.  
 Is it going to wind through the hills or lead up the hills? 
   Unfortunately, the answer is both.  
 After I have about 11 of the 17 km behind me, with a slight incline on the last 7 km, I realize that it’s just too bloody hot and muggy for me today to attack the remaining 6 km.
  Who knows how steep it will get?  Maybe I should rent a scooter later?  All lame excuses, I know, but my clothes are already drenched.  I turn around.  

OF COURSE, as soon as I have pedaled maybe 200 meters back towards where I came from when 2 touring cyclists come up the hill I am now rolling down again with their bikes stacked with panniers at the front and the back wheels.  And they don’t look overheated at all.   But then they’re not 50-year-old chain smokers either ;-(

 Ah well, at least THIS 50-year-old chain smoker went on a 20 km bike ride this morning ;-)  And I only have about 30 hours left in Luang Prabang before I start on the looong way back to Vancouver.

Heading back to the old hotel to pick up my other backpack and to pay my debts, I realize that TODAY they started re-building the famous bamboo bridge, something they do every year after the monsoon season.   
 I was here a week too early ;-(

At a tiny local shop I stop to buy cigarettes.  Hmm. By now I have found my standard brands in Vietnam and Cambodia ($1 and $0.50 per pack respectively), but what should I smoke in Laos? They have many different brands. And I don’t mean Trump Smokes; I’m NOT buying cigarettes made by tobacco workers who voted for him anymore!  Socially-responsible Smoking it’s called, LOL.

Tomorrow i will buy a carton of the ones on the left.
  I don’t even know how much cigarettes cost here in Laos.  Time to find out.  I select the three cigarette brands with the prettiest packaging from the vast choice and pay 4000 kip, 4000 kip, and 5000 kip for them   Let’s see a total of 13,000 kip, what’s that?  $1.50 total for three packs.  I can live with that.  It gets better.  The small print on one of the packs reads:  Made by Lao Tobacco Ltd under authority of Tobaccor France ;-)  

11:15  I've checked into the new hotel.  Less luxurious than the old one but more expensive, maybe because it is right by the banks of the Mekong.


2:15 pm.  Whooo.  I just woke up from a nap. That bike ride did me in!  I've also discovered the restaurants to eat at.  Yes, there are still tourists here but they are much cheaper.  They are sitting right at the top of the bank of the Mekong and there is a loooong line of them. All with a view !  

I had a glass of wine with a banana pancake there earlier before the nap knocked me over. Now I'm sitting in yet another one, with yet another white wine, and in the post-sleep-temporary-mental-disturbance (aka waking-up drowsiness) I ordered French Fries.  Hey, the place used to be a French protectorate !

The view over the Mekong is absolutely spectacular.  Those colours and that mist.   I'm sitting right across the break in the mountains that I saw from the top of Mt Phousi yesterday.  That's where the ferry goes to.  Haven't taken the ferry yet!

Seeing the ferries and other impossibly long boats criss-cross the Mekong has got me antsy.  Need to get back to the hotel, get the bike, and get OVER THERE !

It's nice to be able to trust one's gut feeling !

 There won't be any comments for this trip, otherwise this post will never be published

Yes, that is where the captain sits ;-)

Now this fits on the Laotian Mekong like Trump in the President's chair

Just like Phnom Penh. NO paved roads on the other side 

Welcome to Laos !

 And like in Vietnam, I'm entering Hello-Land again.  Only here, it is pronounced Sabaidee, which I hear from various directions

There are kids washing themselves in a small river. There are Laotians sitting in a cafe with unbelievably loud music blasting.  There is a guy who lives in a fishing boat washing himself with a bucket of Mekong water.  There are so many sights of presumably normal Laotian life and yet there are no pictures of them.  No, I had the camera ready.   But when I felt that twitch in my trigger finger, my mind said 'NO'.  Sure, I could have taken those brilliant pictures.  But those kids washing were raising their heads to look at the Farang on the bicycle.  And in that moment I had a flashback of the long camera lenses of fat men pointed at 5 year old monks. And I just couldn't do it.  Because then I would have been exactly the same as them.  And that to me has become a fate worse than death.  

When I point at the fish and wave my camera, she nods. When I said Kharp Jai, she smiles !

dominant dog demeanour

I'm so glad I took that ferry and rode into the back country.  Laos is still there.  I had witnessed a young Japanese guy on a bicycle on the other side, but he turned around halfway up the ferry ramp. 
Hey, in Phnom Penh in February I didn't even get OFF the ferry to the OTHER SIDE.  I then and he now didn't know what we missed by not continuing !

Red Plumeria. Gift of the Gods !

Here it comes:
I did this place injustice.  Sure, the Luxembourg crowd and the long camera lens crowd are here and they are here to stay. Their numbers will only increase. But by some formidable Laotian magic (which I had read about before), there is no McDonald's in Luang Prabang, no Starbucks, no Burger King, no KFC, neither a real 7/11 nor one of its many Asian copies.  I don't know whether that magic involves specific 5-year plans by the people who run the People's Democratic Republic of Laos (YES, SMILE, I'm in another socialist country ;-) or the reason is simply that THAT Crap-Consuming Crowd simply hasn't arrived yet, but it is NICE. The tranquility that goes along with that (the absence of both the ugly product and its consumers) can be felt.  And why not: There are better ways to consume better French Fries with a better view.   And there is a new reason NOT to buy from US global companies (Trust me there are enough alternatives)

You'll stand and FALL with him. And your lives will still be miserable ;-)
Just think how many people in corporate America have voted for Trump.  Do you really want to reward them for that? (Insert SMUG Grin when this 3rd world Winer gives a hint to those pitiful 1st world Whiners: If you think you've had it bad before, you just wait and see ;-) 

When I arrived in Luang Prabang two days ago and saw the suitcase crowd, I just wanted to run away instantly. At that moment I thought 3 days here would be torture extended to inhuman levels.  
Now I realize that there is SO MUCH to explore right outside the town itself and that I simply don't have enough time here.  Goody:  Always leave something for next time.  That motto has served me well so far and it will bring me back here in the not-too-distant future. Right Zu? ;-)

6 pm. It's dark now and I'm exhausted.  I've washed off the road dust and I realize that I am HUNGRY.   

6:40 I'm sitting in the same place as yesterday on my second glass of Rose with delicious duck skewers in peanut dip already down my gullet and there is a dance performance I'm witnessing on the street.  

It is breathtaking.  It's not break-dance but it has elements thereof. It's I don't know what.  But these kids are amazing. One of the guys doesn't only pull the most unbelievable moves, he is the only one who does it with ballet-like grace. This guy is better than a lot of dancers working behind Brittney Spears or whoever else has all that flesh on display.  I knew someone like that once.  I can't take my eyes off him.  NO, not that way;-).  It's about watching absolute beauty, like staring the Mona Lisa in they eye for the first time or seeing a rainbow.  

You know what the worst part of it is? (My time in Asia just showed: before changing it, I had typed 'You know what is the worst part of it?', LOL.) NO, not that. The worst part is:  These kids are dancing for the Air Asia shop right across the street and are handing out leaflets for the airline's new Kuala Lumpur route during and after their performance.  

While I am sitting here, admiring the effort and ability of short and slender brown Asian people, the Tall White Caucasian people in the US are happy that they'll get their White America back.   I'm not quite sure how that's going to work for them with the kind of people who stoop low enough for the Hitler Greeting but are still too stooopid to spell 'Sieg Heil' correctly, but that's what they want apparently

We'll see how long it takes those retarded racist white bigots to realize that without all those not-lazy, not-ignorant, and coincidentally NOT-WHITE people helping them to keep the US going, the true pitiful abilities of White Trash America will just be exposed so much sooner.   When that time has come, count on the new president to start another war to cover up that embarrassing personal and national failure with patriotic parades and 'heroes' in body bags.

I head out of the Cuban/Laotian tapas bar (Yes, I do LOVE coming back here ;-) to hit a bank machine (I withdraw a mere MILLION) and then get caught up again in the beauty of the displayed fabrics and the cheekily charming smiles of the vendors wanting me to buy them ALL!  
Then I see it:  A row of crepes stands.  I stop right at the very first being operated by a mother and her two gorgeous and funny sons.  Banana & Nutella Crepe?   Is there a mind-reading machine hidden under that crepe-cooking plate?  OF COURSE I order that.  I sit at one of those tiny chair/table combos behind their stand and wait for the crepe.   Dozens of bored looking tourists walk by while the sons wave the menu at them and shout 'Crepe?' or 'Hello?'. If there were a herd of cows walking by the stand, the intelligence expressed in the expressions of the audience would be on the same level.  However, LOTS of tourists stop to throw their trash in the stand's garbage bin. 

This is ridiculous.  When a larger group approaches and the two kids do their advertising chant again, I shout from the back "They are REALLY REALLY GOOD". Blank stares from the tourists but the mother looks back over her shoulder and gives me a big grin.

And what the Trump crowd doesn't realize is that you can't be a great nation if all that you're thinking of while you're at work is eating burgers, drinking Budweiser, and watching sports or cooking television, and spending their easily earned bucks on the ridiculously cheap product of the hard work of Asian factory workers.  
You need hard-working people to build a GREAT nation. A bunch of lazy white maggot creatures is not enough. Now they are going to try their best to keep those hard-working people out.  Who is going to clean the rooms in Trump's hotels then?  White people?  LOL !
A lot of people are going to get hurt, but with the big picture in mind (and being certain that this is one of those fights that, apart from writing here, there is absolutely nothing I can do to help win it), I am content to watch America run itself into the mud, while a lot of countries in Asia will continue or start to flourish.  And that is only fair.

With that thought, I'd like to wish all the sane people left in this world a good night ;-)

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