Saturday, 19 November 2016

Phousi, Laap, and Churros (or Luang Prabang Day 1. It's not ALL gone yet)

For breakfast I have to go back to the restaurant where they told me not to smoke in the OUTSIDE smoking area last night because they were afraid of offending a large group of French tourists. Memories of Angkor come back. The smoking forbidden by the no-smoking sign would not upset the Gods but the American tourists. 

When the receptionist asked me last night whether I wanted Asian or Western breakfast, I had requested Asian (Proud to be a Traveler ;-), and I'm about to suffer the consequences of that decision.  Actually, it's really good.  Some rice gruel (congee?) containing a hard boiled egg and some pork or beef and some herbs.  Not bad at all !  The waiter says that I can have more if my portion is not enough, LOL. (He must think that these elephantine foreigners need a lot of feed ;-)

I try again, and still get lost.  There are some 10-12 year old monks playing among the buildings that I heard the noises from this morning. Good thing I looked at a map first because now I know the name of the mountain !

I keep saying Phousi and point in different directions and they get it right away.  The repeat Phousi and point in one direction only, which I walk towards after bowing a thank you.   
They seemed surprised to see me and I see NO other non-Laotians (???), so I conclude that this must be the back-entrance to the mountain that I had read about.

After quite some quiet walking over the mountain's ridge, I get to a ticket-vending stall that also has postcards.  I grab the LAST TWO postcards of an alms-giving ceremony without a single tourist and the ticket.  After some hand-waving with the stall occupant his Kharp Jai is the 1st word I understand.

When I see Buddha's foot print, I with conclude with horror that Buddha and the Sasquatch might be one and the same person !
hims gots  BIG FEET !

on the right: The Tuesday Buddha.  Apparently he changes position every day ;-)

More Buddhas !

MORE stairs !

Stair rewards ;-)

More stair rewards .....

O.K. Give me more stairs, LOL

MUST go there tomorrow !

Good timing ;-)
When I get down to the main road again, I see the beautiful flowers that the locals sell for pilgrims to take up the mountain. They include whatsthattreecalledagain flowers ! My favourite flower and I can NEVER remember its name ! (I looked it up now: PLUMERIA.)  I should come from this other side tomorrow and take up some of those flowers.  But I'll stay away from the birds in the tiny cages.   It is said to bring good luck to release them from the cage at the peak.   But all it really means for the birds is that Laotians run around catching them and that they have to suffer in those cages until they're lucky enough to be bought, bounced up the mountain, and then released.   There must be some in those cages who suffer through this for the 2nd time, can you imagine the trauma ?

A short nap, and I decide I'm FINALLY going to ride a bicycle again today !  I saw some stores on the way back form Mt. Phousi and head there again.  Two Germans are there already trying to rent bicycles.  The balk at the condition to pay $500 if the bikes are stolen (They're nice Trek mountain bikes) and then they don't want to leave their passports with the rental woman (It's a proper storefront and the woman speaks excellent English).  I hand over MY passport without any complaints (The worst thing that could happen is that my return to Vancouver would be delayed, LOL), pay my 50,000 kip until 7pm and even though I arrived after them I ride off before the Germans even have their bikes.  Sad .... LOL.

Things are looking up.  Already on my ride around the peninsula I feel like I'm not caught up in the crowd of you-know-who anymore.  But maybe it's only the long-missed endorphin released by the much missed cycling, never know.

Plumeria. Just seeing this tree seems to make me happy 

I wait for my shirt to dry on the balcony (the one with the big pocket to have the camera within reach) and wear that and the new shorts.   Down to end of the peninsula. 

When I see the concrete stairs that fell into the river, I at first assume that the sign might say "Do not walk" or even "Do not smoke" but it actually says "Do not litter". LOL. Concrete stairways don't count as littering ?

I find another way down to the riverbed and for the first time (maybe the second time; there might have been a time in Phnom Penh) dip my toes into the Mekong River.  

Back up the muddy embankment and my hair is drenched in sweat.
Isn't it nice to have slaves? I'm sure he can carry your bags too !

Oh, what's that?  A restaurant with a view?   The G&T costs as much as my spicy fish meal (Laap, the national dish of Laos) which costs as much as my 8 hour bike rental.  Yes, it's out of proportion but this is a VERY nice view, LOL. 

At the next table is a dame in her 60s with wildly done up hair and talking very flamboyantly to her table mates, you know in the 'I used to be a famous actress' manner.  NOT the type of person I would ever strike up a conversation with.  But their language intrigues me. Is it Dutch? Is it Belgian? Is it Swiss? Danish maybe? I simply can NOT figure it out.  When the Grand Dame gets up to take a picture of the view, I notice that she is taking her pictures with EXACTLY the same camera that I'm carrying around.  "You have my camera" I say.  Long story kept short: She tries to convince me for a looong time to use the faaabulouuuus Wifi feature on my camera (Sure HON, that's going to improve the pictures, LOL) but it turns out these people are from Luxembourg.  And they're flying home today.  And it is 1 degree Celsius over there. OMG !

I said YES,when the waiter asked me whether I wanted my Laap spicy.  Is it ever SPICY !
I finish my meal of infernally hot but very good Laap and she swoons over to my table again “Look, I show you the app on my iPhone”.  I have to work REALLY hard to keep a straight face and look interested.   Do I look like a Gigolo traveling the highways and byways of Indochina?  Maybe.   Maybe she was waiting for me to ask her to show me her pictures, which she could have done easily because she is staying in the hotel right next to the restaurant.  OMG.  Is THAT why she told me that?   

I’m not talking to no more White Elephants !!!!!!

monks drive boats

and for some reason throw a 2nd orange sheet over their head when they are mid-river
Back at my hotel. The famous Bamboo Bridge has not yet been reconstructed (water levels are still too high), so there is a 'ferry' connecting my side of the river to the other.   O.K. 'Ferry' might be too strong a word:
all aboard !

A nap later, and I return the bike because I want to do Mt Phousi again.  This time with flowers.  And I rethought the bird thing. I was caught up in the standard 'You're encouraging bad habits' argument.   Usually people use that argument if they are desperate for a reason  to NOT hand money to a homeless person.  Now that Trump will be president it's obvious where all that ME vs THEM thinking is leading to.   

No, but back to the birds.   
There are two birds in a cage and I will release them. 
There are two Laotian women trying to make money and I will give them some. 

so I went to the slave market .......

 Plumeria, some banana leaf, some orange stuff, a candle, and incense.  Laotians bake good offerings !

Any questions?

Blogger's video quality SUCKS so I will have to upload this to YouTube at some point and include the link here.

After having released the birds 1/3 of the way up (no point shaking the little buggers unnecessarily)
stair re
 The second of my gorgeous offering flowers is left right by the sleeping Buddha.  This time I don't set the candle and incense alight, just in case the monks are supposed to it later
It can't hurt (Moist eyes on both sides ;-)

the cycle of life

I missed this earlier A cave under the other statues

enchanting. And it's not even the year of the snake.

The first few steps and they're huffing and puffing already
About 30 seconds after the above picture was taken, i forever abandon the taking pictures of pets on my travels.  A woman is taking a picture of a cat laying on the little wall at the very bottom of the stairs.  I can just imagine the slide show. Artist: 'And this is a cat'. Audience: ' No shit. Why did you take a picture of it?'. Artist:  'because it is a LAOTIAN cat'.   LMFAO. Get my point?  I've taken enough pictures of cats in Asia now to prove that contrary to widely spread beliefs, which are really just racism with a 'cultural' cloak, Asians do NOT turn cats into some kind of Squeasel to be served to tourists.  If that was the case, there would be none on the roads.
 This time I turn back and look through the door of the large building

naked monks ?

A hand just grabbed my door handle and turned it. The door opened a crack and I'm expecting another cleaning person.   It's the woman who with her husband occupies the room next to me.  She is wearing glasses but doesn't stop opening the door until it is FULLY open and she has a foot in my room.  Time for a new prescription?

Time to visit a restaurant around the corner highly rated by TripAdvisor customers (oh oh).   A Spanish & Lao Tapas bar?   Not a Laotian in sight that is not in a serving position.  I really should go to the local food market to leave some money with Laotian owners.  But I'm old and lazy. And I do like the atmosphere of this place, especially the flamenco music (Just think about how fucked up that is !).  LOL, let's take it as preparation for next summer's trip to Grenada ! Ole!

Ayayayyyyy, Granada ! (not my pic)
Calamari is on the menu. I intentionally drive the servers mad by playing a game with them. "no calamari in the Mekong!" Confused look.  "Where do they come from?" The market ! GRIN !.  Laos is a landlocked country so it doesn't have ocean access. Calamari are ocean creatures.  Hmm. i order them anyway to see what they can do with frozen squid.  The Rose wine is yummy though and they even seem to have Wifi.  (See why I hate these tourist towns? I'm completely loosing track of that I'm in a very poor third world country).

I don't know what they did to those frozen bits of squid but the little morsels dipped into a chili/pepper mixture pile actually taste not tooooo bad. 

 Now just imagine if they had been caught fresh in the local ocean !  STOOPID globalization!

I just went out in the street to have a smoke (all the outside tables are taken). Not only do I get winked at (LOL), but I also realize that it's by someone of the wrong race.   I just clued in to another aspect what is so wrong with this town.  This is a playground for western seniors and back-packers (yes, strange mixture). There are no Laotians on the main road.  It's gorgeous, it's warm, it's colourful, it's peaceful, it's lovely.  But it's fake. It's as fake as the comfortable evening entertainment in an all-inclusive hotel in Puerto Vallarta or Varadero. Our money has bought us a gorgeous old town AND its citizens, its customs, and its rituals and they are performing a play while we walk around as if it is our town.  

THAT is the big difference to the earlier two weeks of my trip. THEN, I was walking around in a town that was definitely NOT mine.  NOW, I don't even have to try to know the local language. No one else does and they don't care because all the Laotians here speak perfect English and French.  But it's NOT real.  I am engulfed in a Grand Global Get-together of the occupants of French, English, German, and Russian pre-retirement homes.  If I had wanted that I could have visited France, England Germany, and Russia.  But I wanted to see Laos !  See what I mean ? ;-(
Che in Laos !

That is the tone of my mental whining when I order Spanish Churros and another glass of Rose as dessert, LOL.

Hey, look! There is a picture of Che on the wall.  


NO. We have lost!


But darned, those churros are freshly fried and they are GOOD !  

oooh. Tired

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