So we arrived in Vietienne the next morning and throughout my time thus far in Laos, I’d been receiving mixed reports on the place…….. some said it was great….. others said it was shit!!! For me, the first impression I had……..was that it was most definitely tom tit……… and that impression justifiably stayed cos there were no maybes about it, not because it was a particularly horrible place, but just because it was infact…..shit!!!! 😉
It’s a dusty sort of place that has the impression of being half built………or half knocked down……… perhaps it was half cared for……….or maybe it was half bombed!!! I got no idea…..but I do know it was half of something!!! Maybe the other half had floating down the river!!!………which separated it from Thailand. But either way it was a Capital with a small c….. or perhaps it didnt have a c at all!!!!!! Just the river…….. which separated it from Thailand!!!!:-)
But when we arrived, it was time for us to go our separate ways……. I was still after budget accomadation…. but the girls wanted something more civilised….you know…. something with a bathroom and running water!!! And the mating game being what it is the lads had to follow suit!!!!………I know, I know…..birds hey!!! Cant travel with them…. and as I was finding to my cost…… when you’re in Love….cant travel without them!!!!! 😉
So we reluctantly split up, arranging to meet at a designated spot on the map at 6pm and then all went in pursuit of compromised happiness!!!! I found mine within the hour and then went on a recce for the sites of Vientienne………. and you know what I found…..fuck all!!!! The place was shit!!! Apparently there was a park full of Buddas, which was appropriately named “The Budda Park”, but I couldnt be arsed……. as it sounded like the proverbial!!!! 😉
As I was walking by the river, sporting my Claret and Blue West Ham shirt, I clocked a bar by the side of it, and seeing as it was a banging hot day, I thought I’d sit in the shade and have a cheeky beer. Then just as I walked in, and was about to find a seat, a Geordie voice shouted out “Glad you made it back with us”…..I looked up and saw this middle aged geezer sitting with a Laos guy at the far end of the restaurant/bar. “Are you Sunderland then squire?” I stated with a smile, immediately understanding his chain of thought. “I am indeed…….. come and join us…….. Rory, nice to meet you” He confirmed, invited and introduced. And I sat down and followed suit.
We then proceeded to metamophasize (you try spelling that fucking word!!!!!) into football pundits, assessing our clubs potential at kicking arse in the forth coming premiership season, and then transformed (that was easier!!!) back into ourselves, talking of other matters. Turned out Rory was an expat who’d been working in Vientienne for several years, involved in education and training.
I was asking him about life in Laos and he was enjoying telling me. He said, being a communist country, it was a bit hairy at times, with the media and aspects of life being controlled. But it wasnt too bad. He told me, for example, a few days previously they’d heard a bomb go off in town and there was a mass commotion with police cars and emergency service vehicles…..but the next day there was nothing about it written in the papers or on the TV news……… which were all state controlled.
He went on to add the next few days were another case in point, because Laos was hosting a conference for the APEC trading area, where many heads of state will be in attendance. Vientienne was due to be completely closed off and no one living in Vientienne would be allowed to leave their houses for the 3 days of the summit. I was like “No way…….what?…you cant even walk in the street?” I asked. “No” he replied and continued “They want complete control over the population during those days…..the same thing happened last November when there was another international meeting held here…..we had big community meetings with officials informing us of what we had to do…..and they didnt like me”… “Whys that?” I asked “Because I started asking questions…..what would happen if I ran out of food in those days? Were there going to be any shops open? Would we have electricity all the time? What would happen if the water got turned off? The official didnt have any replies as he hadn’t come prepared to answer any questions!!! He was just there to tell people what to do!!!…..but it was made clear to me that I should stop asking questions”….”How was that then?” I said intrigued “He just put his hand on the gun by the side of his waist and looked at me!!!! I soon got the message!!!!” Rory laughed!!! “That’s fucked up” I said. “Its just the way it is over here….you dont ask questions……….you just do what they say” Rory finished by saying.
Then he looked over the river to Thailand and started telling me a story of what happened a year ago……somewhere just across the boarder Tescos had opened a massive supermarket, and seeing as nothing like that existed in Vientienne, they cheekily put a massive sign inviting people in Laos to shop at Tescos!!!!! Rory was cracking up and said for weeks people were swimming across the river to do their shopping!!!! He said they used to go with big bin liners and on the way back seal their shopping in the liners and float it back to Laos!!!!
Now even if Tescos Value Strippy Stuff is Cheap – like a Budgie………… it certainly aint cheap enough for me to go swimming across a major river for!!!!! 🙂 And I reckon even a budgie, singing “cheap” about a tight budget, wouldn’t bother flying that far for a Tescos Promise!!!!! 😉 But thousands of the Laos people seemed quite happy to make the effort and venture into freedom………but after a while the government cottoned on to all the lost revenue and Rory said that they started policing the river and made everyone pay import duties on their groceries!!!!!! Bloody hell!!!!!….. After that people stopped going and then one day the sign was gone.
What a story….. I was cracking up and we were all enjoying a bit of banter, when the daughter of the owner of the bar started clearing the table. Rory and the Laos guy had a friendly dickie bird with her and she replied, smiled and went away. “You see her Miller……. she’s only 13 and her fathers got her working all the hours. We’ve been coming here for 2 years and she’s only just started opening up to us….. I keep going on at her father that he should let her get an education”………….. This girl was absolutely beautiful….and Rory said she’s bright with it…. and he was afraid of the inevitable…… that at some point she was gonna be smuggled into the prostitution rackets in Europe…. he’d seen it happen before………… “And if he doesn’t let her, then I’m going to have a serious word with her father about it” he said with a look I couldn’t quite work out on his face.
Then I started talking about the Plain of Jars and asked if he’d been there. “Oh yes….beautiful place, but there’s been a lot of bombing around there…..make sure you get to the third site….its the smallest but the best” he said. “So its worth going to then?” I carried on. “Yeah, I reckon…..as long as you like jars!!!” he said and made me laugh. “It feels like a spiritual place to me…is it?” I asked further. Now Rory didn’t come across as a spiritually minded type of guy, but he took onboard my question and said “Hmmm…..yeah I guess it is actually, well worth seeing if you’ve got the time”.
So I was reassured that I was making the right decision in traipsing over the other side of the country, through the mountain pass and over to the plains, just to see some Jars!!!!!! Rory added that I’d better leave in the next couple of days as well otherwise I’d get stuck in Vientienne for this meeting!! And then this other couple on another table joined our conversation and we spoke for half hour, until they announced they were going swimming.
Now, earlier in the day I’d had the thought that cos it was so hot I wouldn’t mind a swim, but didn’t know where a swimming pool was……and I actually thought that if I did find a swimming pool what would be the odds that the double couple had had the same idea and I’d “co-incidently” meet them there!!! So when this couple said that, my intuition went into over-drive and I thought I should go with them. But for the first time on my trip I ignored it and decided to follow my mind and think practically…..I had 2 hours till I was meant to meet the guys and I didnt know where this couple were going anyway. I thought, better go back and have a kip then have a shower and meet them.
So that’s what I did. When I returned to my hotel I saw this sexy looking bird go in the room next to me, so I thought I’d go and have a chat. She was Austrian and her friend German, and we had a bit of a laugh. I invited them out for the evening but they had an eary start to Vang Vein in the morning, so I went for a kip…… at least that’s what I tried!!!! But it was like an oven in my room and all I managed to do was sweat my bollocks off!!!!! And even after a shower I was still sweating and ended up being late to meet the guys!!!!
As I walked at pace through the street I saw Bee in the distance……it was now 6.20pm, and like a darling she’d just kept waiting for me. “Where’s everyone else” I asked. They’re in the pool, we’ve been there all afternoon” she said and led me there. “You’re having a bubble bath!!!” I said really pissed off at myself…..cos it was the pool that couple had gone to and I’d just spent the last 2 hours sweating me knackers off!!!! I couldn’t believe it….if only I’d followed my intuition I would’ve had a splendid afternoon!!!! Fucking Muppet!!!!! So I said hello and then goodbye to the guys, and run to get me swimming shorts!!!!
Once back, the Austrian girl asked a favour of me….she wouldn’t be able to collect some pictures she had burned on a cd, and asked if I’d collect them for her, and bring them to Vang Vein as I was going there too and we thought we’re bound to bump into each other. So I agreed and said goodbye, running through the streets to this swimming pool!!!….oh….and how good was it when I dived in!!!! Beautiful!!!! 🙂
And that evening, when we all went out on the town, we were trying to decide where to eat and low and behold I only happened to pass a bar and see a pair of plonkers having a giggle……it was James and Simon!!!!!:-) Great stuff!!!! So our decision was made, we went in to join them and had a very happy re-union (oh I made a mistake in the last mail…..James and Si I think briefly met Bee and the guys at breakfast on the morning they left…….I got confused…I just remembered the evening we spent all together was here….and it was fun!!!!;-) ).
And as it was to turn out….James and Simon were staying at the hotel almost directly opposite my own!!!! This was starting to get a bit scary!!!….especially later after I’d returned to my hotel, I decided to go and check my emails and as I walked along the road, James and Si passed and we said our goodbyes again. Then, I continued to pass James 4 times randomly!!! Now the first time that happens…its nice…..the second time it happens….its a bit funny…….the third time things start becoming a bit annoying and awkward, but then on the fourth occassion ….well quite frankly…. it becomes embarrassing and you just want to tell each other to jog on!!!!!
But I managed to check my emails and I got a mail from Nicole saying that she was going to send me an important email…. but why couldn’t she take the time to tell me in that email?… I didn’t know… All I knew was that it was doing my nut in!!! What was going on???!!! I felt like I was being mugged off, but what do you do? It was bollocks mate and it put me on a real downer. But, anyway, in the meantime it was on to “a bit of a spiritual place” called the Plain of Jars…
Love and Light,