Awoke quite early yesterday, Friday – 5:45 in the AM – to give myself plenty of time to hoof it to the bus station for the 7:30 departure. Ended up getting delayed straight away when I went to leave and found that the hostel’s doors’d been padlocked shut.
So, madly began to search around for a back entrance, to no avail, and after some time was surprised to bump in to the staffer. Whether this was his usual time of rising, or he was thinking there might be a prowler in his midst, I know not. Anyway, he wasn’t carrying a shotgun.
It meant that I was about ten minutes behind my proposed schedule; but then made fairly exquisite time (considering carrying all my crap on my back), arriving to the depot at 7:05 in the AM. Feeling quite satisfied with the success of my labours, I casually checked my bag and sauntered off to the pisser.
But when I come out, the bus was already pulling away from the fugging station! What the Christ? I ran to catch up with it, and the conductor beckoned me aboard. But, shit, my nonchalance had almost been responsible for the sending-of along of my baggage without me. Or…had it?
We puttered down the road for about a quarter-mile, then pulled over and stopped. The driver and conductors got out and began eating chicken kebabs; while some of the passengers were just milling around. After about a half-hour’s time, another handful of riders showed up in a minivan, were boarded, and then we were off.
You really never know, in Laos, just what in Hell is gonna happen next. But you do know it’ll be some dope-ass hijinks, for sure.
The first half of the journey re-traced the second half of the inbound trip – and the driver seemed as maniacal as had the previous driver. But for some reason, my stomach didn’t quease up at all. I did hear some people retching behind me, but not really all that many.
Nevertheless, the trip seemed to take quite some time, as we made a lot of stops letting people on and off, in addition to the roadside piss-break, and the lunch break, and so on. ‘twas, however, probably the most scenic bus ride to-date.
The coach was equipped with a teevee screen…
…but it never did get turned to the “on”. I read online somewhere somebody complaining about a night-bus they’d taken; and that there’d been karaoke videos playing, and that all the locals had just stayed up all night singing karaoke rather that going to sleep. I guess this feature’s only for the night-bus, alas. I’m gonna have to get my ass onto one of them, for sure!
By the way, notice the clock. All clocks on all buses in Laos (or so is my experience) at all times read 8:30 in the AM.
We stopped at a tangerines stand, and almost all of the locals de-boarded and purchased surprisingly large quantities of them. It was just seven or eight stalls of tangerine ladies – and then at the very end was a couple of Italian-mafia-looking guys, selling papayas. But they didn’t seem to be getting any business.
And then, master klutz that I am, checking into the hostel I kicked this damned concrete pillar-support. BAM!, right on the little toe. Now it’s all swelled up and purple and shit. No pain at all whilst lazing about, and only mild pain whilst walking.
But, really, the reason I stopped here in the first place is ‘cause the map shows a pretty extensive network of hiking trails nestled right in there between the river and the mountains. But I certainly daren’t doing anything of that sort to-day (Saturday). Hopefully tomorrow I’ll feel it a more sensible plan of action.
Earlier to-day I was showing it off, and this Australian girl who’s “in Physio” (which I take to mean a pre-med student, or something like), poked and prodded at it for a while. She was kinda freaking out at all the swelling, and soberly instructed me to “keep” icing. Which instruction of course presupposes that I had already been icing. Which, also of course, I had not.
But she was just getting ready to go swimming, and I wanted neither to delay nor to discombobulate her with a big grandiose oration concerning the treatment of illness and injury with nothing save rest and/or fasting and/or hydration. So I just said that, okay, I would do.
Silly doctors, thinking they’re smarter than the organism and wanting to control the swelling. What a buncha nitwits!
So, here’s the deal with Vang Vieng. It was just this teeny-tiny little village. But then the caucasoids began to notice the stunning natural beauty of the place. Which, it’s true. The mountains are hellaciously gorgeous.
They also noticed that it’s an ideal location for inner-tubing the river. And so they began to descend in droves. And so this whole big tourist infrastructure sprung up to get their money from them. Now, it’s like the Spring Break Mecca of Asia. Also, ‘cause all these crazy kids are drinking and drugging while innertubing, it’s the drowning capital of Asia. Couple hundred a year, I think, just in this tiny little place.
And of course, with the tourists came the cooking-fires, came the perma-haze.
So what was once a paradise for the villagers here has now been fucked. Hey, but at least they’re making bank over-charging tourists for drugs and alcohol (big Beerlao in Luang Prabang: 10,000 Kip; in Vang Vieng: 70,000 Kip).
Almost impossible to find any fruit in town. There’s a Morning Market a few miles north, but I thought it prudent not to walk up there this morning, what with the gimp and all. May as well have done, such was the territory covered hobbling around trying to find some morsels here in town.
What they’ve got instead is dozens of open-air restaurants serving burgers, pizza, spaghetti, steaks, and Lao food – and playing re-runs of Friends (with Lao subtitles) and Family Guy on their teevee screens (I did also see one joint playing South Park).
How did this get started? No clue. Why these two shows? Also no clue. Family Guy is probably my all-time favourite teevee show, though, so I can’t really argue with the wisdom of its inclusion. Never seen Friends, so had not known before to-day that it had employed a laugh track. What? I thought the laugh track had gone defunct in the mid-‘80s?
These three Canadian dudes staying here say Friends is pretty funny. But a German staying here, who shares my passion for Family Guy (watches it in English on the Internet, though it’s also available on teevee there, with German dubbing), doesn’t agree.
Hobbling around looking for fruit, I did manage to take in a few temples. And would you believe it? Something I’d never yet seen! Again! This time, a Black Buddha!
I’ve seen small support-Buddhas in every colour of the rainbow (often translucent); but never before a Big Temple-Assed Buddha in anything other than gold. Kickass!
One of the temples has two golden chickens as the primary temple guardians.
And one has the most feminine-looking Buddha I’ve yet come across.
Looks rather like Lisa Bonet, don’t you think? Also, an Accessorised Buddha.
Has just been to REI, from the looks of it.
Near one of the temples, a colourful little procession came rolling on by. I’m thinking it had something to do with a wedding, maybe?
Later, sitting eating a salad, a motorised procession.