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Safe & sound in Savannakhet

Hi all,

Yesterday I very reluctantly left the Lao capitol of Vientiane and headed south to the township of Savannakhet. I had a feeling the bus trip was gonna be something special when I climbed on and the driver fired up the on-board karaoke machine. :) Unfortunately, I can’t speak or read Thai, nor did they have any English VCDs othewise I would’ve gotten up and given it a bash.

Being just under 6’1″ and taking a 10 hour ride on a public bus designed for people significantly is not a whole lot of fun. I have a dodgy knee and have discovered that if it isn’t moved for about 90 minutes it starts to really f_cking hurt. For about two hours that was all I could think of, I couldn’t take delight in the lovely countryside, my friendly co-passengers (only one other being a Westerner, from Melbourne, bloody Aussies are everywhere!), the karaoke, and it annoyed me. I managed to temporarily remedy the knee and the world reappeared. I cannot sleep on transport, and it got dark before long so I couldn’t read. So I just let all the experiences, sights, sounds, tastes and emotions of the last 5 weeks flow through me. It was quite an interesting exercise.

I arrived in Savannakhet at about 8pm, accepted the first tuk-tuk ride offered to me (at a cost of 10,000 kip into town, a very good deal), and was deposited at a pretty cool-looking almost French colonial style hotel. There were a few Westerners in the courtyard having a quiet ale. Once I saw the price of the room I grabbed it. Once again, a very good deal.

And as is the custom in the region, everyone has a little side business going. The bloke on the reception desk said to me, “If you want girlfriend, you let me know, I arrange.” It was kinda strange to think that the offer coming from a hotel guy has a greater feel of non-shonkiness than the same offer from a tuk-tuk driver in Bangkok.

I dropped my bags and went for a walk, getting utterly disoriented as I had no idea which way north was. But there was nothing to fear; disoriented at night in a Communist South-east Asian country where I don’t know anyone and can’t read or speak the language, what could possibly go wrong?

It seems that practicing English on random Westerners is a favourite pasttime here. I was greeted by a young boy about 16 years old, he invited me to sit down and he practiced his conversational english on me. What’s your name? Where are you from? How old are you? How long have you been in Laos? His three friends soon joined him and they all had a go as well, except the youngest who was about 8 years old.

In an attempt to get my bearings I asked which way the Mekong River was. They all pointed (in the same direction, thankfully), and then the elsedt one offered to take me there on his motor scooter for a look. How very cool. I declined and thanked him in English and in Lao. I shook their hands as I left and they were absolutely over the moon.

I returned to my room about 45 minutes later and was soon comatose on my bed. Slept better than I have in a long time.

So… on Monday I think I’ll start making my way to Vietnam. There’s a lot just south of the DMZ that I want to see.

Not a lot else to say, I wrote tons in my journal while in Vientiane, I guess you’ll have to wait unti I’ve compiled that into legible form.

Hope everyone is cool and groovy and etc.

Paul C./Karsoe

“There is a difference between knowing the Path and walking the Path.”
– Morpheus, ‘The Matrix’

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