I am in the real Laos now in a village callled Champasak after spending a few days in the town of Pakse, before I tell you about the delightful Chamapsak I must mention the fantastic journey to Pakse from Savvanaket. Now I have been on some weird and wonderful and sometimes tiresome journeys and I am in no way complaining as it goes with the turf but this one surpasses all and is worth an entry in anybody's book, I will keep it brief.
The journey length was only about 120 miles but it took 5 hours, the bus was as ancient as the hills,full of dust and with broken seats, I managed to get on the back seat and when we started it was comfortable, however along its way it stopped frequently to pick people up, and not just people but chickens, sacks of rice, motorbikes you name it, if it could get on the bus or the roof it did, the people in charge showed incredible management skill in they way they manoeuvred said objects either onto the bus in the hold or on the roof. For the last 2 hours I was cramped with my legs on my rucksack and people virtually sitting on top of me, I forgot to mention the seats in front of me were missing and if the was room on this bus it wasn't room for long. To further enlighten my experience at roadside stops along the way hawkers were selling food and shoving dead chickens feet on sticks through the window for travel snacks, now I am a bit reluctant a the best of times to attempt a Virgin trains sandwich but Laotucky fried chicken feet on a stick?No Thanks I said I will stick my tin of tuna and bread that I brought with me, the locals though loved these things and merrily chomped away at these fleshy barbecued bacteria ridden unknown flesh feasts. I loved every minute of the journey and somehow managed to accomplish the end of Graeme Greenes The Quiet American.
Back to Champasak, a small southern rural Lao village situated alongside the Mekong where life here is extraordinary slow and peaceful, there are not many tourists around maybe 30 in the village which is about the size of Moseley High street and population of 13,000. The best way to get around is by bicycle and I was a bit reluctant to try again after my feeble and nervous attempt a couple of months ago, however I thought why not? It was the most thrilling experience and I managed it well, so much so that it gave me the confidence the next day to cycle to the ancient temples of Wat Phou which is 7 miles away. The temples are older than Angkor Wat about 8th century but nowhere near as big however the views from the top after climb up huge steps are what made it quite remarkable. The bike journey there and back gave me an equal thrill as it's not everyday you encounter oncoming buffaloes, goats, cows and chickens. The road was a trifle bumpy you might say but with very few motorised vehicles is was quite safe. In itself theres a story, here's me seeing the most remarkable places, visiting some of remotest areas of the world and yet I consider my most personally pleasing endeavour thus far to be able to ride a bike again after 25 years. I thought along my bike journey how it reminded me of Ireland once again and it brought back my family childhood holidays of which I have nothing but the fondest of memories.
I am truly at a peaceful moment right now and that minor blip when I was low at Christmas is a distant memory, in hindsight the chat with Caroline on new years day subconsciously helped so much, similarly to the chat with Della in my early days way back in India. Being able to talk to mum also helps massively and I am so looking forward to real Bacon and Cabbage, the other food I sorely miss is mushy peas.
I'm off to spend a few days to some remote islands in the mekong tomorrow near to the cambodian border which are apparently even more laid back than here.
Keep smiling kids.