Updates from South East Asia!
Sabah Dii from Laos! After Chiang Khong we were up at 7:30am for our bus at 8am to the Laos Border. From there we caught a boat across the river to Laos where passport control etc were. Next was a bus further down the river to climb aboard (we had to cross a plank and everything) the slowboat taking us to Pak Beng. 7 l-o-n-g hours later we finally arrived, and were lead to Done Villa Sak Guesthouse (well, after I'd fallen over getting out the boat, BUT, I did not fall IN the river, and this is the important thing to remember). It was fairly crap (bathroom leaks water into bedroom so we had to walk through puddles constantly, bed bugs, smelled slightly, freezing cold shower and an absolutely solid bed) but fine. Well, except for the annoying guy who worked there. As soon as I stepped off the boat (literally) he asked if Dave was my husband, I said "No, we're just friends" and he left it at that. Fifteen minutes later he came knocking on our door trying to sell Dave some Laos weed and asked "Where is your husband?". Deciding to ignore the husband reference I replied "In the bathroom". "If you just friends why you have a double bed?" he challenged, pointing unecessarily at the bed taking up the entire teeny room. "We're just friends" I repeated. "Do you have a boyfriend? Do you have a boyfriend at home? Are you married?" he persisted. "No". "Is he sort of your boyfriend?" he asked, indicating the closed bathroom door. "No" I replied, trying to keep the irritated edge from my voice. "Ok" he said and then Dave came out and he shut up. As soon as we went down to dinner, however, he spotted my rings on my ring fingers and the interrogation began again...Then he started pointing first to Dave then me saying "Boyfriend, grilfriend?" "No!" I felt like screaming at him but then he started pointing to himself and then me saying "Boyfriend, girlfriend" "No" I replied, embarassed and busied myself with the menu whilst Dave sniggered behind his. After our meal I walked over to where they sold food products by the counter to see if I could find some crackers to take on the boat journey the following day. As soon as I got there the creepy guy materialised at my elbow, grinning, asking what I was looking for. "I'm, um, fine thanks just looking" I mumbled but he continued to stand there grinning regardless. I grabbed a box of crackers, smiled nervously at him and scurried back to the relative safety of the table. Dave was still sniggering. We decided to go for a drink at a bar. These don't exist in Pak Beng so we decided a restaurant would do. We bumped into two girls we'd met on the boat (Sally and Jen) which isn't really surprising since there are only two restaurants in the town. The guy working there was almost as subtle as the guesthouse guy towards me and the other two girls: "I like tourists. I like GIRL tourists" then winks at us suggestively while we each force a nervous laugh and give each other a look that clearly reads "Oh, God, here we go". He kept coming over to the table, pulling up a chair and listening to the conversation intently, leaning forwards in concentration (or to be closer to Jen), laughing along whenever we laughed. Then he suddenly turned round and demanded of Jen "Do you have a boyfriend?" Momentarily taken aback Jen looked stunned and then said "Um, no" to which he replied "Why not?". Jen squirmed in her seat trying to answer him but fortunately we all burst out laughing and saved her the trouble while the Laos guy looked on apparently at a loss as to why we were laughing. After a while he disappeared (and we sighed in relief), only to reappear moments later with a friend of his and they began asking all of us (apart from Dave, thankfully) if we had boyfriends and then before we even had a chance to answer, said "It doesn't matter anyway, we don't care if you have boyfriends at home, you should have a Laos boyfriend" and grinned assuredly. Um...what do you say to that? We tried to laugh it off again and I think they got the message. The electricity shuts off at 10pm so we sat by candlelight until around 11pm then headed back with torches (thankyou Jay, I love maglights, I have been converted) to wade through freezing puddles and crash out on our solid beds. We had to be on the boat by 8:30am but Laos departure times I am learning are very laid back and we didn't set off until at least an hour later. The boat was ridiculously over-subscribed (as the guesthouse had been. About 10 people who'd paid for a room were told on arrival that there were no rooms left and they'd have to find somewhere else, eventually they managed to get a third of the money back that they'd paid but only after lots of arguing. An irate Irish guy wasn't given any money back for arguing with them and when an elderly Australian couple who actually had a room intervened to vouch for the stranded individuals they were told "You are old, you forget, how would you know if they bought ticket?"! Then when they called him rude he kicked them out of the guesthouse too. Oh, the drama) and loads of people got off to protest for a new boat. After standing outside with their backpacks for a good 40 mins arguing with the Laos boat people it became painfully clear there would be no other boat and the Laos people would much rather stand there all day discussing the matter the disgruntled people traipsed back on to the boat and we set off. En route we picked up another three families. It was so packed you couldn't really get up and stretch your legs as you'd just step on people so we had to sit for the entire 7 hours on wooden benches. Ouch. To improve the situation the scorching sun came blasting in through the open side of the boat, burning me to a crisp. I tried to manoevre out of the direct sunlight with the inch of space I had to play with but to no avail. I am now a severe sunburnt pink on one hand, one arm, one side of my neck and, you guessed it, a straight line down the middle of my face with a half-burnt nose, forehead, cheek and chin. Dave literally burst out laughing as soon as he saw me. Fantastic. Anyway as soon as we finally arrived in Luang Prabang swaying slightly after two days on the boat a guesthouse rep pulled me up the step and over into the mud (cheers mate) before taking us to Chitlatda Guesthouse. He's really sweet actually and was so grateful when I gave him 32p of English money and 10 Dirhams of Dubai currency he bowed low and looked on the verge of weeping with gratitude. Bless him. We chilled for a while well, Dave slept and I was alternately scalded and then frozen by the indecisive shower before we headed out to explore Luang Prabang. We went for a meal. Mine made me retch, I literally had to swallow it down with water. It was recommended by LP so Dave muttered blasphemourously about how crap LP are but I rushed to it's defence "It didn't say it was good food Dave it just said there was a good selection". Never mind. We wandered around the town for a while before it gradually dawned on us that we had not bothered to actually find out the name of the guesthouse we were staying at. Ah. Crap. We tried to retrace the route the taxi had taken several hours earlier and fortunately we eventually recognised it. Sighing with relief we collapsed into bed. Only us. Today all we've done is have a lie in and wander aimlessly around town. Going to grab something else to eat now, so have to love you and leave you Jx