Lost in Laos, Luang Nam Tha, 26th October 2010

This not being a factual blog, or based on the ‘real’, I have indulged in a fair reflection of my thoughts and adventures in the land of Laos and above.  Embellishment being at the heart of all my truer tales.  This is the end of the ‘lost’ trilogy.
Floating over the Mekong river on a thin wooden boat, I see Laos on the other side.  Northern Thailand, Huang Xai behind and ahead a border to cross.  It all looks very green.  Meet a Texan man called Eric who talks of many things, opening my eyes to the possibility of vortex maths.  Both believing that aliens are real, we are aliens after all, you only have to look at my feet to realise this.  In Laos things are quieter and simpler.  It’s a poorer place and a different pace.  The people seem more aloof than the smily, open Thais, but all the more interesting for that distance and apparent lack of interested in this pale, lanky form.
Over a chilled litre of Beer Laos (a fine ale) we sit in darkness beside the port street, the power is out.  Homes and little shops are lit by single candles.  The local ladies send white lanterns up into the night sky.  In awe as they soar in an orange flock up and up towards the stars, higher and higher until all becomes dark again, flames extinguished and they presumably plummet towards the earth.  Gravity showing who is boss.
Another night spent in a hut, but this time with clean towels and small bars of complimentary soap.
In one of my first mouthfuls of food in this new nation, I chew on a ball of soil.  Gritty and of course, earthy.  The staple food here is ‘Fhlu’ a soup based noodle dish. I will not compare with Thailand as most cuisines fall well short of that street eating fantasy land.  The Laos money is the ‘Kip’  there are 12,000 kips to a pound, keeping the brain well exercised and the wallet fat.
The next day a dusty expanse of a bus station, cows graze under a palm tree and the gangs of long and short-term lost souls sit around.  Chewing overpriced snacks and paying a toothless man for the privilege of a pee (in a filthy pot).
I sit on a bench, observing the small crowd and strumming my little guitarlele.  A dog barks at me, stupid dog.  I sip a coffee, made by a child in a wok still showing the remnants of a previous stir fry.  The coffee came from the fridge, via a can of Nescafe frappe.  The flavour somewhere between fermented fish, saccharine and melted flip-flops.  The coffee in Thailand is all over excellent.  But I won’t mention that.
Many people sit in front of their buses observing their chariots of dubious luxury.  Wherever you travel in Laos, it seems to take 10 hours.  The roads are intermittently surfaced and normally bumpy and rutted.  In my back seat, I am regularly thrown up into the air and land heavily on my rice sack.  Ups and downs, bringing a sense of adventure, headaches, suffering needed to realise the experience of living, of moving.
Out of the window a carpet of green consumes all below, looking like an endless bunch of brocoli florets, the jungle covers all undulations until the horizon.  Somewhere over there is China.  The occasional giant tree punctures the dense canopy.  Clouds spring up, ripples and swirls, like giant smoke signals being drawn to the big blue.  I notice many trees are wrapped in vines, they hang from the branches, seemingly being strangled to life.
A boy leads a huge water buffalo by its nose ring, rice paddies form a backdrop, he rides a mountain bike and is smoking a local green leaf cigarette.
Local villagers live simply in teak or bamboo huts.  Depending on the area.  This is the ‘Golden Triangle’ so we have a huge diffusion of tribal cultures.  Fascinating diversity in one valley alone.  Families of pot belleid pigs, red-billed ducks and long legged chickens scurry around, they seem to like their meat here.  The villages are well ordered and kept clean, neat piles of fire wood sit under each home.
Jungle sounds affect dreaming )))))))) People talk of thinking ‘outside the box’, a nightmare vision of me in a boardroom, surrounded by people wearing ties and operating overhead projector machines.  I heard the cackles of false laughter and tension in the air, I felt the sadness and confusion.  I realised I was a 4D vortex and had nothing to fear.  A box with no shape, form or space.  It was not my box, it never was and never will be.  I wake to the sounds of a river flowing and a potential bamboo rat active in the roof))))))))))))))
Conciliatory reflection, at least the cattle realise that boxes exist and they are potentially in one.  
((((((((Then another realisation that in this world of apathy, if we all bury our heads in the sand all that will remain is a world of up-turned bums.  If it comes to it, bury my head under the banyan tree, pointing towards Saturn.  Bury the glorious dead, not your head)))))))))))))))
Laos is one of only four communist countries in the world, it doesn’t feel like it (Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam).  Only the occasional communist style governement building.
I’m closer towards the Chinese border now (which I have no intention of crossing, its just there).  Heading to Muang Sing, taking a mountain bike into the jungle.  I will be 10kms from that giant mysterious land.  For some reason, this excites me.
60km on a bike through a jungle, to the soundtrack of insects vibrating and buzzing above and around.  That saddle will take some forgetting.  There were arduous ascents and a couple of rapid descents along the way.  I didn’t fall off, which is always a pleasant surprise.  Seeing the jungle thrive and pulsate was incredible.  Its dense, dense, dense.  I see no animals, but met some friendly policeman.  What they were doing here, I have no clue, but they offered me chilled orange juice.
Muang Sing is a small frontier town.  There are many pricey ‘eco’ tourist offices.  One will charge you 1,000,000 kip (85 pounds) to stay with a local family.  Not entirely sure about the ethics of this, like a tribal fashion show the local ladies dress up for the tourists who exploit and de-humanise with their constant flash photography, no connections made or understanding shared.  I potter around and hang out with some funny little old ladies making bracelets, their mouths and teeth stained black from something they like to chew.  All wearing different tribal outfits and jewellery, I love the vivid colours.  They try to sell me large bags of marijuana and opium, stuffing them up my t-shirt and into my pockets, I eventually fend them off, tough people.  Many of these ladies contact the police directly after the sale and earn themselves an extra bit of pocket money for a ‘falang’ arrest.
This endless monsoon follows me still, as the rain pours down and all is consumed by a greyblue haze.  I have missed many vistas recently due to my own private monsoon.  The landscape here is flat and covered by small stilted huts and large golden fields of wheat, farm workers weigh sacks of seed on the roadside.
Some cock (male chicken) stands outside my window at 3am and begins the day with a hell of a racket.  These cocks seem to dictate the flow of living here and who am I to say what time it all begins.  Travelling can take it out of you, I cannot remember the last time I slept uninterrupted by noises and random occurrences.
I eat a curry, I feel happy, I visit a market.  I realise I read more menus than books at the moment………………….

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