Laos. Laos has an amazing duality to it. An old world city full of rural life dotted with a few cities. Some areas have paved roads. I loved the markets in Luang Prabang I really enjoyed sitting on the blankets with the hillstribe people gently passing the calculators back and forth til we found a “lucky number” for them and myself. The had lil wicker baskets close to the ground to sit upon and admire goods and haggle. Once you made your purchase they’d thwack every pile of goods on their blanket with the
Money blessing it for good luck and more money to come. A few times I “make show” with my hula hoops for a better deal-specifically if it was something I really wanted and just wanted a fair price. You have to really be on your game though here, their money is thoroughly confusing and 1000 Kip looks suspiciously like the 10000 Kip and people will try to rip you off every chance they get. Even at the exchange I busted the girl for shorting me 18,000 Kip but of course this was my last transaction in town so lord knows how many times this happened to me before then and went unnoticed. Smile pretty, watch your back.
I actually have been trying to leave Laos for 3 days but their joke that Laos-PDR (peoples democratic republic-which is communist-go figure) stands for “please don’t rush” has really rang true. Lol. I could have stayed in Luang Prabang til the end of the week for the next opportunity to get to Cambodia -or I could take a night bus to Vientiene and leave for Cambodia in the morning-so I took that option. It’s interesting how segregated they keep the tourists. When my tuk-tuk picked me up to take me to the bus station they drove down this dirt road I hadn’t noticed before and suddenly an entirely new city emerged before my eyes with food markets galore and shops and surely at a third of the cost. They double booked my bus and I think I only got a seat because the ticket man thought I was pretty. He kept looking at me, at my ticket, and then at the list, only to find that my seat number was taken and my name no where to be found-he scratched something out and put my name in it’s place. Later he boarded the bus for an opportunity to tell me how beautiful i was. The other people on my tuk-tuk announced they had been shafted and had to take another bus along with about 30 other people. Perhaps they are the ones that lucked out though- as our VIP bus, whose luggage compartment harbored everything from bags to motorcycles to chickens crowing–all morning from underneath us echoing through the bus lolololol. It was a long night through twisted jagged and vertically bursting mountain ranges on this small road illuminated by the barely waning full moon in this very large double decker bus sliding backwards down hills (seriously) and chugalugging the whole way. At one point I woke up and the bus was stopped-I quickly fell back asleep, I awoke perhaps an hour and a half later and we were still stopped-I thought perhaps the driver was tired, perhaps he needed a nap-but everyone with the bus company was awake and I could here the familiar sound of tools being tossed on the ground–we had broken down.
But the Laos man had something going for him, shoulder deep in engine grease he worked his magic and within another hour the bus started up and we continued on our way- our 9 hour bus ride turned into a 14 hour busride but in the end I made it to Vientiene safe and sound.
By tomorrow this time I will ideally by in Siem Reap and ready to take in the astounding sight of Angkor Wat and Angkor Tom.
I still find evolution a bit of a conundrum in this part of the world. There is something so priceless in these villages untouched by industrialism – you want them to remain untainted – but at the same time you want more for the people. Coming from somewhere where running water and electricity is standard along with paved roads and education- but at what cost are these elements applied. And what is it about the human condition that makes all of us enter somewhere new and want to make it into something else. We want to make everything “better” but who says our way is truly a better way? From Alexander the great to hitler to Obama to your own brothers and sisters-who’s call is better than anyone elses. What is it inside us that makes us want to conquer and change the very things we came to see. This concept has been reeling through my mind every step of the way as I try to consciously tred lightly and take everything in for what it’s worth rather than having expectations and only seeing what I want to see or forcing things into a mold of what I prefer.