Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Current Whereabouts: Northern Laos




Right kids, I made it back to civilization (Vientiane, the capital of Laos) in one piece just about. I'll attach some pictures. The final two days of riding were very difficult due to weather and 'road' conditions (30kms in six hours is not what I would call rapid - massive credit to the bike though it took an almighty hammering) and also because I ran out of cash and couldn't afford to eat or drink for two days. As King Kev would say: 'Roller Coaster'

Next stop Thailand, I need a rest!


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Sawadee (Hello) one and all.

I'm currently slumming it in the Maly Hotel in Phonsovan, famed for it's 'Plain of Jars' sites which are basically big empty stone jars that are about 2000 years old, no one knows what they were for, best guess is funeral urns. I was a bit disappointed when I showed up as I thought it was going to be about beer. Needless to say I had a few jars of my own last night with me main man Phet Long, an engineer. His name means 'second diamond'.

Having spent a few days on the tourist trail I had to get out and find the real Laos, meet the real Laotians. As such I have hired a motorbike and am doing a DIY-tour of Northern Laos. I 'borrowed' the itinery from a Laos based enterprise, I'm 3/4 the way thru, having ridden in some very remote places and taken my time stopping longer than one night in some places (Vieng Xay the Hidden City for example). The village children are an absolute delight, without fail waving at me and shouting 'sawadee' as I cruise on through. I've been through hundreds of tiny little places, it's always a joy to see the children's beaming faces despite the poverty in which they live - most don't go to school, they help the family who invariably are subsistence farmers.

It has been an education for me, and as things have turned out I've been able to give a little bit back. In Sam Neua near the Vietnam border I gave English lessons to two students, and last night (Wed) I met the education adviser for Xieng Khouhang province who invited me to teach two classes of 25 children how to converse in English. It was very rewarding, and the least I can do for this amazing country and the incredible people who live here.

Today I'm riding south to either Pakxan, or, if the weather closes in, half way - to Thathom where there is no hot water or electricity, should be fun. Enroute I will visit Mouang Khoune, an ancient city with Buddhist relics that the Americans kindly bombed the life out of in the 'secret war' against Laos and the naughty Commies. Indeed there are bomb craters everywhere around here, Loas being the mosts bombed nation in the world. Did you know that for nine years solid the Americans dropped a plane load of bombs every eight minutes night and day onto Laos - more than all the bombs dropped in WWII? The sad thing is that half of them haven't gone off yet and so the place is littered with unexploded ordinance (UXOs). Whilst I was in Vieng Xay the UXO team blew up three UXOs, one of them was incredibly loud and sent a mushroom cloud of fall out into the sky. I also saw a crater 80m in diameter, the size of a football pitch, the result of a 6 tonne bomb. Nine years solid my friends, and the Laotians still won! My guest house has quite an array of shells, rockets, machine guns and so forth adorning the walls and gateposts and they have even made a flower display out of an empty rocket shell. The amazing thing is that Laotians welcome Americans with open arms despite the atrocities. They really are the most humble and forgiving people. I can't help but admire them.

Hope all is well wherever you are, see most of you in July. Apologies for lack of private emails, it's not easy getting electricity around here, nevermind the internet!

The Dude

4 comments:

Jill said...

Hi Adam. Teaching kids your Laos'y English now theres a thought! How well does eeeh ba gum and by 'eck translate? cheers Ian

Me Shandy said...

Mr B! Sorry for lack of emails, my address book didn't import half of the names (A final two fingered salute from Lotus Notes!).

You are quite right ofcourse, there's now a small army of teenage Laotians wandering around in wellies and flat caps giving it the full Lancashire accent. The first phrase I taught them was 'By eck, you smell gorgeous tonight Petal'. Very handy for all trainee ladyboys. Next week they'll be getting an introductory course on rounding up sheep.

Interesting news re: the house move. Sounds like an excellent location, and most likely I'll be somewhere up North too. Or New Zealand ;-)

Si thee soon! The Shandyman

The_rear said...

Sawadee!

A motorbike, pushing up hills and starving yourself rather than gorging on as much food as possible to up your weight to power ratio. Sounds like a heavy douse of cheating to me. All this is perhaps outweighed by how far off the beaten track you are and how beautiful it all looks mind you.

Hope you taught your Laotion pupils how to big themselves up as it certainly sounds like they deserve to give themselves two massive hands behind their backs.

My wrist is on the mend so should be up for a spot of biking upon your return. Workington's finest export, Dave, sent us an email, so I've told him that you've been paid lots of money to stop doing your job and that you'll be in touch. I'm sure he'll be happy that you're being suitably magnaminous about it all!

Khoi kuedhod chao de, la gohn.

Me Shandy said...

Apologies for lack of gorging JP, I don't know what came over me.

To be fair I couldn't figure out how to switch the motorbike on so I've ended up pushing it for 7 days which hopefully redeems me a bit?

No point writing that gbbledegook at the bottom of the page as we both know having a basic command of and language other than English is clearly cheating. Always best to be in a tricky situation and not be able to communicate at all with the locals. What's wrong with the Dave Shaw method of pointing and saying 'That and that'?

Glad the wrist is better, am keen for some riding this summer. Ant claims he's been on a couple of rides recently so maybe we can all meet up for a 100k chant-athon in North Wales.