Sometimes life throws mild misfortunes at us, like a little mole scampering into and out of our field of vision. Sometimes, like we learned with the Cambodian bedbugs, that little mole can lead to great encounters.
The last two weeks have been me rolling with the punches of life as my little mole skirts in and out.
I arrived in Vientiane with the plan of spending a couple of days there then going on a boat trip then to Bangkok from Vientiane as it is right on the Thai-Laos border. The crew that was on the almost unbearably long ride from Hanoi to Vientiane were all heading north in Laos along the same trajectory, one that would fit with my plan as well. I didn’t see any signs or ads for boat trips so I rolled with the punches and figured maybe that wasn’t the thing to do in Vientiane.
I heard from tons of people in my hostel that there wasn’t anything to do in Vientiane, but we had a great and really busy day wandering around the city. We bounced from monument to monument, ate in a mall food court for 15,000 kip ($2 ish), went to the big temple and sat there for a while watching people go in and out and take selfies.
For the evening we went to the night market where there was a big festival going on with two massive bamboo puppets paraded back and forth on the street and I had a very strange encounter with a Laos woman who wanted to pay me to tour her around Canada for a week and followed me around for a substantial part of the night.
The next day was Vang Vieng, the town in Laos known for its mountain scenery and tubing. This is “adult tubing”, where you lazy-river style float down a river from one bar to the next. And it is a wildly fun time, especially with the great crew of 9 people that we had. Unfortunately I have no photos because we all understood the risk of bringing our phones or cameras into the river, so didn’t.
One day of tubing was quite enough for me. I say one day but it was broken into two when I took a couple hours nap and woke up at 11 pm convinced it was morning. I wasn’t as convinced as Adrian, the vivacious Aussie in the crew, who started planning the day’s activities while those who knew it was still night looked on unsure if he was kidding or not. So we embraced the extra hours of our day, explored the town, danced with ladyboys and ate delectable sandwiches.
I managed to squeeze in a trip to Luang Prabang, what many travelers have pegged as their favourite place in SE Asia. I can see its allure: breathtaking waterfall, 15,000 kip ($1.50) vegetarian street buffet, street markets galore and a temple perched on the hill to see the sunset over the whole city.
After 2 days and too many sandwiches, I headed back to Vientiane for the train and my little mole cropped up.
Obviously I took the budget overnight bus and when I asked the ticket agent if it was a sleeper bus he chuckled at me and said no. I didn’t understand the joke until I got to the station and saw that it was a local minivan, complete with bags of sand and makeshift seats. I snagged the last window seat that was makeshift, without armrest and over the wheel well. So I spent the night squirming between hugging my knees and trying to find a place for my legs (I can only imagine how a tall person would have managed) and falling out of my seat every time the driver cut a corner a smidge too quickly (didn’t realize the importance of armrests until then).
I rocked back up to Vientiane at my standard 4:30 am, and went back to the hostel I was in before. There I used the wifi, charged my things and had breakfast. I forced myself to stay awake so I wouldn’t have to pay for a room. Once it was a more reasonable hour, I went to an Internet cafe so I could accept my official offer to graduate school (going to Carleton for a Masters in Journalism in September!!). After some rushed noodle soup at the hostel I headed to the train station for what has been the easiest transfer anywhere. Organized border control, on time trains and buses and an actual bed on a train all to myself. No little mole in sight here though he turned up not 12 hours later.
I had chosen a hostel close to the airport I was flying out of the next day (to go to Bali) and turns out it was in the middle of no where, like the closest place to eat was 3 km away. But, I didn’t stay long because my dear friend Nan from high school was in Bangkok at the same time (who knew!?) so I obviously went to see her.
After amazing pad Thai, I hopped on a motorbike taxi to get back to my hostel. I showed the driver where it was and we agreed on a price and off we went. After about 5 minutes going in what I knew was the wrong direction I made a comment and he said “we go long way”. Sure thing man, no worries. After another 10 minutes he told me to pull out my map, realized where it was and went “my god so far!”. He then pulled over, dumped me off his bike and drove away.
This little misfortune lead me to hail the nicest cab driver I’ve had in Asia. We spoke in broken Thai and he taught me how to say things, or just spoke to me in Thai. He dropped me off safely at my hostel and I slept for the next 3 hours before my flight.
Turns out I arrived in Bali the day before their New Years celebration where they parade papier-mâché monsters on the street all night and then spend the next day in silence. No power, no noise. This was a slight hiccup for me as I am going to volunteer at a farm so I had to delay going until after this festival. But I am so glad I did because I had the best 24 hours I’ve had in a long time (and that’s saying something).
The whole town makes these monsters so the parade went on from 7 until at least 11. At about 9 my hostel mates and I gave up and hung out in the park until we decided to 1) find our motorbikes and 2) get them out of the throngs of people and monsters.
The next morning I was woken up by Frenchie Alex reminding me that there was a solar eclipse happening. Yeah. A solar eclipse. So we watched the moon cover the sun (not fully) in the reflection of a piece of broken glass through 2 pairs of sunglasses. The sun became a thin crescent and it was incredible. Another thing to cross off the bucket list.
Because the culture enforces leisure that day, we spent the day watching movies, something I haven’t done in ages. Bali is committed to this holiday so all of the lights are off, even in commercial buildings. That meant we could actually see the stars from the roof. So we spent the night playing ukulele, singing, chatting and making wishes on the shooting stars we saw. And there we slept.
I was determined to go to the farm the next day, but my little mole had other plans. Creepy, crawly plans. Oh yes, more bedbugs. I was aware they were in the hostel but I didn’t have any in my room. However I got them doesn’t matter but I pulled my bag out of the cab in Ubud and saw one crawling across the top. Again. I searched the bag and found 3 more on the top. One inside the top flap.
I laughed and just kept repeating as if.. As if this is happening again. What are the odds, like come on. So, once again I washed my clothes and this time managed to find a place that would wash my backpack too. So I once again delayed going to the farm.
But I ended up having a great day. I went to the famous monkey forest, wandered around town, went to a jazz bar and ate pizza. Silver linings. I also checked into a hostel carrying only a garbage bag of stuff that couldn’t be washed. Again, I laughed, along with the receptionist too.
Until Next Time (which could be a while, so don’t panic, I am probably alive),