Friday 5 November 1999 (Guy Fawkes Night back home)
So, got up very early – 6am – and went to the boat stop. In fact where the road ends or at least becomes a ford in the wet season. The 1st signs of the day seemed very promising, lots of activity on the river, two other travellers (but a quiet French couple going in the opposite direction) and the sun was coming out.
Found the market for breakfast, which was a typical open sapce with temporary huts build from bamboo, or else produce lying on the floor. There wasn’t much available and I chose not to eat the ‘rats on sticks’ – skewered, squashed, barbequed rat! They did have French style demi-baguettes though, with lovely pate and plenty of fresh vegetables like, cabbage, cucmber, tomato and all those herbs they put in their noodle soup.
Stopped back at the hotel and paid for my room which I hardly made any use of – except the bed. Then a Korean guy with blond hair and on a bike, who I had seen before with the Swedish Girls in Boten and Nam Tha came. He was also heading to Nong Khiaw. There was no sign of the cargo boat supposedly leaving at 8 or 9 however.
I didn’t mind waiting, the sun was a pleasant change and the daily goings ons were interesting to watch: building a bamboo shack form 2nd hand poles; ferrying people across the river on the junk; young girls coming to do the laundry very expertly at the waters edge (I actually persuaded them to clean one of my tops!). Locals buying / selling or exchanging fruit and other food. Big-bellied pigs wandering the streets. A little child deftly peeling oranges with a huge knife. Little children swimming naked in the Nam Ou river. People, goods and boats coming and going up and downstream – mostly to, or from, ‘up’ and never to where I want to go. Nearby, children were canoeing on a calm bend on canoes made very easily out of five strips of bamboo tied together – looks great fun! But after a while all this became quite boring, the time was going by, albeit very slowly, and no boat going to where we want. Eventually gave up at 3pm, more than eight hours ‘sitting on the dock of the bay’ doing nothing except watching, a little reading, eating and washing my jumper in the Nam Ou! Found an hotel for 5,000 kip each (all others were 10,000 kip as it was last night, not bad at all) and sat (some more) on the balcony. Two Austrians came from down river (the ones I had borrowed the Laos LP from in Nam Tha) and we ate noodles together in the same restaurant as last night (didn’t do so badly last night after all) – basically the one place with food in town. We tried to eat on the beach hut restaurant where ‘Sungyo’ ate yesterday but they only had just rice!
Back to hotel very early around 7pm and wrote up some diary. When you do it on the same day you remember so many more details but it lacks some of the inner thoughts that come to you after a while contemplating. [It’s bizarre remembering the scene now as I am writing these up nine years later!]
My travel connections had been pretty good but yesterday missing the bus (although the bus to Muang Khau was good timing) and now a day waiting for a non-existent boat has changed by luck. Both since separating from the SG’s – can’t possible be why can it?
But it hasn’t been all bad, the lazy day was a great way to experience the ‘lazy but productive’ daily life of a Lao and it was a gorgeous sunny day! I can think of worse ways and worse places to spend a lay afternoon. And what’s the rush anyway?!
I did accomplish something today as well .. not only did I get my Whistler top washed in the river. but I also semi-repaired my sunnys by replacing the missing screw with a tiny bit of bamboo, just like the locals would have done!