Taking A Friend Around Southeast Asia
When we lived in New York we made a lot of good friends, one of whom was Anna’s colleague, Jesse McCann. In fact, it was Jesse who first found me work as a writer by showing my blog to his sister, Maia, who then offered me a job at littlethings.com and was my editor while I was working there.
Fast-forward through the 12 months since we returned to Singapore and Jesse had decided to relocate to Tampa, Florida, but was doing a bit of traveling; first, he looked around Ukraine, spent some time with family in Italy, and was also planning to see some friends in Australia so it just made sense that he stop over and see us in Singapore. It was his first time in Southeast Asia so he also wanted to check out other places in the area and neither Anna nor myself had ever been to Laos, so we made a plan — Jesse would have a layover for one day in Taipei, Taiwan and then would arrive here on the night of Thursday, August 3. There were no direct flights to Laos from Singapore so Friday evening we would take a short flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, stay there until Sunday afternoon and then fly out to Luang Prabang, Laos from there and stay until the following Thursday, August 10, and he would fly to Perth, Western Australia, from Singapore on Friday afternoon.
But we had something else on our plate on Tuesesday night; In July, Anna had been asked to film a segment for the TV health programme Body and Soul on channel 5 here in Singapore. Unfortunately, the only way I had of recording it was filming our television with my phone, but it still turned out alright. Anna said she was quite nervous during the taping, but I think she did a great job, she even had to do her own hair and make-up. Her segment was at the very end of the show, if you want to watch the whole episode you can do so here, otherwise this is what I recorded with my phone. It came out quite well, all things considered:
After it aired, Anna let out a great sigh of relief. Hopefully she gets to do a lot more TV work in the future. Anyway, on to the adventures.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
Jesse arrived bearing gifts including a bunch of different cheeses from Italy and a fake Donald Trump Ukrainian driver’s licence that he bought off some guy in the street while he was there. He also tried to bring in Italian pickles, but they got confiscated by Taiwanese customs when he was in transit due to them containing liquid.
Because he wouldn’t be spending much time in Singapore, we took Jesse to a Peranakan restaurant near our house so he could try some food that is pretty much impossible to have anywhere else in the world.
Friday, August 4, 2017
Jesse was still battling jet-lag so we took it pretty easy. It was a slow workday for me, but Anna had to go in and operate so the two of us just took care of what needed to be done before we flew out that night. We walked Kermit down to the dog hotel, grabbed some noodles from Tiong Bahru Market, had a bit of a look around the neighbourhood and before long it was time to make our way to the airport. As per usual, getting through Changi Airport was smooth and completely hassle-free, but that is where the simplicity ended, as once we boarded the plane we knew we were in for an uncomfortable ride. Jesse is not much shorter than me and also has disproportionately long legs too, however, our seats were the very last row, which meant, not only could neither of us fit in the seats, they also didn’t recline. We would both be spending our albeit short flight sitting side-saddle and bolt-upright, a position that doesn’t make for a comfortable trip, but does lead to intense lower-back pain.
Before long we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, walked several kilometres through the airport to go through immigration, jumped in a cab and made our way to the Wolo Hotel in Bukit Bintang, the same one we’ve stayed in the last few times we’ve been to Malaysia, including when I went over to hang out with my mate, Owen, at the beginning of the year. We checked in, then made our way down to Jalan Alor for dinner, which wasn’t too busy as it was already midnight, and then out for a couple of drinks and a shisha as we always do.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
Saturday was to be our only full day in KL so we wanted to do it properly, however, we had had a pretty late one the previous night and my back was killing me from the flight, a problem that is really starting to develop into a pattern. Still, complaining doesn’t make it any better so we hit the street.
First, we wanted to get coffee, however, the cafe downstairs in our building had closed down. I kind of felt responsible because last time I was there I found a dead snail in my salad and wrote about it here. I know nobody except for friends and family really reads this thing, but it is possible I may have contributed to the demise of Tous Les Jours. Then again, last time the service was shit, I received a deceased gastropod in my food and we really only wanted to go there this time out of sheer convenience. No great loss. Instead, we went to the huge hawker centre in the bottom of Lot 10 shopping mall and ordered a bunch of great local stuff for lunch, as well as coffee.
Once lunch was done we just walked around the area, looking at the shittier malls, cringing at some of the horrendous stuff for sale and laughing at the ‘Cheese Chicks,’ girls who were trying to look sexy while seductively trying to get people to buy cheese in the street. A few sights from the afternoon:
After wandering around the city we were starting to get a bit thirsty so Anna arranged for us to go to Sky Bar on the 33rd floor of the Traders Hotel. It was a nice place and had a great view of the Petronas Towers, but it is a little troubling when you are drinking and you need to navigate a very narrow walkway in order to get to your table and avoid falling in an indoor swimming pool.
After the Sky Bar, we went back down to Jalan Alor and had dinner, this time when it was exceptionally busy so Jesse could see how it really is. After that it was back to the same bar as the previous night for drinks and a shisha again. It turned into an interesting night as what appeared to be a buck’s night showed up with a bunch of guys wearing dresses. One of them managed to get lucky and started making out with some girl while the live reggae band played so Jesse’s first full day drinking in a Muslim country concluded when a guy wearing a dress got it on with a girl in a bar while the band played song after song about weed in the background. Actually, the bands they had both nights were really good.
Again, we couldn’t go too crazy, we had a flight at midday and we would need to give ourselves about an hour to get to the airport due to the unpredictable traffic in KL. Probably best to call it a night.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
We checked out of the Wolo, AKA. The Gothic Mariah Carey Insane Asylum, on time and called an Uber, but it kept changing direction on the map and the time until it would be arriving continued to increase, rather than become less because we realised some of the roads in the area were blocked off, but there was a taxi parked near where we were standing. Anna walked over and spoke to the driver, but we had a problem we hadn’t encountered in Kuala Lumpur in recent years — The driver flat out refused to use the metre. In the past, for some ridiculous reason taxi drivers in Malaysia wouldn’t use the metre, instead just naming an exorbitant price, especially when they saw a white passenger. They would rather just sit there and not make any money, all the while waiting to cash in on someone naively or desperately willing to give them more than they would normally make in one trip. It was so bad that I used to have to hide and let Anna do all the talking with the drivers, only to emerge once she had found one who was willing to do things the legal way, as opposed to just blatantly trying to rip us off. That all began to change when apps such as Uber and Grab came into play and the fare was pre-determined, because dodgy taxi drivers just simply didn’t get customers any more. This driver, however, assumed that we were desperate, as we were going to the airport and said he would only take us if the trip was a minimum of RM100 (approx US$23.00). Anna explained to the guy that we wouldn’t actually know that until we arrived and to stop being a dick and just use the metre unless, of course, he wants to just sit there, earning nothing whatsoever.
He eventually relented and he was insane. This driver started bizarre conversations with me in the front seat about things he must’ve known I would have no idea about, such as random taxi driver dilemmas. His phone kept ringing with the most annoying ringtone, but at least he eventually pulled over to answer it. It was someone who wanted a ride in 10 minutes, but he was on his way to the airport and was absolutely flummoxed as to why the caller didn’t know that. I considered explaining that if he did indeed know what the driver was doing, he was either already in the cab or was able to telepathically communicate with him, thus ruling out the need to make a phone call, but I didn’t want to enter another conversation with this guy, I just wanted to get to the airport.
We eventually arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport unscathed, checked in, ate, and boarded our flight, this time allocated seats we could actually fit in.
The flight took about three hours, plus Luang Prabang was an hour behind Kuala Lumpur, so we would have plenty of time to check the place out once we were out of the airport. That was our next worry. We could apply for a Laotian visa in advance or get one on arrival and Jesse and myself opted for the latter option, Anna didn’t need one due to possessing an ASEAN passport. The process was a strange one, not so much for us, but for other people entering the country, costing US$30 for Australians and US$35 for United States citizens, all accompanied by a US$1 processing fee. I have no idea what Canadians did to piss Laos off so much, but they had to pay US$42 for a visa, which was even more than it cost for someone from Afghanistan! Another potential fee was if you didn’t have a passport-sized photo there was a fee of US$1 to copy the one out of your passport. We came prepared, but plenty didn’t, with the customer in front of me breaking a $20 note to pay this fee and receiving 19 $1 notes as change. Further problems arose for those that didn’t have any American dollars, as the airport didn’t accept the local currency, Laotian kip, or any form of electronic payment. The only ATM was located outside the airport, but fortunately the employees were quite trusting because they just let people walk right through immigration and customs, exit the airport, past the taxi stand and go to the ATM, only to re-enter the arrivals area and pay for their visas.
Getting our visa’s was relatively hassle-free and Anna had planned ahead and called for a driver to take us to where we would be spending the next few days, the My Dream Boutique Resort. When the van arrived the interior had that weird datedness that affects things made in the past that were intended to appear futuristic, which is always amusing. The ride from the airport to the resort was only about 10 minutes and when we arrived, My Dream Resort was better than we expected, located off the road and backing on to the Nam Khan river, away from the main town so it was nice and quiet. This should give you the general idea of our first impressions of Luang Prabang:
We’ve traveled around the surrounding countries to a decent extent, but we didn’t really know a whole lot about Laos, but here is a little background information about Luang Prabang:
Louangphabang or Luang Prabang, literally meaning “Royal Buddha Image”, is a city in north central Laos, consisting of 58 adjacent villages, of which 33 comprise the UNESCO Town Of Luang Prabang World Heritage Site. It was listed in 1995 for unique and “remarkably” well preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage, a blend of the rural and urban developments over several centuries, including the French colonial influences during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The centre of the city consists of four main roads and is located on a peninsula at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong River. Luang Prabang is well known for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms. One of the city’s major landmarks is Mount Phou Si; a large steep hill which despite the constrained scale of the city, is 150 metres (490 ft) high; a steep staircase leads to Wat Chom Si shrine and an overlook of the city and the rivers.
Currently, the population of the city as a whole is roughly 56,000 inhabitants with the UNESCO protected site being inhabited by around 24,000.
When I initially posted on Facebook that we were going to Laos, Tim Howard, a friend of mine who had lived in Laos for about a decade, told me to enjoy the good food and cheap beer so we decided that would be the first thing we would do. Directly across from the resort was a dingy old noodle store that was closed, but we knew we would be going there for breakfast on an almost daily basis. Instead we crossed the extremely rickety bridge on the way into town, of which we had to walk along the outside and one which would’ve been condemned in most counties. Jesse wasn’t used to this type of thing so he was a bit nervous crossing it, but you just need to tread carefully. We made it across safely and stopped off at a store along the way for roasted pig’s ear, roast duck and noodles. Pig’s ear is one of those things you shouldn’t knock until you try, I have eaten it a ton of times and love it, but this was one of the best ones I had ever had!
After the ear we made our way into town and just wandered around, checking out the area, looking at the temples and just generally seeing the sights, including Mount Phou Si:
Mount Phou Si is a 100 m high hill in the centre of the old town of Luang Prabang in Laos. It lies in the heart of the old town peninsula and is bordered on one side by the Mekong River and on the other side by the Nam Khan River. The hill is a local religious site, and houses are several Buddhist shrines.
Halfway up the hill, overlooking the Nam Khan is Wat Tham Phou Si, a Buddhist temple. At the summit of the hill, overlooking the town and surrounding countryside, is Wat Chom Si, which is also a Buddhist temple and is a tourist highlight of Luang Prabang.
A taste of what we encountered:
After walking around and climbing hills for a couple of hours, we were a little parched so we pulled up a seat in a bar and just watched the world go by. We hadn’t been in Laos long, but there were already quite a few things that we found surprising. First of all was how clean the streets were, especially when compared to those in many cities in other Southeast Asian countries. Sure, there were some stray dogs walking around, but they weren’t going through garbage bags, mainly because there weren’t any, and they also seemed quite clean and well-fed, even the one with the exceptionally long nipples that swayed in the breeze. Another thing that struck us was how well many people here spoke English and, for some inexplicable reason, how many signs were translated into Korean.
We felt rejuvenated after a couple of beers so we decided to get moving again, this time to the Night Market. The night market is like most night markets, it opens every night and sells local clothes, souvenirs and has a massive food section. We looked around the never ending rows of cheap t-shirts, baggy pants with elephants on them, and ugly ornaments aimed at tourists to prove that they’ve been here so we decided to check out the food, even though we weren’t overly hungry after eating only a couple of hours earlier. Jesse had heard about Lao sausages, local sausages made from coarsely chopped fatty pork or buffalo and seasoned with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, coriander, chillies, garlic, salt and fish sauce. We had intended to pick some of these up from the start, they weren’t difficult to come across and they were spectacular! We had one spicy pork and one buffalo, just wandering through past the food stalls as we ate slices of them. We would be back at the market to eat properly at some stage, that’s for sure.
We decided to finish our night at Utopia Restaurant and Bar, the giant outdoor bar across the river from where we were staying. We walked through the endless laneways of backpacker dormitories and private residences to get to the open-air haven for hippies and the great unwashed, pulled up some seats at a table near a bunch of mats on a cane floor jutting over the hillside, with our view of the river unimpeded by any type of rail or barrier, and kicked back with some drinks, Beerlao poured directly out of a cooler for me and cask-wine for Anna and Jesse. We came to learn over the course of our trip that a lot of wine in Luang Prabang comes from a cask and they have no qualms at all telling you that it is goon. I felt like a teenager again!
A look back at dinner and drinks:
Another thing we came learn was that bars close at 11pm. A couple of young, drunk backpacker chicks threw their floor mats toward the river in protest at the curfew, but we were a little tired anyway so we happily walked back to the road, grabbed a tuk-tuk and made our way back to the resort.
Monday, August 7, 2017
Anna sometimes tends to have a tough time relaxing and Jesse was still a little jet-lagged so we decided to have an easy day on Monday. Jesse woke up early and went to a gym in the town in the morning so Anna and myself grabbed a coffee each and just kicked back in the hotel bar.
When Jesse returned we walked down to the noodle place across the road from where we were staying. We knew this place was going to be great for several reasons, the first being that it didn’t really have a sign or even a name, there were no menus, the local police eat there, and they only made one dish — Pork noodles. We certainly weren’t disappointed, however, there is no way to recommend the place to anyone that might be visiting Luang Prabang other than saying if you are staying in the main city, cross the small red bridge across the Nam Khan river, take the first street on the left and about 50 metres down the road it will be on the right.
We were now fuelled up and ready to go into town for a bit of a saunter around the place with no real itinerary or purpose. We checked out a few other temples, a cool local art gallery and then went to a fish spa. If you have ever been to a fish spa before, you will know it is one of the most ticklish experience you have ever had, but if not, this will give you an idea:
Garra rufa, also called doctor fish, is a small species of cyprinid fish that is native to rivers, streams, ponds and lakes in the Anatolia and Middle East.
Since the early 21st century, Garra rufa have been integrated into a spa treatment where they feed on the skin of patients with psoriasis. While the doctor fish treatment has been found to alleviate the symptoms of psoriasis, the treatment is not curative, and no cure for psoriasis currently exists. The use of the fish as a spa treatment for the wider public is still widely debated on grounds of efficacy and validity.
The practice is banned in several of the states in the United States and Canadian provinces as cosmetology regulators believe the practice is unsanitary, with the Wall Street Journal saying that “cosmetology regulations generally mandate that tools need to be discarded or sanitized after each use. But epidermis-eating fish are too expensive to throw away”.
Anna and myself had both had a fish spa before, although I had only had it done once before our wedding six years ago so I had completely forgotten how much it tickled. Maybe it was because I was closest to the sunlight, perhaps it was just because my feet were the most disgusting, but all of the fish flocked to my hooves, leaving me wriggling, squirming and giggling for a full 10 minutes until the procedure was finished. The only way I could minimise the feeling was to let my mind wander and think about things like why toothpaste isn’t called ‘teethpaste,’ but soon enough it was all over. I noticed afterward that my feet were a little too smooth, making every step I took look like the beginning of Tom Cruise’s shirt-and-socks dance scene in the film Risky Business. Anna and Jesse decided to get a foot massage after the fish spa so I just kicked back and relaxed, then we went and grabbed a coffee across the road at the 3 Nagas hotel.
Besides that, we really didn’t do a whole lot. Jesse was still suffering from jet-lag so he went back to the resort after dinner, but one of my drinking buddies in Singapore, Tom Cargill, recommended a place called Icon Klub, his favourite bar in town and one which just happened to be directly across the road from where we had been eating. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the owner dealing with a medical emergency, so Anna and I just went back to Tangor, a great bar to enjoy a few quiet ones.
Yet again we were kind of thankful for the town’s 11pm curfew on this particular night because we couldn’t go crazy; we had a lot planned the following day and had to get up reasonably early if we wanted to fit it all in.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
We had had our relaxing day yesterday, now we needed to have one of those days where Anna plans to cram as much as possible into one day. The first thing we were going to do was take a rather long boat ride down the Mekong to the Pak Ou caves so let’s check out Wikipedia once again for a little background information:
Near Pak Ou (mouth of the Ou river) the Tham Ting (lower cave) and the Tham Theung (upper cave) are caves overlooking the Mekong River, 25 km to the north of Luang Prabang, Laos. They are a group of two caves on the west side of the Mekong river, about two hours upstream from the centre of Luang Prabang, and have become well known by tourists.
The caves are noted for their miniature Buddha sculptures. Hundreds of very small and mostly damaged wooden Buddhist figures are laid out over the wall shelves. They take many different positions, including meditation, teaching, peace, rain, and reclining (nirvana).
We were driven to the part of the Mekong where the three of us would board our long but narrow boat upon which a man and a teenage boy in a Korn t-shirt would take us on our lengthy trip up the river, past beautiful mountain scenery with farmers working the land and wild goats, poultry, and buffalo grazing in the pastures as bloated dead pigs floated past us in the water.
When we eventually arrived at the caves we made our way up the steep steps, high-fiving local children along the way, but I have to admit, the caves were somewhat anticlimactic. Don’t get me wrong, the Buddha statues were impressive, but the way people spoke of these caves led us to expect an entire cave network like we ventured through in Hungary, but instead we were taken to two large crevasses in a cliff face. The ride out there was nice, but it was a long way to go to hang out for 15 minutes while backpackers with dreadlocks posed with their tongues out for photos in front of Buddha statues, all the while botoxed and collagen-injected women who wanted to give off a similar vibe while being physically unable to rough it took endless selfies. We took a look around and a quarter-of-an-hour later we were once again on the boat to make our way back, our buttocks now aching from the hardwood seats. Still, it was nice and here are some photos:
We got back to the town for lunch, went back to the resort to grab our swimming gear and then it was on to our next touristy mission; a long and bumpy tuk-tuk ride in the opposite direction of the caves to relax at the Kuang Si Falls.
Our tuk-tuk ride took us through small towns and farmland that looked like it hadn’t changed at all in over 100 years and when we arrived at the falls we were surprised to find that the first thing we would encounter there was a black bear sanctuary. There were quite a few bears in there too, some just hanging out, relaxing on platforms and one laying on its back in a puddle, playing with a large log. It was only when the log hit it in the head that we realised that particular bear was missing one of its front legs.
We made our way to the turquoise waters of the falls where we noticed a direct correlation between the further the pool was up the hill and the number, age, and weight of the swimmers. I’m not a fan of crowds or kids so we decided to play the role of the fatter individuals in a pool closer to the top of the falls. I hate it when people say the water is nice “once you’re in,” but that is exactly how it was. It was initially freezing and generally I take a long time getting into water, letting each of the five areas most sensitive to cold water, being the back of the knees, upper thighs, testicles, ribs, and nipples, all have ample time to acclimatise equally. That wasn’t to be on this occasion, however, as I stepped off a hidden underwater ledge and went straight from knees to neck, my penis resembling a press-stud immediately as a result. Anna and Jesse can swim, whereas I can’t, but I have the gift of height so I was able to walk around to the rock where they were hanging out next to the rapids.
The three of us were gathered around a rock in the water, Jesse on it and Anna and myself holding onto tree roots and branches in the water, just chatting and discussing the people around us, such as the guy with ridiculous facial hair who put on a go-pro and decided to dive into the water without checking how deep it was or the Korean men who all wore fluorescent life vests and took hundreds of selfies, their phones encased in waterproof covers and tied around their necks. We were having a great time when in the blink of an eye, Anna and Jesse were a lot further away than they were before, swiftly getting smaller and disappearing into the distance, Anna pointing and laughing the entire time. I had somehow managed to lose my grip and got swept away by the rapids, the only thing stopping me was the rock I eventually washed into. I regained my composure and made my way back to the other rock, where we would stay until dark clouds started to come over.
We got out and I went to get changed in the only vacant change room there, only to be greeted by a used sanitary pad on the ground. Traveling back to the resort in wet shorts was a small sacrifice to make.
A bit of what we saw that afternoon:
We made our way back to the resort and decided to eat again at the market. It was at this time that Jesse and I decided to take part in…
The 100,000 Kip Challenge
I’ve mentioned not only in this one, but also in previous posts, about how backpackers and hippies in these type of places are kind of annoying. If it’s just people that are out for a good time and traveling on a budget, then that’s cool, more power to them. It’s the irritating ones that are trying to “find themselves” that give me the shits. If you’ve traveled around anywhere tropical before, but especially this part of the world, you’ve almost certainly encountered them. They’re the annoying, usually wealthy ones who got tired of the life of luxury they were dealt and went to discover and immerse themselves in how the other half live, think they are more knowledgable about where they are staying than the locals, meditate, go on spiritual journeys, teach yoga classes, play hacky sack, that type of thing.
These people tend to have a kind of “uniform” so over the course of this trip we devised a point scheme for identifying them:
- Baggy pants such as the ones Anna is wearing in the cave pictures = 1 point
- *Same pants, but with elephants printed on them = 3 points
- Plain singlet = 1 point
- Local souvenir t-shirt or singlet = 1 points
- *T-shirt or singlet advertising local beer = 2 points
- Headband or bandana = 1 point
- *Yellow headband or bandana = 2 points
- Hair in braids = 1 point
- Wooden beaded bracelet =1 point
- Low slung backpack with similar pattern to baggy pants = 1 point
- Henna tattoo = 2 point
- Unkempt beard = 2 points
- Manbun = 3 points
- Tribal tattoo = 3 points
- Birkenstocks = 3 point
- Traditional Thai tattoo similar to what Angelina Jolie has on her shoulder blade = 5 points
- Dreadlocks = 7 points
- Hacky sack = 9 points
A score of 10 or more equated to the uniform of these annoying assholes. Obviously, some variations of certain objects, marked with an asterisk, are worth slightly more than other versions of the same item, but that’s just the sad reality of life.
The local currency in Laos is kip (LAK), US$1.00 is currently equal to roughly 8293 Kip, so Jesse and I set ourselves a limit of 100,000 kip, about US$12.00, to purchase what we could from the market to come as close to that 10-point threshold as we could and wear around on our last day in town on Thursday.
After eating more sausages, some chicken wings and a fish at the market, we walked around through all of the clothing stalls trying to find attire that would make Jesse and myself look irritating, but the best I could muster up was a measly score of four, one that could have been a seven had any of my tattoos been tribal or a possible nine if I could actually grow a beard, as is evident in the photo Anna took of me modelling my new apparel in the bathroom when we got back to the resort (above, right). As you can also see, the story is the same in Laos as it is in other parts of Asia in that I can’t buy clothes that fit, thus my pants aren’t particularly baggy due to them being too small, not even reaching my ankles, however, my yellow headband does feature elephants. Still, not a bad deal, the headband, t-shirt and pants for a total of exactly 100,000 kip, it’ll be interesting to see what Jesse managed to find.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
Wednesday turned into another relatively easy day. Anna and myself aren’t particularly morning people and we all wanted to visit the Royal Palace Museum, but it only opens from 8:00 – 11:30am and then again from 1:30pm – 4:00pm so we just hung out in the pool until Jesse got up, then we went across the road for noodles again, eating while chickens roamed around us.
When it was time we made our way to the Royal Palace Museum, however, when we arrived Jesse and myself weren’t allowed to enter due to the fact we were wearing shorts, which was a little strange because there were a lot of tourists from mainland China wearing shorts in there. Oh well, we’d just have to return the next day in the gear we bought from the market, they’d have to let us in wearing that. Instead, Anna and Jesse opted for a 90 minute massage which equated to about two hours of beers for me. They both eventually joined me, then we moved on to another place for a few more drinks before dinner.
We found a place after dinner that had shishas and cheap drinks so we went and hung out down there when we had finished eating. My stomach was feeling a little strange, but there was a private toilet in the bar so I went about business, dropped a Loperamil tablet and forgot about it for the night. We just sat back, had a few drinks, smoked our shisha and chatted to the locals on the next table while some overweight guy wandered around outside in nothing but his underwear, looking somewhat like a Laotian version of Randy from Trailer Park Boys.
The bar was fun, but as usual it had to close early, but this time it was at around midnight. That was probably a blessing in disguise for Jesse, as he had slightly overdone it on the soju and had somehow gone from zero to shit-faced in no time at all. He took a tuk-tik back to the resort, however, Anna and myself wanted to keep going. Luckily for us we had heard about a bowling alley out of town that can stay open until the early hours of the morning so people just rock up there, get drunk and go bowling. That sounded like a great way of spending our final night in town.
We took a tuk-tuk out there and when we went in it was exactly what we expected; cheap, rundown, and a lot of fun. There were no shoes my size and most of the ones for hire looked like they had been there since the 1970s so we just went barefoot, chugging beers as we went. We had time to play three games, over which neither of us was able to crack 100. Yes, we are phenomenally shit at bowling, but worse when tipsy.
It was pretty late when we took a tuk-tuk home, but we were still prepared to tackle that museum the following day before we left, resplendent in our backpacker gear.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
It turned out that the museum plan wasn’t to be for me. No, I wasn’t hungover, but whatever was messing with my stomach the night before had turned into a full-on illness, most likely some type of virus, as opposed to food poisoning, which left me with no energy, aching legs and the ability to shit through a sponge for more than a week afterward. I had been careful, not drinking the water, brushing my teeth with bottled water and avoiding salads, but this thing knocked me off my feet and the rest of the day is a blur.
Anna and Jesse still made it to the museum and Jesse kept up his end of the deal on the 100,000 Kip Challenge, scoring a solid 5, however, a point should be deducted due to the fact that he forgot to wear his headband. He also decided to take the opportunity to have his photo taken next to a person who was essentially the benchmark of what we were trying to achieve, scoring at least a very respectable 12 from what I can make out in the photo, he just has the wrong kind of backpack.
Anyway, we flew out from Laos that afternoon direct to Singapore and that was the end of our trip. Jesse stayed that night at our place before flying out to Perth, Australia, the following morning to meet up with a few more people while he was on this side of the globe.
It was great catching up with Jesse, thanks a lot for the Trump ID and the cheese, it’s delicious, and if you want to go to a Southeast Asian country that is nice and relaxed, clean, and not yet corrupted by tourism, check out Laos.
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