Stuck

Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
1
45
86
Trip End Jul 27, 2011


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Where I stayed
Sabaidy 2 Guesthouse

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Thursday, February 10, 2011

For a change, an uneventful trip from Siem Reap to Pakse in Laos. 45 minute flight, easy. We are leaving Siem Reap with a bit of an unpleasant last experience at the post office. If you ever go there, you need to know:
- The post office does not have envelopes or cartons to sell (unless you are lucky and come in the early morning). Why would it?
- Sending packages happens at a separate desk. The person manning it goes on a three hour lunch break. It doesn't matter if you are waiting to ship something with him. Noone else is capable to deal with shipping packages. If it's not a letter or postcard, it has to wait until after lunch.
- Applying stamps can take 10 minutes, if you're lucky. It's a difficult undertaking after all.
- Multitasking post officers that might remember to give you the forms you are to fill in while they apply your stamps? Hahaha. Be prepared to wait and watch the stamp application.

Unsent packages in towe, we arrive in Pakse, where I expect a new Visa card to be UPS-ed to our guest house. I arranged that from Cambodia, so it should get here fairly soon. I am looking forward to Laos, which is often described as the forgotten country of SEA. Landlocked between several other countries, you could easily miss it. It's natural beauty is quickly turning it into a busy tourist destination though, so I feel lucky to get here, before the masses hit.

Pakse, in the South, is not touted as an exciting city, but a place to embark on other trips from. This is a town that has had electricity for a whole of 10 or 12 years. How uneventful it really is, we find out when we try to find a place to have drinks and listen to some tunes shortly before 10pm one night. Not a chance. There is nothing going on after 10pm. Dogs sleep in the middle  main streets. Following their lead, we also walk right on the streets, even though the sidewalks are in relatively good condition here. Approaching motorized vehicles drive around us, we don't have to worry about them. The days here are so hot that I can't blame the locals for their (lack of) speed. It feels like even thinking is too hard to do in this heat. As a result, we find ourselves doing only one day trip. The other things of interest (like Fourthousand Islands, where you can see the rare Irrawaddy dolphins) are more than a day trip away and since my visa card will arive any day, we are just being lazy and taking it easy, hanging out, too hot to do much at all. Breakfast, internet, coffee, more internet, dinner and Lao Lao with Lemon Juice (Rice Whiskey - my new favourite), Skype calls if the connection is fast enough, shower, sleep, repeat.

Communication works well even though few speak English. The common universal language includes handing calculators back and forth, pointing at menus, drawing of maps, and when all gesticulating and accessories are of no use, running to fetch someone that does speak at least a few words of English.

On our day trip to the Bolaven Plateau, we get a sense for the rural life. Here, some villages still don't have electricity, others have had it for a couple of years now. Villages are assemblies of wooden stilt houses with pigs, hens, goats, dogs, kids roaming freely. Plenty of pretty waterfalls, tea and coffee fields. Lao coffee is some of the highest priced coffee, because it is mostly grown organic and fair trade. It all is very interesting and lovely to see what I consider life in its purest and simplest form. People look content. If this report does not sound all that exciting, it is because we are both a little over-traveled right now. Another waterfall, rural village or market just isn't so much news any more. Possibly the 3-month-travel wall has hit. In my case, I am getting close to the 5 month mark. Wow, time flies!

Eventually, my visa card has now made it to the capital of Vientiane and is supposed to get here the next day. But Manu has some jobs to be at in Hanoi, so she can't stick around any longer. I myself repeat the same day trip to the Bolaven Plateau with Belgian Diederik who was looking to share his motorcycle costs. After my own attempt of riding this small machine, I decide right away that I will likely kill someone if I stay on it. So I enjoy the day on the back of it. And I quickly understand the addictive power of motorcycling. I can't quite explain what it is, but the moment we pick up speed, an uncontrollable smile appears on my face. Happy I tagged along, I find myself grinning throughout my last day as if on some happy-drug.
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