Khmer Bites

Trip Start Feb 20, 2012
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Trip End Oct 22, 2012


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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Sunday, March 25, 2012

The days of exploration of the south! Early in the morning we take a motorbike (a Suzuki Smash 110 cc, the most common vehicle in Laos) and we head to Wat Phu, south of Pakse. Driving a motorbike in a country that I'm visiting always gave me a strong freedom sensation. Bob Marly singing about his Misty Morning in my ears helps the freedom to became a warm feeling of happiness. Singing and moving south, stopping at each cross road with the map. "Light like a feather, heavy as a lead". It is difficult to explain that warmth, I guess each of us live it in a slightly different key. Same goes for the vacuum feeling in the chest that follows the bad days, none are equal.

But there was no space for the bad feelings that morning, just the fresh air, the motorbike, and the music! Wat Phu is the first bite of the Khmer art we are going to taste, originally a Hindu temple consecrated to Shiwa's Linga (aka Shiwa's Penis). Looking at the mountain behind, I try to figure out the anatomy of the Hindu God and decide that was quite strange as many other anatomical aspect of this religion Gods. The temple is eaten by its age but still it is possible to imagine what was the impression on somebody approaching this construction from the valley. A series of columns and temples driving the devote to the sacred spring. I'm not sure the amount of water gushing at the time, but nowadays is just few of drops per minute. Still enough to wet the head and reminding me about a similar sacred spring in India.Just tons of people more, obviously, otherwise wouldn't have been India! Here few local tourists, and few falang, and all around huge frangipane trees. In a corner I have also the possibility to live a second of pride, Politecnico di Milano and generally Italy seem to be one of the main contributors to the preservation and study of this site, e bravi!

Few steps on our way back, and an old lady finds her way into our brother&sister jokes. She is Italian too and amazingly energetic (biked 10 km under the sun to the temple and walked uphill for other 3). We are both impressed, looking at her and feeling ashamed for having complained for the slope! Also in the pictures that we are asked to take, the pose she chose is a combination of Rocky Balboa and a dancer from a Broadway musical. Really impressive! after leaving her I keep thinking why such a energetic and for sure curious person should in the end surrender to cliches like "Milan isn't anymore as it was used to be". What I will say once old? Would like to be able to avoid some cliche, but to be honest would be satisfied to keep traveling with her attitude!

On the way back to Pakse we try to find our way to an island in the middle of Mekong, we are looking for some handicrafts. The map doesn't help and we ask several time to some locals. The last one shows as three fingers and then makes the sign of turning right. Ok, easy, three streets and then right, we are almost there! We take the third road (a dirt road) and continue to drive some kilometer. Shouldn't be so far, right? The few Laotian we met do not even understand the question. Finally after some time a man in a motorbike. The island? No, no no no! Not this way, follow me! When he stopped (several kilometers after) and pointed the finger the misunderstanding was clear, they don't count streets, they count villages!! The man, a military,  that showed us the way was now showing us money and repeating the word 'beer''. Fair enough, we were quite out our way and you showed us the way, let's drink a beer. After parking the motorbikes. We realized for the second time that there was a misunderstanding. He was not asking for a beer!! He was offering us!! We tried to insist to pay, to wash off our unjust touristy thoughts, didn't worked. Kopchai Lai Lai!! He left us after writing his name and phone number on a paper (if you need me). Definitely we were not able to communicate in words but I was glad to him for this lesson about Laotians.

In the evening we went to eat on the Mekong river, grilled fish. You could taste the 4000 km of soil that the water had touched before coming to this point. While eating I felt nostalgic about the duck noodle soup of the morning. Strange enough for an Italian not dreaming pasta!
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