“Changing rapidly? I’ll tell you – ” said the Australian-who-wasn’t-one-anymore (we can call him Herc, instead – later, he’ll ask us to), with his characteristic smile-wink (head tilt and eyebrow raise included – it was a marvelous gesture/facial expression that I immediately wished I had the charisma to pull off) “this street was mud last year.”"Last year? This street?” I echoed.
It was a broad street equipped with ATMs, office buildings, and souvenir shops; expensive new cars (incongruous but omnipresent) were parked densely along both sides of the street. We were seated at “Fruit Heaven” enjoying fruit shakes and baguette sandwiches (of all the legacies of the French imperialism, the lifespan and quality of the baguette is indeed noteworthy).
“This very same… Continue reading
Women drive motorbikes one handed, pink and yellow umbrellas held aloft with the other.
Café tables are continuously filled, clusters of people leaning forward to trilingual conversations while assembling bottles of Beer Lao, cigarettes inevitably accentuating all hand gestures. Hands wave along the street as well as at the tables – crushing off tuk tuk drivers, greeting friends, and shooing away the children selling trinkets.
Middle aged Frenchwomen waltz between boutique shops. Silk blouses and dresses – no doubt fortunes less than they would cost in the West but still far, far out of my budget – paintings (elegant, ornate, traditional – sometimes all three), curious silver and bronze antiques, hand-worked jewelry – all beckoning.
i overhear an aged Brit demanding… Continue reading
It was the second day down the Mekong and the God of Thunder was asleep on the back of the boat. The Three Graces were getting sunburnt on the bow before returning inside to play cards. Apollo flicked his cigarette ash into the river in synch with his twitching foot. Huckleberry Finn, who’d been sent home from the war in a body bag of opiates, looked as if he might jump. Assorted prodigaals wandered the deck, passing wooden bench to wooden bench, comparing travel routes and swapping near-death experiences while cheerfully swigging Beer Lao. I was perched on the railing – one foot outside, one inside, left arm crooked behind me to grab the pillar for balance, right hand clutching someone else” ipod… Continue reading
A group of us from the boat had managed to get rooms in the same guest house in Luang Prabang and spent the next several days just hanging out. It was nice to be part of a group, for a change.
We (Olivia, Ruth, Louise – the British girls – Martin, Benny, and I) hired a tuk tuk to take us to the nearby waterfall, Kuang Si. It was breath-takingly beautiful; the water an impossible shade of light turquoise (no doubt due to some mineral in the stones), the setting stunning and – perhaps most importantly, at least to our overheated sweat-drenched bodies – the water chilling. Only a few minutes after we’d pulled ourselves from the water, walked down the hill, and seated ourselves at a table under an overhang… Continue reading
A white haired man with a mane and careless beard, dressed in a crisp white shirt and red tie clasps his hands together before his face; the large rings on his knuckles catch the light and antique aviator sunglasses obscure his eyes.
Billy Holiday shifts to Miles Davis. I’ve ordered what is, for South East Asia, an altogether decent glass of red wine and I have, at least, run a few errands today before sinking into this chair.
Five men in dress shirts and ties sit at a nearby table drifting between philosophy, economics, history, and development politics. Their conversation is quiet and intelligent; their accents are indefinite.
I’ve spent the last several weeks… Continue reading
Huay Xai was pleasant enough. I suppose.Or would have been – if not for my own naivete.
I’d be lulled by the easy camaraderie of locals and farangs in Thailand and had thought to look after only my physical safety in Huay Xai – rather than cautiously judging and weighing all of the implications of my friendliness. I hadn’t realized that in Laos, where travelers and locals barely interacted and the government’s answer to the proliferation of the sex trade had been to interdict sex between foreigners and Laos, casual friendliness with a Lao man would result in him deciding he wanted me to bear his children and marry him.
The man, and his coworkers… Continue reading
I’ve been sick.That “cold” didn’t shake itself and I’d been running low-grade fevers on and off for the last few weeks, utterly sapping my energy. And, thanks to a bad case of dysentery, I lost ten pounds week-before-last.
When I last said I was going to You Sabai, I actually ended up in Pai (missed the You Sabai songtaew three days in a row, met another traveler on their way to Pai and decided to go along for the company – I’d been meaning to go back, anyway – because I thought I was feeling better). Where I got sick, again, worse. When I realized what I had was worse than food poisoning and that hiding out in my guesthouse trying to wait it out wasn’t a viable strategy, I got… Continue reading