Laos, Vientiane

 

 

Bangkok’s quickly being filtered through my system. They say it takes three days for toxins to leave your bloodstream.

I spent my last two days in Bangkok exploring the barrios and urban destitute areas. Bangkok is known to backpackers as a “Bohemian City.” Bohemian? Sure, if it’s cool to be followed by children holding their hands out for morsels of food, or to twist through canals so polluted and black that stray dogs won’t even piss in it for fear that they’ll get sucked in, or to find it comically conventional to go to see miles and miles of lined up tin huts with copious amounts of naked children peeking out, afraid of showing their bodies. Then yes, it’s bohemian, which as we all know, is cool! Maybe I’ll write a folk song about it, yeah! For the kids!

Praise the poor, they’re so awe-some!

Poor poor, poor like me. I got nothin but rice and beans!

Take it to my roots homies, living on skulls and bones.

Don’t you wish you were poor like me? Don’t ya?

Praise the poor! So they’ll stay the way they are–

cuz rich men are evil, don’t wanna be rich no no never a rich maaaan!

 

On the overflowing banks of the Mekong River, Vientiane in Laos is a sleepy, laidback paradise. I woke up from my $4 motel bed this morning, and had a big glass of coconut shake, iced green tea and a filling meal for about $2.50. I spent the majority of the day reading by the flowing river, talking to the passerbys and feeding the stray cats.

The people in Laos are amazing, very friendly and not super annoying either. For being one of the poorest countries in the world, the people here are quite hopeful. The teens seem conservative enough, though there are loads of condom dispensers in the E-Marts here.

Laos is the forgotten country of SE Asia. Thank God for that, I don’t want anyone else to come here. This is my hideaway, Goddamn it. My Heaven on Earth!

At least that’s the attitude I get from the other foreigners here. Since there’s nothing to do here, and nothing is exactly what I want to do, I’ll take this oppurtunity to answer some questions people have had about my travels.

How do you pay for this?

The short answer is that I don’t, I go further into debt every time I travel, which, compared to the $20,000 of debt I accrued for nine months of graduate school, a couple thousand for traveling is no big deal at all. And of course I’m a super-cheap bastard, and I work while I’m in school, so that helps save for it.

Doesn’t it get lonely traveling alone?

It would be nice to have one person come along with me, but finding an American willing to travel without the aid of “travel tours” or “travel groups” seems impossible. All the other Western countries have no problem with “traveling by ear,” but Americans seem scared shitless. Maybe it’s the constant “avian flu” and “terrorist” warnings our government loves to conjur up.

I meet tons of “foreigners” while I travel anyways. Ideally, I’d like to only meet locals, but the language barrier can be a problem. As for traveling in groups of more than two, no. Never.

What do you get out of it?

I’m not a sexpat, and I rarely go on long hikes or environmental excursions. I love to travel because I get to meet the locals, I’m interested in seeing people living their lives differently than the rest of us, though so much is similar. I also enjoy creating a cognitive map of a city, knowing the city inside and out. Every big city is like a mountain to me, and I feel that I must conquer it. I have a great pride in knowing where the illegal leather market is in Seoul, or how to pay 2 cents to cross the river in Bangkok, or where the so-called “leprosy colonies” are in Busan, or where the best Japanese Sauna is in Foukoka, or where to find the only reliable ATMs in Beijing.

Also, I hate being surprised by international events in the news. Americans should see these things coming.

 

Aren’t you ever afraid of getting a disease, getting robbed, or something unexpected?

Not at all. If any of that happens, then I guess then that’s just it. I’ll just be experiencing for a couple of months what the locals have to put up with every single day.

August 17, 2008. Uncategorized.

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