I spent perhaps too many days partying in Vientiane, and by the time I pulled into Vang Viang, I was coasting off of two sleepless nights, very little food and a bumpy, long bus-ride.
I spent the next two days sleeping with a horrendous fever that ached every muscle and gave me silly hallucinations, there was a point where I was convinced my teeth were falling out. I hadn’t had a fever like that since I was a child.
At any rate, I’m here in Luang Prabang, unsure of why I came here. Lots of drunk Aussies and Kiwis told me to go to Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, now that I’m here I just find cities full of drunk Aussies and Kiwis.
I’ll never take their advice again. This place is great for things like trekking, riding on elephants and kayaking, but for urban exploration, they’re just dull tourist cities. I freaking grew up in a tourist city, I really would like to avoid them.
On the other hand tourism is probably the only industry with any potential in Laos. Laos is a communist country, it’s symbol is still the hammer and sickle. And boy, what a country! Everyone is poor as hell, and most are so inept and stupid that they need a calculator to figure out any damn equation I give them (someone just busted one out for 100 – 45).
Most of the Laos in the service industry are unbelievably incompetent. I was ordering a bus ticket, and the guy said “ok,” busted out his receipt book, then stared at me blankly. He then proceeded to press buttons on his cell-phone and look at me awkwardly, wondering why I was there. Then he looked at the receipt book and went: “öh!” Most every transaction is similar to this.
Did I say “ïnept” and “stupid”? Sorry, I meant: “they come from a different system of logic than our own.” Somehow, the only times I can get simple calculations done without a calculator, in when an older Lao woman does it.
Hanging out and partying with the Laotians was pretty interesting as well. They seem very easily amused, and once they get the Western concept of clinking glasses together, they want to do it every two seconds. The night-life Laotians are pretty heavy drug users as well. Marijuana is extremely common here, more common than anywhere in the states, in Amsterdam, etc. I’ve been told it’s the best marijuana in the world, by a man who seemed pretty damn experienced in the subject. That still didn’t persuade me to try it. I may just be the squarest person in SE Asia right now.
I didn’t learn as much as I’d like about the Lao lifestyle, and all that I did learn were from the women. I hung out mostly with prostitutes and fishermen (like Jesus!), and since I’m brown I was treated like one of them, not a “customer” in any sense, since I wouldn’t buy anyway. Some of the things I learned were fascinating.
Many of the prostitutes sincerely loved their customers, indeed, one even showed me a picture of her “boyfriend” and began to cry horribly before burning a pill and inhaling the fumes. Apparently he had died recently. I never met a prostitute who didn’t have at least one child. One of the first things I was introduced to was the many many baby pictures. They all traveled quite a bit, some were Thai, some from Burma. Everything they did was for their family back home, they were self-sacrificing single mothers with the only job available in SE Asia that could offer them the most money for their children.
It was hard to be around them sometimes though, they would constantly try to hook up with any Aussies or Kiwis that walked by (yes I will keep slamming on these people, they annoy me and I find it funny). Sometimes they were successful, but when they weren’t, it went terribly for them. Most were looking for a husband, and strangely enough, many prostitutes had found husbands this way. I wondered, “if you marry a ‘çlient,’ do you then become ‘full time prostitutes’ or just ‘housewives?'” Is there really a difference?
I’ll take this chance to say that I found no better company the company in Lao, whether they were whores or not–for better a worse, they were chill, honest, full of energy and humorous, with no illusions about their lives or their eventful life-stories. Of course, they were also highly non-elitist. And musicians too!
As for the Communism in Lao, it’s just as much of a joke here as it is in writing. Unlike Vietnam or Thailand, Lao has yet to grow at all, though they have successfully stayed Communist. Their greatest forms of “relief” efforts come from Western, capitalist countries through aid efforts by the UN (There are UN stations all over the main city) and their greatest growing industry is tourism–money coming in from capitalist countries. The Lao industry has been unable to produce anything worth a damn, and has yet to embrace any western technology, except of course for the medicine which is given to them by the UN. But at least THERE’S NOT A MCDONALDS!
One last thing about Aussies. I feel like when I talk to them they can’t seem to look past my brown-skin. Maybe it’s just me, but I can usually tell when something is lurking like that, since I’m able to be comfortable with every other race I meet while traveling. I was confused the first many times, but looking at the ways the Aboriginies have been treated in Australia, I suppose maybe it really is the whole race thing. I suppose I could say it’s just my personality, or maybe the different English dialects.
The Kiwis are ok, fun people. I just think it’s funny to rag on them.
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