I’m still in Laos and I’m starting to write a trip report which says a lot for the place and I would have started it this morning if I hadn’t rented a motorbike. Everyone’s up to date as to why I’m out of the country and applying for 60 days at an Embassy rather than popping over the border and heading back with some cheap Viagra and a bottle of Jack.
Anyway I thought I’d try Laos , I’m sick of airports, white marble and cellophane meals so I thought I’d do a bit of Back to the Old Skool and took myself and my Sunday hangover to Hua Lamphong.
The driver asked me where I was going.
“Mee faen Nong Khai?”
“Mai chai, visa Laos”
He became diplomatically silent, I should have immediately took heed, cancelled my plans and got a plane to either Manilla or Phnom Pehn for a week of debasement with a couple of drunken appearances at the Thai Embassy thrown in, but I was a bit too hungover to notice properly.
After a bit of waiting I was aboard a train, and what I wasn’t too hungover to notice was that the Malaysian guy I was about to share an overnight cabin with was a fruiter (that’s queer, faggot, arsebandit) for those of your from south of Stockport.
I was busy trying to sleep with one eye open (and I don’t mean my brown eye) when he fucked off with a pair of French fag hags and left me in peace to drift in and out of sleep whilst reading the Wind up Bird Chronicle. After a mix of sleep, fidget, a rummage through Kumiko’s laundry basket and a surreal dream that saw my route to Nong Khai lined with English pubs and soldiers re enacting “The Eagle has landed” I arrived in Nong Khai on Monday morning.
I patched my way through exits and entries, passports and booking desks and eventually found myself in a taxi to downtown Vientiene with a Kiwi NGO type and a half Phillipino ex US soldier who startled me with his genius when he stated that American foreign policy was fuelling terrorism.
Anyway my first impression of the Laos Peoples Democratic Republic, was that it’s like Kho Samui without the good bits. I mean to be fair that’s not a bad appraisal if you make a list of what’s good about Samui, then one of what’s bad about Samui, throw the good list away and add “Communism” and “French influence” to the bad list and you’re there.
Anyway the AmeriPhiliGenius alighted at the Thai Embassy, the NGO somewhere else and me at a bank so I could cash a couple of travelers cheques before handing my passport over.
The guy at the bank looked at my travelers cheques as if they were Doctor Who’s Sonic Screwdriver or something equally unfathomable from the future that could only be exchanged for cash when the Shuttle Challenger landed astride two Laotian tug boats with the nose piece exactly facing his mouse mat and refused me so I had to get $150 US using my credit card.
Not that that’s important like but it delayed things, as did the fact that I didn’t know that the Laos Pedantic Dreary Ratcatcher at Passport control wanted one of the two photographs I was planning to use for my Thai Visa so I had to stop and get a load more done.
By the time these capers had been completed I approached the Thai Embassy to be told they were shut until tomorrow (half day closing for officials, great!) I took this in my stride and proceeded via an overpriced tuk tuk to the “Day Inn” which had been recommended to me and as I looked at the brochure on the stand in reception I wondered whether to check in or not and noticed they had a magnificent looking pool where I could make a start on a tan and finish off “Wind up Bird Conservatry”. I checked in, dumped my bag off and went to check out the throbbing metropolis of Vientiene.
I wasn’t far into the centre when I was weigh laid by a load of tuk tuk drivers.
“You want something”
I’d realized my toiletries were lacking an essential item when I’d done my ablutions as the train pulled into Nong Khai station.
“Err yeah I do actually.”
My suitors eyes lit up with a Laos Peculiar Develish Radiance, “Marryuan, Opium, Hashish?”
“No the white stuff.”
He looked confused.
“What you want ?”
He chugged his 1950’s contraption off in disgust. I mean to be fair I’ve found that the better the drug dealer the smarter his car and using that rule of thumb I wouldn’t have bought any gear off him anyway judging by the state of his chariot.
I was starting to get the impression that being in Laos is a bit like being on detention at school, even the teachers don’t want to be there and the bit of paperwork you do goes straight in the bin anyway. I mean to be fair there’s fuck all there. You’ve got the odd café restaurant with polished teak floors run by a retired ballet teacher from Nimes and her 26 year old Laotian boyfriend and they do such nice crepes. You get the scene and there’s the omnipresent Beer Laos van but not much going on.
Anyway I got a tuk tuk to “Talat Soon”, that’s the morning market for the uninitiated because I wanted to score a pair of shorts. There’d been a bit of a laundry backlog at chez me and the shorts I’d travelled in were two nights on the piss old so a fresh pair was becoming pretty much a necessity, I mean in fact by the time I started looking they were two nights on the piss and a night in a sleeper carriage old, you’re starting to get my drift. Now I know this seems hard to believe, but in Vientienes (a known backpacker haunt) biggest market there wasn’t a pair of camouflage combat shorts to be seen. There were bottles of whiskey with pickled cobras in them, three headed opal Buddhas, opium pipes the same gauge as the pipes they use to float sewage out to sea, the sort of silk shirts only waiters and Old Hippy wear, Beer Laos Tshirts, Tshirts with a map of Laos Primary Drinkers Resource, but not a pair of effing shorts in sight.
Anyway as well as the market I’d been told the National Museum was worth a look so I paid the tuk tuk driver the four or five dollars he wanted and let him take me half a kilometer to a building he pointed at and when I walked inside realized it was the National Library. Now to be fair it looked more like a load of papers bundled up waiting to be taken out for recycling, but apparently these six small rooms of old newspapers was Le Biblioteque Nationale du Laos. I walked past an office with the word “Directeur” or whatever the French for “Director” is and gingerly pushed it open. Inside the director of the National Libraries office was a bloke asleep on his arm. I walked out.
I thought I’d try and complete project pantaloon in the shops on the front by the river but after extensive research drew a blank. I mean my mind started racing, are shorts illegal in Laos ? Have western democracies refused to supply Laos with shorts in protest against their Communist regime, whatever the reason there’s a shortage of shorts, a paucity of pantaloons and whenever there’s a gap in the market like that things start to happen. Mavericks get their pickups stopped at the border and when customs officials find three hundred pairs of short cut cargo pants they shake their head and say, “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do sunshine.”
“I just picked them up for a mate in Luang Prabong I didn’t know it was shorts in the bundles.”
If it was Thailand that had a cargo shorts embargo there’d be bewildered farangs turning up at Lumphini police station in their underpants where a disinterested desk sergeant would look up and say, “So this ladyboy, what did she look like?”
“Right so you don’t normally like ladyboys but you think you were drugged not drunk…..OK”
Anyway I thought “Fuck this” nothing looked particularly interesting and I wanted to be up bright and early for the Embassy so I had a quick meal and headed back to the hotel to bury myself in “Wind up bird complication”.
I hadn’t noticed before but the aircon unit was a bit on the dated side. It could have been off the set of “Shane” or “Citizen Kane”. My shorts took themselves off and I clambered into bed and despite having avoided the tuk tuk drivers delights had picked up two equally depressing local entities, Diarrhea and Influenza.
I reached the bit in the book where your man climbs down the well to sink low so he can bounce out after Mr Hondas instruction. Pussy faced Japper cunt, if he wanted to appreciate depth and desperation he should have come on a Visa run to Laos. With the world falling out of my arsehole and an invisible man gripping my throat from inside I marked Laos down as good for mother in laws and split my time that night between bed with my head buried in that book and the bog with my undies round my ankles.
When morning approached I headed for a pharmacy for immodium and Actifed so I could do the necessary queing up at the Embassy without shitting myself as I dashed to the toilet or sneezing a bucketload of lime green snot on the visa officials uniform.
One of the things about Laos is whatever currency you offer to pay in it’s the wrong one. If you offer them Kip they want Baht, if you offer dollars they want Kip and give you change in baht if you offer baht they refuse to take it, you can’t win, but when you get change in Kip you’re left wondering how much you’ve been given or if you’ve been ripped off (the fact is they can’t be bothered ripping you off because even if they did there’d be nothing to spend it on), but every time I bought a sandwich or a glass of coke I’d give them a five dollar bill and be given 87 million Kip as change. I changed up a hundred dollar bill into kip before getting to the embassy and got a shoe box full of Kip and had to buy a rucksack to keep it in.
Anyway the Embassy experience was relatively painless, I handed over my passport and was told to come back the next day, so headed back to the Day Inn to undertake project pool, I wandered round the back headed to where logic dictated the pool would be and got accosted by a maid.
“Where you go,” the Laos don’t smile the way Thai’s do.
“I want the pool.”
“Oh sorry pool not have,” I didn’t want to embarrass her by saying, “well there’s fucking big one in the brochure on reception has it died of boredom or summat?” so marked that down as a stroke of bad luck on my part. I was just starting to accept the fact that Laos not got much to offer and disappointment is to be expected, had I been treated to some Laos Prescient Diary Reports I definitely would have gone somewhere else.
Allright so no pool, I walked back into reception trying not to feel let down and as I asked for my key the receptionist told me that my room was booked and I had to check out.
“OK” I sighed and they offered to put me in another billet nearby.
“Can you find one with a pool ?”
They put me in the Lane Xang which is by the Mekong (or the Laos Powdery Dry Riverbed) and organized a free transfer as well which was decent. The pool was more of a footbath and the hotel itself had a quaint old world colonial air (it needed updating).
I decided to hire out a motorbike and as I drove off from the shop I pulled out into the traffic and nearly got totaled by a lorry on my blindside (I couldn’t hear a fucking thing with my helmet on).
“Fucking French cunts,” the colonialists had made every fucker drive on the wrong side of the road and was going to take some getting used to. Anyway I started scooting about and found nothing in particular, Laos really is Purely Devoid of Revelry I mean there’s nothing to do, the roads have very few roadsigns so after about an hour of driving I was slowly getting used to being on the wrong side of the road, or is it the right side? And found myself surrounded by open road and fields. My journey started to feel unfruitful so I did a uturn and tried to head back to HQ although every junction looked the same and there were no signs so I was going on pot luck to get me back to town. I was about an hour into my misdirected journey when I stumbled across a large gate that bore the insignia “Kaysone Phomvihane Memorial Musuem,” well it couldn’t be more boring than driving round doing nothing so I drove through the gates and got stopped by the guard, who for only 70 million Kip showed me round a collection of old breezeblock huts where the bloke who was president in the seventies used to live.
Unimpressed I left an hour later with vague directions on how to get to Vientiene and 300 billion Kip still in my pocket aching to get spent.
As I approached the outskirts I saw a very impressive looking building with a load of old military aircraft parked on a large drive at the front and decided to give that a butchers, this was the Imperial War Museum (I think) and downstairs were a load of old military vehicles, upstairs actually a decent effort of a display going on about what’s actually happened to the Laos Prostate Dangerous Retards.
Now if you’re French please scroll down to the end.
Basically the French don’t come out of this smelling very nice, which they don’t anyway but take this into account. The French in around 1939 when threatened with occupation by Hitlers hordes bravely surrendered. Instead of putting up a fight however futile which could have weakened the Furhers resolve and forces, possibly indirectly saved Jewish lives and further bloodshed at a later date they just said OK let the krauts in an carried on spreading VD and being dismissive in restaurants.
Then in 1945 when the allied forces had liberated them from scourge of the Nazi’s at great cost to themselves without so much as a word of thanks or a free glass of wine they suddenly found all the weapons and fighting strength and courage they’d forgotten about when the Furher was on the march and promptly invaded Laos.
The Laos amassed such a fearsome fighting force that it took them 10 years with an army made up of old women smoking opium and wearing wide brimmed hats to send the surrendering French cunts packing, and no sooner were the victorious locals skinning up a joint of Laos Psychadelic Depressant Resin to celebrate their new found freedom then the American’s invaded. For a country with so little actually going for it they’re fucking unlucky to get invaded so much.
Anyway it was around 1971 when they got their freedom back and apart from a few casualties and the odd lingering French trait like driving on the wrong side or selling baguettes they seem relatively unharmed. It was while the people were cracking open the opium pipe for a bit of Laos Post Dogmatic Relief that the leaders imposed Communism well they sort of did, they’ve put up the odd statue of Lenin and the odd red star here and there but to be honest they just get on with things they’re not really noticeably communist the way the Soviet Union was.
They have been pretty unlucky to be fair, all they’re due now is the krauts to try and bring them in line with the rest of Europe and impose higher taxes, let the Poles in and make them use the Reichstag Euro single currency and then let the Pakistanis in to demand free housing and dole money that would be the cherry on top of the cake.
Anyway after a couple of smaller museums I was museumed out and armed with enough bigotry to write a thesis entitled “French cunts they don’t deserve the air they breath” I headed back to base camp for a shower.
I went and sat in a bar and started writing up my trip report, then around tennish dropped my notebook off and decided to wander up the Laos Poorly Designed Riverside for a drink and a bit of R&R. To be honest the bars aren’t up too much, the beer’s nice I’ll say that and the people appear intelligent and trustworthy but you get a general lack of excitement if you're looking for a gogo you’ll find there’s no such thing as a Laos Pelviclly Debauched Revue, I found a bit of a nightclub in some hotel a bit down the river and there were some English guys of similar disposition to me bemoaning the lack of excitement and eagerly awaiting the return of their paperwork so they could get back to LOS.
Anyway come around 3am it didn’t look like I was going to give any of the women a Laos Pearly Dribbled Ringpiece so I headed to bed.
I picked up my passport at 1pm and everything was in order. I tried to book a flight from Vietiene but they were all full so got the next best option one from Udon. The hotel booked me a taxi to Friendship bridge and when I got there a bloke offered to take me to Udon for 1000 baht. I walked through the Laos exit desk wearing the shorts which were now 5 days old and said goodbye to the Long Panted Dickhead Region. I had to stop myself kissing the tarmac once I entered Thailand I bought a snake in a bottle and in the taxi to Udon mentally composed a tourist brochure for Laos.
The front cover could copy “Amazing Thailand” but read “Unremarkable Laos” the lettering over some jungle, page two would read, “Not much doing”, page 3 “no honestly there really isn’t”, page 4, “Don’t rush, you’re not missing owt.” Page 5, “The beer's not bad and you can still get Carlsberg.” Then the final page would read, “You’ll be glad when you leave.”
A friend of mine has a Laos girlfriend and I rung him and asked to speak to her, I told her she was lucky to get out of the country. You hear of Laos girls working the bars in LOS illegally, if I lived in Laos I’d be that bored I’d go to Pattaya and sell my arse to fat German perverts. My mate had a Laos girl working in his bar in Pattaya he said it was three months before she started charging blokes.
On the plane back from Udon there was a pair of German cunts sat behind me as the plane took off they opened some sausages or pate or something that stunk to high heaven and started talking really loudly, by the time the plane was landing they’d started to fart out the sausage.
I get to the point where I moan about Thailand sometimes, but at least it’s got sanuk. Oh and if you’re French you’re from a country full of cunts and if you want to know why scroll back to where I told you to scroll down from and read what I’ve written.
© Dominic Lavin. All rights reserved by the author.
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