chapter 2: jumping up and down with panda in vientiane
05 October 2002 (old email posing as travelblog)
i can't believe i'm actually here in vientiane with panda!
i arrived in wattay international airport (vientiane) last night, after a scary takeoff from bangkok international. it was a very very small plane to start with... 2 seats on each side. and not very long at all. when the plane was ascending, it didn't feel like the aircraft had enough power... 'twas flying at a very slow speed.
i dunno, maybe that's what small planes do...
anyway, caught a cab into town and as i was paying the cab driver on the pavement.... i heard a 'chi-chi!' in the distance. it was panda! we were both so excited we couldn't stop jumping up and down. and this segued in our hotel room... on our bed....
didn't do much last night... just caught up with each other over a Beer Lao each in a pub/restaurant place near the guesthouse we were staying. i got a l'il drunk, or rather just a l'il high, on the 660ml bottle. i didn't even finish it.
today, we ventured down to the mekong river after brekkie. this city, this capital city, is so sedate and peaceful... and clean! i was in a quandry as to what i should do with my ciggy butt. there were no bins around either.
anyway, we thought we'd go for a l'il adventure-walk. chichi had the map in her hand, courtesy of lonelyplanet. street names in the lonelyplanet map were obviously in english. did we find any street names in english, if at all?
most streets don't even have a name! if there is, it's in lao writing.
so.... we.... got lost.
but that's fine, 'cos by this stage, we've come across a few locals selling food or just hanging out by the roadside. from them, we learned to say hello, goodbye, and thank you in lao. and, equipped as we were, we asked locals how to get to thalat sao, the morning market. i must say we did quite well.
also by this time, we were dying....
the heat... the stillness of the air... the getting lost and having to walk further than we thought....
our t-shirts were sticking like glue against our backs.
but we made it to the market.
had a hilarious time trying to work out how to put on this lao skirt i was buying. ended up, with the woman selling the skirt, literally ripping up the whole bottom bit...
i stood wide-eyed.
then she indicated to me that i had to sew it back somehow... i had no idea what she was trying to tell me... i tried. i really did. i even looked at the skirt she was wearing as an example. in the end, we somehow managed to ask if someone does alteration/sewing around here, and got it done.
i just don't understand why the fabric is sold in the sewed-up-stage, and we have to rip the bottom bit off, and sew them back up again??
i must say, panda is getting very good at bargaining!
got on a tuk-tuk this arvo and visited this amazing monument, painted gold. Pha That Luang it's called. and it's a symbol of both buddhist religion and lao sovereignty. it was just amazing. this big gold structure with stupas around it, each symbolising the buddhist perfections like alms giving and equanimity. and on the 4 walls of this semi-massive structure were 200 and something holes, each with a tiny statue of buddha in it. we were astounded.
we then rented bikes in the evening when it was much cooler and rode along the mekong river...
it was a nice ride on quite a 'bumpity' road. i had a really small but cool, yellow bike with banana handles and a bell that doesn't really work. panda had a big blue one with bells that work. hmph.
anyway, stopped by a nice quiet li'l riverside bar and had some Beer Lao and took some pictures with our l'il travel mascots (panda had a l'il pandabear, and i just had a l'il bear with me).
it's nice to see how the lao re-uses things like bottle caps to play draughts, and coconut husks/shells as flower pots... and i bet they do so with a lot more other things.
goes to show how much we take things for granted and how much a lot
of us are into blind-consumerism. not that there is anything wrong with that if u subscribe to that lifestyle, but the simplicity of the people here is just so beautiful to look at.
anyway, have to go now. gotta sleep early tonight. very early bus journey tomorrow to luang prabang, roughly 10 hours north of vientiane.