15 December 2008

Week 56: Arrive at the border on time and ensure you are still driving on the correct side of the road (but I departed Bangladesh by plane!)

56th-1st from Jaipur to Kolkata to Bangladesh 9/24

The autorickshaw I had arranged to pick me up didn’t show. I waited for him for about 10 minutes after he was supposed to be there, and then went looking for another. Found one quickly and they agreed to go to the airport, same price. While waiting, I texted the bus company in Kolkata that I was leaving Jaipur and would be there by 1 PM, just in case. (pic: sun rising as I headed to the Jaipur airport)

Although I was mad at them for scrapping my original flight and throwing me into this mess, I have to admit that Indigo has nice planes and friendly staff.

After landing, and getting my bag, I got a taxi to headed back into town. There was an incredible jam on the way, and I feared of missing my bus. To make it worse, my driver decided to stop for tea when we were a kilometer from the bus stand. I was so irritated; at least he offered me a cigarette…but I don’t smoke. I was excited to see all the signs for Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in Bengal, up around town. It’s coming up soon. (pic: sign in Kolkata during Durga Puja with the goddess' image)

The bus company had understood the call from yesterday and even got the text this morning. They told me not to worry, that I had a seat on the 1 PM bus. I went and grabbed snacks for the ride.

On the bus I was sitting next to a little kid, quite a brat. There wasn’t really much of a jam leaving the city. But disaster struck 2 hours outside of the city. There were people rioting in the highway, and our bus stood still for 40 minutes. People started worrying we wouldn’t make the border crossing in time. Of course I was fretting as well. The rioters were angry about load shedding happening too often in their area.

We didn’t make it to the border in time. We arrived just after 6 PM and it closes at 6 PM. They hurried us all to the customs gate, through immigration, but customs wouldn’t open for us. We would have to spend the night in India. It was a bit more traumatic for me. Because I am a foreigner, they kept me in immigration to get “interviewed”. I worried they would let the rest of my bus through and not me if the “interviewer” didn’t show up. A guy from the bus company was in the room with me, and he told me not to worry. I trusted him. After sitting there for a half hour, the rest of the passengers consented that they wouldn’t be leaving tonight. It was frustrating for us all.
We sat in the bus company’s office for awhile, complaining, and then the bus took us all a few kilometers back down the road to a hotel for the night. Food and lodging all paid for by the company. During this period I befriended a young guy from Bangladesh. He was a cricket player for the under-19 team named Pana. It was really cool to meet a national level player. He showed me his passport full of foreign stamps from his team’s tours. I smiled at the fact that his occupation simply says “Player”. (pic: Pana's passport with his profession as "PLAYER.")

He and I roomed together in the hotel. We watched some TV and showered. Dinner was served late and all the bus passengers quickly ate up some rice, vegetables, and egg curry.

Obviously I was super frustrated. Instead of having 3 full days in Bangladesh, I would now essentially have 2, with a lot to get done. Annoyed on how it all played out. I was glad though that Pana was there, it helped so much to have a friend.

Not sure if I ever mentioned it, but everyone in south Asia compliments or comments on me being left handed.

56th-2nd in Dhaka 9/25

We woke up early at the hotel, still in India. I should be home already, and its frustrating to think about that. The bus was slow to leave, so we didn’t arrive at the time we wanted to when it opened at 6 AM. We didn’t arrive at the border until 6:45, and already it was pretty busy. (pics: my other busmates waiting for the bus to take us to the borer, the bus finally coming out of the parking lot in a small town in India near the border with Bangladesh)

Again I was sat down to be ‘interviewed” and this made my whole bus have to wait outside customs until I was done. No one seemed angry at me. The border itself was pure craziness. People running everywhere, lines every which way. Long waits. In between the two borders lots of people stood waiting to cross. Porters tried to carry your things and demand tips. The Indian and the Bangladeshi sides were equally confusing. Except the Indian side had most things in one building. For Bangladesh you had to keep crossing back and forth across the road to hit each place. But I got stamped out fine, bought the onward ticket for the bus, and we were on our way again.

The ride back was uneventful. There wasn’t even a line at the Padma River to cross. We got on quickly and easily. As we neared Dhaka, our bus was going to go up and around through Uttara, so I got off to take a more direct city bus in. Pana came with me as he lives nearby in Mohammedpur. (pics: two launches hit while crossing the Padma River, the Padma River filled with small sailboats)

After picking up my laptop from Diya’s and having Iftar there, I went home and quickly threw my stuff down and dropped in to see the guys downstairs about the furniture. Apparently Mehedi had skipped town and would not be buying my things. I was annoyed. But Mansur said he would buy it all, or a friend would, and not to worry. Of course I would, but I had no other choice but to go with it. I asked if they had all the money, and he said he did, all ready to go. I told him I’d be spending the night in Gulshan, and I’d be back at noon tomorrow.

I then headed across town to Naira’s. She had invited me over for dinner with her father. Her mom was out of town. We chatted, had dinner with her dad and many other people who were over to eat that night, including her brother and his friends. Dinner was great as always, and everyone was talking the entire time. After dinner, her cousin and cousin’s husband, Naira, and I went to the Westin. This was actually my first time going there to hang out, now in my last few nights of Dhaka. We met some people there, two of which I knew from the wedding last December. We had cake and hung out talking for over an hour.

56th-3rd in Dhaka 9/26

I ate breakfast at Naira’s. I had said goodbye the night before because I knew I had to leave early. I talked to one of her other cousins who stays there before I left.

I went to grab the final _FC pictures I needed of RFC, KFC, and FFC, and then headed to the Best Air office to confirm my luggage allowance for the flight. I had to go to the head office, and finding it was a bit hard. There, the woman at the booking desk told me not to worry, everyone in the company knows students can take an extra 10kg. I felt content.

I went home and told Mansur I was back to sell my stuff. He came up along with the guy he said would buy most of my things, his name was Mahib. Turns out, Mansur would only be buying my fridge, and Mahib was buying everything else. They asked for the price again, and I tallied it up at Tk15,000. Then they started bargaining, which had not happened yet, but I was afraid would come. He said he would buy for Tk10,000, and he wouldn’t budge when I said my lowest price was Tk12000. He knew I had no other choice, so I finally consented because some money is better than none. We settled on what was going to be included, and I showed them a pile of stuff they could take for free. I said I only wanted to keep the kitchen stuff to give to my boua.
They went to get the money and I started taking apart my bed. Mansur and him came back and Mansur started begging me to give him a lower price on the fridge. He said he didn’t have enough money and I asked what happened to the plenty of funds he had last night. Apparently not. I wouldn’t budge. I knew the landlady would buy it if he didn’t take it. He knew that too. He ended up giving only 3% less than what was agreed upon.

So we started packing up, no issues arising. I was helping them bring things downstairs. Then Mahib asked about my speakers. I had asked him earlier if he wanted them, and he said he didn’t so I did not include them in the price. However, apparently he didn’t recall this interaction and insisted the speakers were part of the deal and that he was taking them. I said no way unless he gave an extra Tk 1500, they were expensive. He threatened that if I didn’t give them to him included in the price, he wouldn’t take anything at all and asked for his Tk10,000 back.
I was shocked and appalled. I couldn’t believe he was really doing this. I said again that we had not said the speakers were part of it, and Mahib just rebutted asking me to give him his money back. I looked at all the other guys who were there as well, four in all, one being Mansur’s roommate and one being the guy’s brother. No one looked to be on my side. If anything they just shrugged. I was upset. I felt I was getting ganged up on, cheated, in the most unfair of situations. I didn’t’ know what to do. Where to turn.
Then I broke down. I couldn’t help it. All the emotions of my last days here, having to say goodbye, the stress, and now this, it just added up and all started coming out. I started crying and couldn’t stop. It was then they realized they’d gone too far. I was telling them how I wasn’t trying to cheat anyone, wasn’t trying to screw them, just trying to sell the things. I had already cut the price two thirds, feeling I’d done what they wanted. Then things took a turn. Realizing what they’d done, and feeling bad about it, they started hugging me. They tried comforting me and telling me it was all right, just a misunderstanding. Slowly I calmed down. I apologized for opening up all of a sudden, but they apologized as well for going too far in the whole situation.
That whole mess over, we went back to bringing all the furniture downstairs. They apologized again and again, and didn’t raise any more issues.
One of my friends told me later that it is not uncommon for Bangladeshis to see how far they can push someone in a business transaction. Other Bangladeshis know how to handle this technique, and will rebut appropriately, until an agreement is reached. But in this case, I wasn’t prepared, and they weren’t prepared for my response. My friend said that when they saw me display emotion in the transaction, something they wouldn’t have expected, they knew to back down. In a way my friend said, it’s all a façade of being tough, and they don’t really mean it full and through. (pics: my room getting packed up, Mansur/Mahib and the others moving things out of my room, Mahib/Mansur helping to take apart my bed)

After they’d left and my room was empty, Ragini came by. I was still packing some things. She brought fuchka and some other snacks from a place that was actually open during Ramadan, and we shared those and told each other stories of our travels in India.

Tonight for Iftar I was meeting up with Karen and Erin at Nando’s. The Iftar fare was decent. I shouldn’t have ordered the medium flavor and just gone with mild. I was in no mood for super spicy right now. But Nando’s did a good Iftar spread, however I’ll still say Pizza Hut is the best Iftar offer in Dhaka. We talked about where I’d been, and touched on the various things we’ve all been up to.
I rushed home in the now pouring rain. I got soaked. From head to toe. My boua was supposed to come by tonight to wash clothes, as I had worked out with her. But she didn’t. With the rain and the flooded streets, which even I had a hard time going through, I knew she wasn’t showing up. So it was time to wash my clothes myself. I grabbed the bucket and the clothes I knew would take the longest to dry and set to work. I assumed she would come tomorrow morning, as by then the rain would’ve hopefully stopped and dried. If not, I’d be washing the quicker drying stuff myself again tomorrow morning.

I spent the rest of the night packing and looking online. Hadn’t really had a time to go on since getting back from India. I worked on my Fulbright Final Report trying to get it done and out of the way before I leave Bangladesh. My room is now empty except for a mattress I asked to keep for my last two nights. The guy who bought it would come by to get it on my last morning. As well, I had retaken the fan from the guys downstairs before the all went back for Eid. They told me to just leave it with the landlady when I moved out.

56th-4th in Dhaka 9/27

Today is my last full day in Bangladesh. I leave tomorrow morning. It feels a bit odd. Especially the array of activities I plan to do. It was really a typical day of errands for me. It could’ve been any other day during my stay.

In the morning my boua came and washed the rest of my clothes. She then took everything I had saved for her. The kitchen stuff, odds and ends I wasn’t taking home, including shoes, shirts, pants, etc. Meanwhile I packed little by little. She left with a big bag of stuff, and good sized thank you tip for her time working for me, as well as a photo I printed out of the two of us that Emily had take on her visit. (pic: my boua with all the odds and ends I gave her)

I had breakfast at a hotel one last time. It was Ramadan and so I felt a bit scandalous, but lots of others were there too. I dropped off my mini backpack to a tailor and asked them if they could fix the few holes and tears which had developed through India. They didn’t want to, but I begged and said they cold do it, needed it done by tonight. They obliged.

After this I went to BUET to see Dr. Rahman one last time. I was dropping off a copy of the paper that had been published by us, for his records. He also took it to make a formal scan. I thanked him one last time, and was on my way.

I had taken the bus there and back and it was fitting that it was really crowded. I was hanging out the door for a bit on the way out, one last time. I got to push through everyone one last time. I even got to sit in an annoying traffic jam one last time.

I got a final haircut. Wanted to make sure I felt clean before heading to Southeast Asia. Thus it was nice to get one final complimentary head massage.
I really didn’t eat lunch apart for a few biscuits. Wasn't very hungry I guess. I sat at home in my lungi and finished the Fulbright final report. Felt good to submit it. At one point Karen came by, she was buying my speakers from me.

In the evening I gave my gifts to the store owner in front of my house and Hamid. I gave Hamid a pack of baseball cards that I had brought from the US. I think at first he was confused about them, and also asked me some questions about baseball. He liked them though, the evidence being that he showed them off to all the customers who came by afterwards. Both of them liked the frame I gave them, including the framed dollar bill. I know they’ll enjoy showing that off. They hung it on the wall immediately, and pointed it out as well to all the customers who came by.

At night all my friends came over to say goodbye. I was really glad that Tamzid dropped by as well. He said it was really good to see me one last time. We all sat in my room and talked about nothingness for awhile. They gave me one more gift. I gave Farhan the postcards I had written to mail to everyone, and I gave Ayon all the books for Samantha. When they all left, they each gave me a personal goodbye. It was a bit sad. We all were going to miss each other. (pics: Farhan at my flat on my last night, Auvi/Saquib/Nipu/Annita/Ayon at my house hanging out in my empty flat on my final night in Dhaka)

Just as they were leaving, Toma, who had said she wasn’t able to come by because she was busy showed up. She had gone straight to my house to surprise me, but I had walked the guys to the street. She called and found me in the streets just as I was saying goodbye to my friends. She and I then went by rickshaw to get dinner. Only I ate. I went to my favorite hotel one last time. I shook the hand of the waiter who usually served me and said goodbye. She gave me a gift of three shirts from the Aziz Super market. I hadn’t had the time to go pick them up myself, and she knew I wanted some. I was impressed, all the designs were ones I really liked.

Went to bed one last time in Bangladesh.

56th-5th from Dhaka to Bangkok 9/28

Last morning. Mahib, the guy taking my mattress came by at 4:45 AM as we had planned. I had to open the gate for him. He came in, and I was exhausted. I plopped down, and he did next to me. Now remember, this is the guy who got me really upset just two days ago. Now he was acting like my best friend. We ended up talking for over one hour this morning. We chatted, even thought it was early, I wasn’t being picked up by Auvi for 3 more hours. The highlight thought was when he told me he is the head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party student arm at Dhaka College. I asked that they didn’t they have a riot about a month ago that burned a bus. He said “Yeah, it was great!” I inquired if, as the head of the student group, had organized it personally. Yes he had. I asked further how he decides to have a riot, and he told me how a high up in the Bangladesh Nationalist Party calls him in the morning and tells him they want a riot to happen so X and Y get done. In this case, they wanted Khaleda Zia out of jail. So he then texts all his friends, or sees them throughout the day, and they all plan to riot at the gates at 2 PM or whatever. I was so amazed to find out hwo all tha it works! Couldn’t believe I was talking to a guy who starts riots for fun!

I dropped off the fan to my landlord but did not ask for my deposit back. Nor did I offer to pay the October rent. I feel we’re all even.

Auvi picked me up at home earlier than I thought he would. I would have plenty of time at the airport. When we got there early, we figured why not go get some breakfast. His driver and I got some biscuits and bananas and tea at a tea stall. Auvi was fasting and didn’t eat. But it was good to spend a few more moments with a good friend before I left.

When it was time, we drove back across the street to the airport. He brought me to the departures area and helped me bring my bags to the door. I hugged him goodbye and went inside, the last personal contact I had in Bangladesh with a friend. I was sad. I didn’t cry. I guess I was ready for it. I couldn’t believe it was all really happening after spending so much time here. I didn’t have the feeling of just arriving, or that time had flied, just amazed that this point had come.

My reflection was disrupted by having to deal with Best Air. It sucked. I ended up paying lots of money at the counter, much more than I anticipated. First, they didn’t “know” I could take extra bags on board, despite what the head office had claimed. I called the head office, and put them on the phone with the counter workers. Luckily it was explained that students can take 10 anextra kg. So that was in the clear. My bags were 12kg over the limit. Not so bad. But then they told me my carry-on was too big. I insisted that I carry it on every flight I go. They forced me to weigh it, and then they put it in the stupid little metal “on board possible space” bin. Was too big for both they claimed. 7kg over the carry-on limit. I was annoyed. They were now forcing me to pay for 24kg! that was a lot of money. I was very unhappy. I guess I could’ve done a lot of rearranging then and there, but didn’t think about that at the time.
On the plus side, I felt it was a testament to my Bengali that I’ve learned that I was able to fight about the weight of my bag to the counter person, and explain the situation over the phone to a representative.
While waiting for the plane, I felt I saw lots of people who had bags bigger than that one carry-on, and that looked heavier too. I steamed about this all the way to Bangkok.

There was free internet at the airport. So for all of Dhaka’s airport’s downsides, this was a major up! My friends texted and called me while I was in the airport. Ayon and Toma both called, and Farhan Nipu, Oyon, and Saquib all texted me.

The plane itself to Bangkok was rickety, and a bit scary. In fact I’d never been so nervous on a plane for as long as I can remember.
We landed in Bangkok, I was reflecting on my last trip here with Megan in February. Our plane got to the gate…but it didn’t. Apparently there was some issue that it wasn’t physically possible for us to connect to the gate. We sat there for 30 minutes. I thought we’d have to go to another gate. I didn’t understand why this problem would arise, was this their first time ever trying to go to a gate? Well after 30 minute, the plane moved forward about 3 feet, literally, and all of a sudden we were able to connect. Nothing else I could tell changed. Ridiculous.

I got my bags and found Amy at the airport. She’d been waiting all day, several hours for me to arrive. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen her. Last time would’ve been at the Knecht Cup, a regatta in Camden, New Jersey, during my junior year of college. It was so nice to see a familiar face again. I was excited for our upcoming 2.5 weeks.

We got a taxi from the taxi stand at the airport.. The driver however got lost trying to get where we needed to go. He though we’d said something different. Luckily I sort of knew my way around, and told him again where we needed to go and where I thought it was from where we were. We ended up finding it just fine after that.

Amy liked the hostel I had arranged for us to stay at, the Sukhumvit On Nut Guesthouse. It was the same one I had been to with Megan on our first night in Bangkok. The staff is friendly and helpful, it’s not too far from the airport, and really clean. After checking in, we repacked our bags for our journey starting tomorrow. I gave my two big bags to store downstairs. They’d be left under the steps for 2.5 weeks. (pic: Amy in our hostel in Bangkok repacking her bags)

Amy and I grabbed our guidebooks and headed out to the night market I’d eaten at with Megan on our first night. We sought out some noodles and ate and planned out our trip as best we could. We knew we’d be doing a lot of this trip off the cuff, but we worked out what we thought things could go like as best we can. It’s a hard trip to plan. We decided to take a train tomorrow morning out northeast, heading to Laos. We are skipping northern Thailand as we aren’t as psyched about that as we are about other places, and we are admittedly crunched for time. We realized we’ll be spending a lot of nights on buses and trains, but we said that we could deal.

Amy gave me the things she wasn’t taking on this first leg of the trip, and I put it in my carry-on bag. In there I put my laptop. Brought it downstairs to store for the next 10 days until we come back. The manager asked me if a laptop was inside. I wasn't sure if I should say yes or not. Didn’t want to admit it. He told me if there was he’d keep it locked in my office. So I whispered back “yes.”

At night at the hostel I couldn’t fall asleep. I was thinking about the upcoming trip. But sadly also the big payment I had to shell out earlier for my bags.

56th-6th in Pak Chong 9/29

We were up early at the hostel, and off on the skytrain, then to the subway, then to the train station. There was no issue quickly booking our tickets, but we would have to sit in the Bangkok rail station for the rest of the morning. We went and got breakfast nearby, some rice and curry. I also got a pastry and some fruit for the train ride. (pic: waiting inside the Bangkok train station for a few hours)

The train was a comfortable ride. We had chosen to stop over at Pak Chong for the day because there was no way we could reach the Thailand/Laos border today. And we figured why not take a night train this evening to get there the next morning and spend this day somewhere outside of Bangkok. So Pak Chong, 3-4 hours outside of Bangkok seemed perfect. We might even go to the national park there, Thailand’s first.
When we arrived, it was quickly evident how much of a small town it was. Streets seemed dead. We went and got lunch at a small restaurant near the station, and asked if we could leave our bags there for the day, promising we’d come back and eat dinner. We went and found the songthaews which were heading to the national park. We read that they stop running at 5 PM, so we could have 3 hours there at the park before having to come back. (pic: inside our songthaew to Khao Yai National Park)

When we got to the park’s gate we got a different story. The trails at the park were all 7km or so from the gate. No easy way to get inside without a car. So there was nothing we could do from where we were. The gate worker also informed us that the last songthaew was the one we had came on. Whether all of this was true or not, we weren’t going to mess around. The gate worker told us we could hail a car leaving the park to take us back. She helped us do that, and we hopped in the back of a guy’s pickup truck. He and his friends were all heading home. The guy was real nice to us, and although he couldn’t take us the whole way, he helped us find a small songthaew to take us back from the farthest point he would take us. I haven’t “hitchhiked” since I was in South Africa. (pics: the view of the gate to Khao Yai National Park as we sped away in the bed of some guy's truck, Amy in the bed of the truck we hitchhiked with back to Pak Chong)

Back in town, with not much else to do. Amy and I grabbed some dessert items. We roamed around, tried to find shops to look at. Essentially we were finding ways to waste about 4 hours or so until dinner. We roamed across the rail tracks and sat down at an open air restaurant. Took out the cards and started playing Shed. I had taught her how to play at the train station this morning. (pics: fairly empty street in Pak Chong, Amy walking through the stalls at an evening market in Pak Chong, wandering across the tracks in the town, a Wat on the top of a hill that we could see from where we sat and played cards)

We had dinner at the same place. Our bags luckily were still there. We waited at the train station for about an hour and a half for our night train to the Laos border. Amy slept while I read. There were a lot of mosquitoes. (pic: Amy asleep on a bench while we wait for our train at the Pak Chong train station)

Boarding the train, it was freezing cold inside. It was hard to sleep with it so cold, I was only in shorts and t-shirt. I wrapped my lungi around my upper body and used the provided blanket on my legs. Either way, didn’t sleep well, and nor did Amy.

56th-7th in Vientiane 9/30

We arrived at the final city on the rail line in Thailand in the early morning. From there we could take a tuk-tuk the short distance to the Laos border crossing. We shared with another foreign couple, and overpaid for the short ride. I think I was the only one who was willing to bargain at that early hour.

The Thai side was easy. Soon after arriving the border opened and we checked through. A bus was there to take all the people across the Mekong River to Laos. There we were able to get a visa on arrival, which took time. The most exciting thing was seeing the point in the road where the bus had to switch sides. Thailand drives on the left, and Laos on the right. The roads crisscrossed itself, and had stop signs for drivers to ensure they would not hit anyone in the crossing procedure. Then it was a half hour tuk-tuk ride to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. (pic: where the switch happens at the border because Thailand drives on the left and Laos on the right)

We had asked the driver to take us to the international bus station, but after getting off, we would find out we were merely at the city bus station. It was frustrating. We asked around for how to get where we wanted to go, and it felt like we were running in circles. At this point both of us felt frantic. No one spoke English well enough to help us find how to get where we were going. Well luckily someone did, and we took a local bus to what they refer to as the Southern Bus Station. There we were able to buy our bus ticket for 2 days from now to Hue, Vietnam. For breakfast, we had French bread with a variety of mystery meats inside. Previously a French colony, the influence of the French was all over the country, including the French breads. (pic: Amy and the many French loaves available in Southeast Asia that we'd enjoy for many breakfasts)

We then had to take another tuk-tuk across town again to the Northern Bus Station. This is the third and last bus station in town. So our morning consisted of seeing all the bus stations in Vientiane. Here we booked our ticket for the evening to go to Phonosavan, home of the Plain of Jars, our main goal in Laos. We left our bags there for the day at the insistence of the ticket seller.

Again we grabbed a tuk-tuk to the town center. Despite it being the capital and largest city in the country, it is really a medium sized town. We were excited after all the ticket buying to finally roam and see some of the exciting parts of the city. There was a nice streetscape on Vientiane’s main drag, and lots of Buddhist monks were walking this way and that. (pics: Tuk-tuks in the main street of Vientiane, Amy walking through the streets of Vientiane, the Laos President's house, a cat on the bust of a lion at a Wat(cute and fitting don't you think?))

After some pizza for lunch we made our way to Patuxay, what is essentially Vientiane’s Arc de Triomphe. We climbed up inside and looked out over Vientiane. All the interior floors were ripe with gift-sellers. The city looked a lot bigger from the top. At the other end of what is essentially Vientiane’s Champs-Elysees, was the President’s house. (pics: myself in front of Patuxay, inside the many floors of Patuxay that are now big gift shops, Amy looking out from the top of Patuxay, looking down Lan Xang Boulevard towards the President's House and most of Vientiane)

We then went to Wat Si Saket, the most famous Wat in Vientiane. Portions of its wooden construction for some reason really stood out to me. It started to rain a bit before, and neither of us minded sitting there a bit longer. (pics: Amy walking around Wat Si Saket, an image of the Buddha at Wat Si Saket, some of the wooden post and lintels at the temple, myself at Wat Si Saket)

After lunch and heading to an internet café, we walked over to the river, just to see it. It was neat to be seeing one of the great rivers of the world, the Mekong. Very special to look upon it. It was flowing very fast as the monsoon season was just ending. A few weeks ago it had flooded its banks, flowing into Vientiane. The sandbags were still piled up everywhere from that time.
We had our dinner on the riverside at a “fancy” place where you sat on pillows. We were essentially hanging right over the river on a bamboo shelter. The kitchen was up by the street and they brought food down to us. (pics: sandbags remaining from when the Mekong River flooded into Vientiane during the monsoon, the small riverside restaurants we dined at, Amy at the restaurant we ate at along the Mekong River, myself at the same restauarant)

We took a tuk-tuk back to the bus station. There we showered in the bathrooms. You had to pay the bathroom fee, but we could use the buckets in the toilet stalls to dump water on ourselves. I have to say it is the oddest shower I’ve taken, and I had some weird ones in Bangladesh. I was dumping water from the basin which holds the toilet flushing water. My belongings precariously were hanging from the bits of door frame I could hang them on. It wasn’t so bad though. We both felt really refreshed when we were done.

We got on the bus for our ride to Phonosavan. It was supposed to be around 12 hours overnight. It was a double story bus, but people only sat on top, below was all our stuff. And people had A LOT of stuff. It seemed like they had come into the city for a few days, picked up what they needed for their entire village, and were brining it back. Three hours into our trip the bus broke down. Despite it being a nicer VIP bus, the roads are pretty bad outside the capital. Two hours later two other buses came by, one full of people and with AC, and one not full and not with AC. They had everyone on the first bus fill the second, and then our passengers took the first. Our original bus was left behind. We were back on our way to Phonosavan.


Anonymous said...

First time I heard about the left-handed observation. Why is that, I wonder. Given the cultural preference for right hand for everything.

Anonymous said...

Hey! You never mentioned the cricket player b4.