Tha Khaek has grown from a sleepy
Mekong riverside town
to a city that is increasingly known to tourists as a staging area for trekking and bicycle riding
into nearby mountains. Since I was not planning anything so adventurous,
Day 4 of my trip saw me heading out of town, southbound to Savannakhet city in Savannakhet province.
I was still smarting somewhat from last night’s rejection. Just before heading back to the Sooksomboon Hotel, I had had a last beer along the river and had mis-read signals from the girls at the table next to me. I inadvertently broke one of my travelling rules and showed a little too much interest in them without them first showing a lot more in me. I think I actually ran them off. I was reminded of the conversation I had had with Scotty just days before and chalked this loss as the city girls of Tha Khek being much like their counterparts across the Khong.
In a quick reversal of fortune, on the bus I met Miss Ott. She and her girlfriend got on the bus from her village along the way, heading back to college in Savannakhet. She took the seat next to me, as it being one of the few available. Her friend took another single seat not far away. All of maybe 18, Miss Ott was studying to be an English teacher and I think happy to be able to practice her vocabulary. For me, it was wonderful to converse with a beautiful girl, close-up. Her eyes were so clear!
Miss Ott – I had asked her her name and she introduced herself formally – was particularly surprised that I was travelling alone. She said she would never do that; meaning that that wouldn’t be fun for her. I quickly pointed out that if I was travelling with another person, I would probably not have had the chance to meet her. I think she got it.
Her college came up sooner than we expected, and it was her girlfriend who alerted her to the need to get off. In the rush, I was not able to get her phone number, which was another one of those missed opportunities. I was going to be kicking around in Savannakhet for a few days and it would have been nice for me to get to know her more and nice for her to have feedback on her English and learn some more. Images of “Travelling Man” come to mind, not so much for a girlfriend-in-every-port, but just in the sense of having female friends in far-off places.