Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lao Trip 3.3 - PL2

On my third trip to Lao (Laos), in November 2012 and just before the rice harvest, I went to a very special place that is a lot like Pak Lai, the place I went with Thip on our first trip to Lao last May. Rather than reveal its name or where it is, I will follow a surfing tradition that some of us real surfers have of keeping special spots secret (“secret spot”) in an attempt not to overcrowd them. Because of similarities with Pak Lai, I will refer to my special village as “Pak Lai #2” or just “PL2.”

Although much smaller, one of the main things PL2 has in common with Pak Lai is that it, too, is along the Mekong. As a person who has grown up around large bodies of water most all his 64 years on the planet, the Mekong makes me feel at home. It’s no Pacific Ocean, but it will do and, anyway, it has its own uniqueness.

It doesn’t hurt that the scenery is stunning and largely undeveloped, also.

A vivid memory from this trip is when I went swimming. It wasn’t my first time in the Nam Kong, but first time swimming in Lao. I was surprised at the swiftness of the water. When I first swam in the Mekong in 2000, it was at Khaeng Khut Khu, in Thailand. The bend in the river there is notorious for the deaths that have occurred when people were swept-up by the current into whirlpools that sucked them down. I was extremely cautious that time and this time cautious, too, because I really did not know what I was getting into.

I didn’t stray far from shore and I kept pace with the current, swimming against it so as not to be swept down river. It wasn’t long before I returned to shore, knowing full well that I couldn’t keep the pace up for long.

A piece of advice you may have heard before, but this time from a guy who grew up at the beach, a former lifeguard and a person who has surfed for 45 years: if you ever find yourself swimming in water that takes you away from where you want to go, don’t panic. Swim with the current, but at an angle in the direction you want to go. For sure, you will make land fall away from where you started out, but that’s better than the alternative. Above all, don’t freak out. Stay in control of the situation as best you can. Most drownings, I am convinced, are caused by hyperventilation due to anxiety.

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