Sunday, January 24, 2016

Lao Trip 13.3 - To Pak Lai

In the process of leaving Ivy Guesthouse the morning of my second day in Lao, it became quite evident that Ivy is the preferred guesthouse in this area of Ken Thao. Whereas Minta seems to attrack Westerners (possibly because it’s cheaper), Ivy is all Asian. I was the only Falang to be seen.

While grabbing a free cup of instant coffee (“3-in-1”), I crossed paths with “A Suit.” Unlike it might have been in my much younger days, I no longer use this term derogatorily (“Brown Shoes Don’t Make It” comes to mind). It was just a Thai or Lao big-shot going on his way to Thailand, accompanied by a retinue of guys to look after him – none of whom looked like a bodyguard. We talked for a bit – how are you, where are you going, etc. – then proceeded on our different paths.

The Ken Thao transit center, next to the market, features not only the petanque court I am fond of picking on, but sawngthaew’s to Pak Lai and other local locations, a bus to Vientiane, a van to Xayabuli and a small bus to Luang Prabang.

When the sawngthaew to Pak Lai was loading up, it got to the point where I wondered if I would get a seat. I usually load in last on sawngthaew’s because I don’t like being cramped in the center near the driver’s cab. I prefer being toward the back, so I can look out more easily, which sometimes is hard to do in the center.

Well, people kept loading in and packages, too. While waiting, I had stood up most of the time and even done some stretching exercises in anticipation of the hour and a half ride north. Now, it was looking like I was going to have to continue standing – this time on the rear step of the sawngthaew – something I’ve done before, but not for an hour and a half.

Luckily, we were all able to load in. I got the last seat on the left side – well, a half a seat. I padded the tailgate with a cotton shirt from my backpack to make up the other half. Once underway, I could see that I had the best spot on the truck, with wide views out the back, just like I like it; just had to hold on all the way in case of a big bump or quick turn.

Not long after leaving Ken Thao, we passed the Nam Tan Resort and I was reminded once again that I’d like to stay there some time. It looks like a neat spot.

Fuel tankers from Thailand would pass us when they could and the drivers all waved at me. Once again, I remembered how good it feels being a “big fish in a small pond.”

Of course, I did my Kopiko’s thing.

At one point, I had to shift one of my legs and thought about my knees. They’re not good. Similar to my morbid thoughts the day before, I recognized that there will come a day when I will no longer be able to take trips such as this. All the reason to live each moment to its fullest (Be Here Now).

(some views that awaited me in Pak Lai)

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