Today was the keystone to the entire trip. I would apply for my one-year Thai visa and hopefully get it tomorrow.
The tuk-tuk driver I had arranged to pick me did not arrive by the appointed time, so I went out on the street and flagged down the first one to come by. Mr. Loi was very friendly and had another passenger and market goods with him. I sat in front, just to the right of Mr. Loi. I was a little concerned at first because we went into town and made several stops; dropped off the older woman with goods and made some pick ups. He seemed to know what he was doing, so I just rolled with it.
At one stop, Mr. Loi commented on a woman shopping at the small outdoor market we had stopped at; that she was sway (beautiful) and gave me a head nod as if to say ‘agree?” She was well dressed in Lao traditional sinh and blouse and in her 30’s. I nodded to him, but she wasn’t my type and I think Mr. Loi probably appreciated her clothes more than anything.
Mr. Loi knew right where to go and knew the timing of things far better than me. I didn’t even recognize the Thai consulate at first because there was no one lined up or even congregated near the front gate. We were way early. I had thought the consulate opened at 8; no, 9 a.m.
There was a plain but attractive young girl working at the visa services shop across the street where we hung out. At one point, as a follow-up on Mr. Loi’s comment about the woman at the market, I was going to comment to him about how the young girl working here was sway. Good thing I didn’t. The timing would not have been good. She turned out to be Mr. Loi’s look sao (daughter).
After a while, when I saw the line forming, I got in it, scoring some rare shade in the line. After the gate opened, I submitted my paperwork and there were no problems. I’m always a little afraid that I’ll forget something. It’s a good thing I use checklists regularly and effectively.
Before going back into the city and while Mr. Loi was waiting for two more riders, I struck up a conversation with his daughter. She didn’t know English but I now know enough Lao to struggle by with simple questions, answers and a limited number of phrases. Jinta was very nice; very genuine; not much more than 17 from what I could see. It was at this point that I found out she was Mr. Loi’s daughter.
On the drive back to the riverfront area, I now mentioned to Mr. Loi that I knew Jinta was his look sao and that she is sway. Receiving no reply, I added “gap jai dee” (and good heart). To this he readily agreed, and after he let off his other passengers, he asked me if I thought Jinta sway. I agreed enthusiastically, adding “gap jai dee.” He looked sideways at me and we both laughed.
That afternoon, I treated myself to some higher priced Beer Lao and french fries at Lao Derm Savan -- the restaurant that sits on the old ferry that used to connect Savannakhet with Mukdahan, before Friendship Bridge 2 was built in 2006. It was nice and cool being right on the water, despite it being the hottest part of the day.
Afterwards, I took a shower and nap at Nongsoda guesthouse, which I had switched to because it’s a bit cheaper than Intha. I’ll stay here if I can get a room up front, but won’t if forced to the dungeons.
After sundown which I always watch whenever possible, I stopped in at Savan Khaim Khong and the new Korean bar-b-que place. I think my days at Savan Khaim Khong are ended, however. I liked the old joint far more, when Pongsit was frequently played and because it was smaller, you could get to know people more easily. Of course, last year here at the new joint I just lucked out with Jittzy and her friends. That kind of thing is not gonna come around again no matter how many times I drink beer here and watch Thai and Lao music videos.