Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lao Trip 16.3 - Bar Girls

The way they do visas at the Thai consulate in Savannakhet is they take the applications in the morning and then you go back with a number to pick yours up the following afternoon.

So, I basically laid around at Nongsoda in the morning of this third day of the trip, catching up on Internet communications and news. The day’s slow start would prove deceiving.

Mr. Loi picked me up at 1pm and dropped me off at the Thai consulate a bit early. I had to stand around and wait for the doors to open at 2pm. Luckily, I was in the shade. Usually talkative Westerners also in the line were kind of quiet today, possibly because of the heat.

After I received my one year, multiple entry Thai “O” (Other) Visa based on marriage, things started to liven up.

I mean, it was inevitable, really. Tuk-tuk drivers know where everything is. I remember Pak Lai samlor driver Lu offering to take me to “see beautiful girl.” Somehow I got out of that one, but this time, Mr. Loi didn’t bother to ask and even when we arrived and I lightly resisted, he was determined to show me a good time.

I learned several years back that it’s just best to “go with the flow” in Southeast Asia -- in most cases. You definitely do not want to dampen a friend’s good intentions. So, that’s how I found myself at my first-ever Lao bar girl bar on the outskirts of Savannakhet. Actually, we never made it into the physical structure. Pretty girls were hanging outside at a cement table, under the shade of a tree near the gate.

It was fun and I had a good time, but I had to learn quickly as time went on. The young guy who ran the place kept asking me “who?” I just sloughed it off each time, laughing. He knew I knew what he was talking about and, of course, the girls did, too. I just pretended that I didn’t quite know what he meant.

The four girls were attractive, ranging in age (I guess) from 16 to 26. The youngest one (I’m guessing again) was probably just “in training.”

The night I had spent with Jittzy, back in 2015, taught me that I no longer have my plumbing “up to code” nor the emotional wherewithal to deal with sleeping or having sex with another woman other than my wife. It’s an age thing, but it’s also a loyalty thing.

Irrespective of all this, I generously paid for lunch and beers for the seven of us and enjoyed myself a lot; this despite my friend and newfound friends knowing very, very little English. It was a challenge for me and I just wish that I had packed my translation gear (book and phrasebook). Although smart phones are the best way to go, I had not purchased a data plan after I crossed the border, so my cellphone was of little use in this setting -- at least for translation purposes.

In an attempt to keep things from getting out-of-control, I did use my phone to show the girls pictures of Bann Nah and my wife. Here was another plus for phones that have evolved into mini-computers. Nevertheless, the girls were undeterred and I could have had any one of them, including the girl I estimated at 16. Do the math. That’s about a quarter of my age. Can you imagine?

I kept to the High Road, not letting my eyes linger on any one girl too long. Eventually, Mr. Loi and I left. I let the girls know I’d be back -- gap ma -- but neglected to add that it probably wouldn’t be until next year.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Lao Trip 16.2 - Lao Derm Savan

I spent part of my visa fee barring, last night, so this morning I had to hassle a little bit to get the full 5k baht. The Thai consulate does not accept Lao kip, so I had to have the full amount in baht. My friend Mr. Loi helped me, providing transport. I got to see his daughter Jinta very briefly.

I submitted my paperwork and application without problems. Tomorrow afternoon, I will hopefully pick up my passport stamped with another lease on life in Thailand.

Back at the Riverside, I got caught up on my writing at Lao Derm Savan. The Nam Khong was rougher than usual, so I shot some video trying to capture it. I just couldn’t get it. Being on a floating restaurant off the banks of the Mekong after days of rain and flooding eluded my ability. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed it although the waitress clearly did not. It reminded me a little bit of that time in PL2 when the rain storm blew in as we were partying at Koun Ten.

Towards sundown, I ate some ping gai (bar-b-que chicken) at one of the Riverside vendor’s tables, stopped for a beer at both Savan Khaim Khong and the live music place which I think is called something “View,” then retired to Nongsoda, calling it somewhat of an early night -- at least not late.

Another popular video, currently: https://youtu.be/2dg9oc78Kv4

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lao Trip 16.1 - To Savan

It used to be that my wife would drop me off at the highway (210) and I would catch a sawngtheaw from the side of the two lane highway to the Nong Bua Lamphu bawkawsaw. Now that the highway’s gone to a divided four-laner, Thip takes the ring road to drop me off at the bus station on her motosai.

The bus leaves Nong Bua at 6am for Khon Kaen. From there, I switch to the 9:50am going to Mukdahan.

By the end of the afternoon, I’m at the Mukdahan bus station where I board the bus for the border. The border bus drops you off at the Mukdahan immigration complex on the Thai side of Friendship Bridge II. Here you purchase your bus ticket; seems a little off, but this is how they do it. To me, it makes more sense to buy the ticket when you first board the bus at the Mukdahan bawkawsaw.

Anyway, be sure to get your ticket before stamping out of Thailand. Once on the other side of the kiosks, you show your ticket to the bus driver who has advanced the bus up the driveway a bit. The bus then takes you across the bridge and drops you off at the Savannakhet immigration complex where you purchase your one-month Lao visa and stamp in to Lao. From here, you arrange local transpo into town. Be careful of taxi or tuk-tuk prices. If they sound a bit over, then they are. Feign disinterest and you can bring them down in price. It’s actually a game they love to play.

I was quoted 200 baht into town. I laughed and said “mak, mak” (too much), turned away and then let the drivers that had crowded around me know I was going to call a tuk-tuk friend of mine. It was all good fun, as they realized I spoke a little Isaan and they liked that. One guy came down to 100 baht and pointed out that my friend wouldn’t charge me any cheaper. I knew he was right and agreed. Turns out, he was going home for the day, so it worked out for him, too.

I had him drop me off at Nongsoda Guesthouse, in the Riverside section of town, not far from where the old Thai consulate used to be.

I’ve been up and down about Nongsoda ever since the day I really needed a decent room and got a very poor one. But, it is my preferred place of stay as it is right next to the Mekong and within an easy walk to bars, bar-restaurants and the “Riverside vendors.” Sometimes I stay at Intha Guesthouse which is more private and right on the Kong. If I had my wife or a girl with me, this is definitely where I would go. But, the price is better at Nongsoda, so if I can get one of their sunny rooms, I will take it.

After a shower, a visit to Savan Khaim Khong is always in order. I liked the old location better, but I had one of my standout nights at the new location, in 2015, when I met Jittzy and her friends.

This late afternoon/early evening was uneventful, but I had fun drinking Beer Lao (can’t easily get in Thailand, yet), eating squid (pah-merk), watching Thai luktung and pop videos... and reminiscing on the times I’ve been here (2014, 2015, 2016).

The relatively new Korean bar-b-que place was already out of business, but next door in the location of the old Savan Khaim Khong was a bar (View) featuring singers and musicians. So, of course, I stopped in for another beer.

I was happy to see the Riverside vendors back in operation. Something had happened with the planned riverside “improvements,” so the city let things revert back to the way they had been. Fine by me. This is a part of Lao I will enjoy until I no longer can.

Popular Thai video/song, currently: https://youtu.be/zCLZL-RV1tY

Monday, August 7, 2017

Lao Trip 16.0 - Preparations

Soon after returning from my annual trip back to the USA to visit family and friends, I made preparations for my 16th trip to Lao (Laos). This was to be my fourth visit to Savannakhet to obtain my one year, multiple entry Thai visa based on marriage to a Thai national. I could have gotten my visa in California, but it’s easier, cheaper and more fun for me to go to Savan. Even so, by necessity, I had to be well organized ahead of time. I had to have all my documents in order:

· application form
· two passport pictures
· passport
· original marriage certificate
· one copy of marriage certificate
· one copy of my passport page, dated and signed by me
· one copy of wife's Thai ID (front and back), dated and signed by wife
· one copy of wife's blue book (tabian bann), dated and signed by wife
· 5k baht
· letter from my wife showing we are still married

Thip and I had pretty much had this stuff already. It was just a matter of putting them all together, signed and dated...