September 2011


Uncategorized21 Sep 2011 10:14 pm

I had just successfully navigated Vientiane, the Capital City, and picked up our Chinese visas.  We had applied for them the week before and the Missus had not come with me to pick them up.  I had to catch a bus back to Vang Vieng so I could get back to working.  I took the usual route of heading to the Morning Market and looking for the next bus.  This was apparently my mistake, because the next bus was Doomed, “Temple of”-style.  It wasn’t until a few hours into the trip that this became readily apparent however.

I got my ticket, which they tend to sell only to falang – foreigners.  Everybody else pays at some point during the trip, seemingly whenever the bus manager decides is appropriate.  Each bus has both a driver, who will stand around yelling the destination prior to departure every two or three minutes, and a manager, who handles fares and also yells the destination while in transit.  This makes more sense if you think of the bus more of like a public taxi slash delivery service.  People jump on and off at whatever point they can manage, and sometimes even just throw on packages with a phone number attached so that the manager can call the recipient whenever the bus is getting close to the package’s destination.

With my ticket firmly in hand, I sauntered back to the fifth row of the bus and sat down.  After two minutes of this, I glanced at my watch, realized we still had 35 minutes until departure, and decided it was way too frackin’ hot to sit on a non-moving bus.  I stood outside the bus while kids repeatedly passed by and tried to sell me packages of gum out of plastic bags they carried around.  After thwarting several attempts to elicit 2000 kip (about 25 cents) for said gum, I meandered back onto the bus to wait the remaining ten minutes.

Finally the engine was started and the bus was in motion.  After three quick honks of the horn though, we were stopped again so another two families could hop on the bus as we left the station.

Now we come to the relatively boring part – three hours filled with package pickups, package drop offs, passenger loading and passenger unloading.  After this relatively boring part though, we came to a small intersection in one of the many villages that the single highway (Route 13) passes through heading North from Vientiane to Vang Vieng.  On hopped a man who initially had some questions for the manager who looked down, shrugged, and allowed him to board.

He sat on the stairs for a few minutes until some of the passengers in the front got curious about what he was doing, stood up, peered over his shoulder, and excitedly asked him to come on up (I assume, since all this was in Lao, and I didn’t catch much if any of it).  He stood up, turned slightly, and walked up the stairs carrying some kind of cylindrical, homemade, wicker-looking cage with a long piece of wired tied to both ends that served as a handle.  Inside?  The sinuous shape of a snake coiled around itself at one end of the cage!  A SNAKE!

Snake on busSomeone had brought a MOTHERFRACKIN SNAKE ON MY MOTHERFRACKIN BUS! If only Samuel L Jackson had been available I might have felt more comfortable. Instead we had a guy sitting near the front who thought it was the most hilarious thing to pick up the cage by the wire handle, shake vigorously until the snake got pissed off, FLARED ITS NECK WINGS – thus demonstrating the cobra-ness of said snake – and tried to bite through the cage to get at this harasser. This happened repeatedly.

I had already unconsciously lifted my feet off the floor of the bus and was curled in a most fetal like position as far back as I could get on the tiny bus seat.  I did manage to snap one hazy picture of the snake in the cage, but that was all that I was willing to attempt with what I can only assume was a poisonous, pissed off, super cobra from the Laotian jungle.

I cannot adequately relate how I managed to survive the last hour of the bus ride, only to say that I was comforted by the thought of Indiana Jones surviving free roaming snakes, so how could I not survive a single caged snake, however pissed off it was.

From now on I think I will try to sit as far back as possible, regardless of the massive bouncing involved due to the terrible road conditions and general bounciness of the back of a school-type bus as every kindergartener who ever rode a school bus knows.  In this way I may stay blissfully unaware of any death dealing animals that happen to board my bus in the future.

Uncategorized01 Sep 2011 03:31 am

Tour of the MemorialOn our way from Los Angeles, USA to Vientiane, Laos we had a chance to stop in Taipei, Taiwan and visit with Poukhan’s grad school friend Hannah.  Hannah and her husband were kind enough to pick us up at the airport at 6:30 in the morning and drive us to their house where we could shower and eat some delicious Taiwanese food.  After this bit of hospitality they then took us to see the Chiang Kai Shek memorial.  Hannah gave us a short tour of the grounds before bringing us to see the memorial building itself.

Main Memorial Building

 

When we saw how many stairs it took to get to the top we had to step back and take a view of the rest of the scenery (while prepping our airplane sore muscles for a climb).

Hannah and Chiang Kai-shekUpon climbing the stairs we were greeted by the man himself, Chiang Kai Shek, in memorial statue form.

We also stopped to take a quick picture of one of the guards at the memorial, Poukhan guards the Guard who we were told are not even allowed to blink, and to be honest I never once saw them do so.

 

 

Memorial Boulevard last lookAs we returned to the car I snapped one more photo of the incredibly impressive entry gate and then we were back off to the airport to resume our journey, much refreshed and grateful for the hospitality of Hannah.