Saturday, April 18, 2009

tales from a bus trip in laos

I am now in the capital of Laos, Vientiane. It's the smallest capital I have ever seen, maybe besides Berne in Switzerland.

I arrived last evening and had a very interesting trip here. Knowing that I do not want to end up with 100 other farang backpackers but rather some Lao people, I opted for the normal bus with Aircon. I took the right choice!

Besides me, a young couple with a cute little baby-girl and in front of me, a 70's something couple, just as cute. There was also a guy who turned around often to look at me. More about him later.

The journey is supposed to take 8-12 hours. 4 hours of deviation is big, and I now know why. The road is at best a country road in the West and as soon as you are out of Luang Prabang, the vision is very, very countryside. Villages with dozens of kids playing with chickens. Men drinking beer next to the road. Women looking after their babies. Pigs chasing each other past the houses. It was like peeking into people's lives from a passer-by perspective - and all that on a bus.

Soon, we had an accident. Bus had to stop abruptly because of truck racing around the corner, crack and the right back side of the bus was somehow maltreated. 20 minutes and 200 bumps on the road later that were ignored, a huge noise. The suspension of the bus broke and we couldnt drive faster than 30 in the 2nd gear anymore.

A few hours later, we had lunch and changed into the next retired Korean college bus where we had to find new seats, much to the dismay of the Singaporean couple who thought the whole world was keeping two seats free for them. Do NOT get me started on Singaporeans please...

The rest of the trip was smooth sailing. Beautiful landscape, pointy mountains, garden-like un-cultivated fields, dried-up terraced rice-fields, lakes, amazing! I can only recomment Laos.

Now for the gay side of the trip. In Luang Prabang, I was staying at a rather nice guesthouse with an Australian owner, who obviously was gay. The couple of handsome, young, nice, well-behaved and English-speaking Lao staff added a bit to the gay feeling of the guesthouse.

The room under mine was occupied by an Australian gentleman from Melbourne, also gay. He had worked in HIV-prevention for 10 years and has a boyfriend back in Melbourne, possibly from Vietnam since he keeps going to Vietnam and talked a lot about the country. It was lovely to talk to this man. We openly talked about how it is being gay in Bangkok and in Vietnam and his insights were interesting.

Here in Laos, gays are not as open about their tastes as in Thailand. If any of you travel to Laos, dont expect an army of cute Laotians to run after you like they do in Thailand. The flirting is very discrete and even then, they just might be straight guys being curious about foreigners.

In the bus however, I did meet a gay Laotian. He spoke English well, which always raises doubts. We talked a bit and apparently he studied English in Vientiane but now works in a steel factory. He is from one of the northern provinces, hence his Chinese look.

He was a nice guy, he taught me some Lao and we asked each other about when we are getting married, only to receive the obvious denials. We really had a genuinely nice talk and for some reason, I quite liked him, despite him being extremely restless and just slightly strange. In fact, he looked and acted so much like the 'chinese spy' that I met in New Zealand, last year. One strange thing about him however is that he apparently has an older farang friend, from America. Hmm, I have probably met a moneyboy here...

In normal circumstances, we would have exchanged phone numbers and met again and become friends or more - but - as you can read from my ‘in a relationship' series, there is a border than can not be crossed. We did however exchange emails to keep a bit in contact.

I am staying in Vientiane for another 2 nights, before heading down to Thakek and Savannakhet, before making my way back HOME.

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