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We awoke before dawn to see the Sai Bat—the early morning ceremony during which locals give food to a procession of Buddhist monks—but even though we got there before the sun rose, it was already mostly over. Still, there was a bunch of tourists shoving their cameras in the faces of the monks, taking flash photographs, and generally ignoring the many signs we’ve seen everywhere asking tourists to keep their distance and be respectful. What thoughtless scumbags so many people are.

So instead we went for a walk to the end of the peninsula and across a homemade bamboo bridge to the far side of the Nam Khan, enjoying the cool morning air. After looking out over the wide Mekong in the dawn light, we strolled past local houses along a road for a while until we found a second bamboo bridge—for this one, the family that built it charges a usage fee—and returned in a big loop to the hotel for breakfast.

After breakfast I began to get stomach cramps and had a bout of diarrhoea, but after a while I had recovered enough to walk to the Tiger Trails tour office where we booked a trek and overnight village stay in a few days.

Then we went to the Royal Palace, built in 1904, where we had to check in our bags and I had to wear floppy long pants over my shorts, to see the royal apartments in which were displayed a collection of state gifts and other knick-knacks, though the whole thing really did make us reflect on why some people who just happen to be born at a particular time and to a particular family get golden thrones when the vast majority struggle to put rice in their mouths each day …

But then, stomach cramps hadn’t put me in a cheery mood. After another toilet stop I began to recover fully, and we walked to a cafe with an indigenous handicrafts shop attached (Ok Pop Tok) to have a light lunch.

Back to the room, where Carol started on a marathon online booking session, and we planned our last week. Instead of hours of uncomfortable car travel over bad roads to get to Vang Viang and thence to Vientiane, we decided to do some interesting tours from here—the two night Elephant Conservation Centre trip, a day tour at the Bear Rescue Centre, and the so-called ‘difficult’ trek (as described by Tiger Trails) and village stay.

I’m sitting outside our room as I write this—across the road a terrible singer and piano player combo are playing MOR hits. This is a lovely shady spot near the river but I could do without the bad soundtrack!

Carol eventually finished her booking of flights and hotels, and we’re pretty much set for the rest of the trip. We both relaxed outside our room for a while with a couple of drinks, then headed out with the purpose of finding a new pair of sunglasses for me (mine broke today). Carol wasn’t sure if she’d locked the room safe, so turned back after a few blocks, and I walked on to a new area to the south of the central hill and found a supermarket where I bought some energy bars for our trek, then found a slightly upmarket shop where I bought some ‘BMW’ sunglasses for 25 bucks that are actually pretty comfortable and look good. I kept going around the hill and hit the night market as it was setting up, then met Carol at the Ok Pop Tok shop and restaurant (which is called The Silk Road) where we had previously had lunch. We had one of the best dinners we’ve had so far: vegetable spring rolls, a hummus sip plate, and a flat noodle chicken curry with crispy noodles and pickled vegetables, followed by coconut ice cream, with a couple of drinks each. All for about NZ$40.

Back to the room and bed about 8pm. I’m getting up early again tomorrow.

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