Well, I’ve just made it to Laos.
I’m currently sitting in my economy room, it’s much like a cave with no windows, but comes with a private bath, air-conditioning, and a minimal amount of critters. The door has no locks, the fan has only one speed, super charged turbo, while the motor screeches and grinds. It looks as if it is hanging and wobbling by only one remaining nail, someone is going to have a rough night in the near future, lets hope it will hold for the next three evenings. If the nail holds I will probably have a nice windblown look by the morning.
The last few days have been great with the exception of the heat. Even with 4-6 liters of water today I rarely need to go to the bathroom.
The heat index has been around 105 degrees and the air is heavy and thick with humidity. Luckily the local laundry service, will wash, dry, press, and fold your clothes for 25 Baht($.60 USD) for 1 kg(A couple pounds). So I figure I’ll just keep excreting any water I drink into my clothes because bathrooms are few and far between and being the big spender I am, I could swing the extra laundry costs.
After the weather the day before, we thought it would be a good idea to make it to the Royal Palace, otherwise another unexpected cloud burst could keep us from seeing it.
From our guest house it was only about a 15 minute walk. Upon arrival we were informed that we needed to be covered up, pants or long dresses, sleeved shirts. Being 105 degrees, silly me thought it would be a better idea to wear shorts. Luckily they allowed you to barrow pants and shirts at the entry gatehouse. I’m not a prude and I usually don’t think I get disgusted easily, but Bangkok must have a knack. These pants are not new or even clean for that matter. We watch as people turn them in and the worker just hands them to the next person. When I get my pants, with an inseam about 5 inches to short, they are already saturated with someone else’s sweat. Also, rather than using a somewhat soft fabric, they choose to use the itchiest fabric they can find. Luckily the palace is amazing and within minutes I stop thinking about the transfer of sweat every time I scratch myself, and how surreal the Palace and Wat are.
The Wat in front of the Palace houses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and also contains many other small structures around it.
They are incredibly colorful and exotic, with colored mirrored tiles covering every surface. Statues and guardians, protect the doors, as people from the provinces make their Pilgrimage to the Royal Palace. The Sphinx is much bigger in real life than you would expect, the Potala Palace in Tibet as well, the Emerald Buddha, not so much. With the grandeur of the grounds surrounding it and the size of the building that houses it, you expected more. It is still an impressive amount of jade, and the presentation is awe inspiring, with gold and gems from floor to ceiling. As with many religions, it is amazing the amount of wealth that is spent on these “holy places”, especially in such impoverished countries. After adding my own bodily fluids to the pants it was time to pass them to the next person and make it back to our room, for our mid day siesta.
We took it easy that evening, mostly spending time in a café. My evening attempt to take photos of the royal palace at night didn’t work out as the lights are off on Sunday evenings for some reason.
The next day was a slow one. We spent a lot of time exploring where the water taxis went. That evening we had the opportunity to go to Patpong night market. Which used to be the original Red Light District but according to Lonely Planet has become more family oriented. I think they are full of crap. Upon exiting our cab we are greeted by a big giant sign “Super Pussy”, I’m not sure what kind of family men the Lonely Planet authors are, but I think they need to read the Webster’s Dictionary on what “Family Friendly” is. As we peruse the market of knock off Jimmy Cho(sp?) wallets, Prada Shoes, and Omega watches, we are being solicited by seedy characters asking if we want to see a ping-pong show….I’m not sure what a ping-pong show is, maybe some of you have been around a bit longer do, but seeing what type of establishment they are standing in front of, I severely doubt that there is some girl in lingerie doing ping pong a la Forrest Gump style.
The sex tourism industry is huge here.
One street over we get to see prostitution in a highly efficient manner. One girl, hostess, order taker, whatever you call it, out front working the men, holding a menu with photos of another 20+ girls. When the guy picks the one he wants she calls up on a walkie-talkie, the order(girl)comes down, then man goes up, and there you go. What made it even more interesting was walking down the street with my ultra feminist cousin. Surprisingly she doesn’t agree with their life choices or lack there of…
That evening, last night, I had the spiciest green papaya salad I have ever had.
My tongue swell up, my face turned red, and my stomach hated me. I couldn’t enjoy the rest of my meal, as everything tasted spicy. I got to the room and had some Tums before sleep, but even this morning my stomach felt off. I downed a couple Pepto hoping that would help as I had my flight to Laos today. I ended up spending most of the time on the flight in the bathroom, it had more leg room than my seat anyway.
After what seemed like an uncontrolled, accelerated decent to Luang Prabang and a 5 minute cab ride, I was at my guest house just steps from the Mekong river.
It’s a wonderful little town, with a far better pace than Bangkok for me. I spent a few hours walking around downtown before taking about an hour in my room to cool off. At 6 I was walking the few blocks up to the main drag when I stopped in front of one of the many wats in town. A group of monks were inside chanting one of their prayers, a crescent moon was rising over the roofline, a couple kids were playing in the street while the mother was comforting her baby and watching over them. I continued my walk off to dinner as I listened to the chanting fade off in the distance. I really like this town.