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February 1 - 13, 1998

So I flew from Chiang Mai to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, on Lao Aviation. It was okay, except for the food.

Vientiane isn't very exciting. Hot, dry and dusty. Decaying. Except for a lot of really nice restaurants, which are mostly empty. Almost had one collapse on me, as they dug up the street.

Spent a couple of days wandering around. Saw a couple of temples, which weren't very interesting. One had a storage room full of Buddha bits (a great new breakfast cereal).

Ran into Angie and Tracy from the trek in Chiang Mai. They were heading up to Luang Phabong the same day as me. I got to the bus station the next morning. Angie and Tracy pulled in just as the bus was leaving, so they didn't make it.

I met a German guy named Wolfgang on the bus. The bus wasn't so much a bus as it was a truck with benches in the back. Still, it wasn't that bad. Lots of ventilation. We stopped and picked up more tourists in Vang Vieng. They sat on the roof. Until it started to rain.

It was ten and a half hours, through spectacular mountain scenery.

In Luang Phabong Wolfgang and I shared a room. We spent the next day wandering around town. Climbed the hill with the temple, which wasn't as nice up close in the day as it was lit up from a distance at night.

We were sitting in a restaurant, when a guy came and joined us. He said he knew me from somewhere. The Paradise in Chang Mai. We had played ping pong. He was an Israeli named Fif. He had also met Wolfgang in Vientiane.

The next day the three of us hooked up with Angie and Tracy to go to the Pak Ou caves. We took a jeep to a little village, and from there a boat down the Mekong River. The caves weren't very exciting. Small caves with a few Buddhas.

Back at the bakery we met up with some others who were going to the waterfall the next day, including Jean, an American working in Chiang Mai.

So six of us went to the waterfall the next day. I saw a gazillion waterfalls on my trip, but I must say, these were the nicest. Jean lead the hike up the waterfall for a swim in the upper pools.

The next morning Jean, Fif and I took the bus back down to Vang Vieng. When we got to the bus station the buses were full, so we spent several hours playing cards. I taught them 31 Blind. Soon we had a huge crowd of locals watching. One guy played with us, and, probably, if I ever go back, I'll find the whole country playing it.

The bus ride back down was hell, with people throwing up all over the truck.

Vang Vieng was great. A small little town. Very few tourists. Beautiful hills. But lousy food.

We went to the one cave that everyone was going to. It was huge. Amazing columns and stuff. There was a chamber with a reclining Buddha. We went back into the depths. When we returned to the entrance, with light streaming in, and green plants growing around the opening, it was like stepping into the Genesis asteroid in Star Trek II.

The next day we went to another cave, but it had electric lights, and a paved sidewalk.

I met a guy who lives half a block from where I lived.

Jean had to head back, so the next day Fif and I went looking for another cave. It took a lot of asking, but we finally found it. It didn't seem to go very far, but then I crawled through some rubble, and it opened into a tunnel that went on forever. We walked for about half a kilometre, but Fif was getting spooked, so we turned around without finding the end.

The next day it was back to Vientiane, along with Imke, a German woman. In Viantiane Fif and I wanted to go to the Buddha park, but the tuk tuk drivers wanted too much. Then we ran into an Israeli couple Fif knew, and we hired the slowest tuk tuk in Laos.

The Buddha park was amazing. Full of bizarre sculptures. The guy who did them must have been on drugs. There was one statue of a giant Buddha carrying a buxom woman in his arms, and it looked just like something from the cover of a science fiction pulp magazine. Then there was a round building that you walked into through a giant mouth. Inside were little windows that you looked through, and saw what looked like scenes from hell. You could go in further and further into the circles of hell, up and down levels, and out on to the roof.

The next morning I flew to Hanoi.

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Last updated: November 6, 2019