Traveler Never Age, Hitchhikers Never Die!

Dec 18th, 2014 (I promise! This day will finish soon! ūüėČ ūüėÄ )
He asked me to call him “Xiao Leng”, which meant “Little Cold” in Chinese. I guess his family name was Leng. He came to Laos from China when he was a teenager and stayed here ever since. He told me that compared to China, here there were less competition, more chances, chances of development, chances of doing business and making money. He was younger than me. He had some construction teams¬†and his business was building dams and hydropower plants.
About 10 years in Laos,¬†he was already a “senior” expat and had a lot to tell about those Chinese expats (there are mainly only Chinese expats) in Northern Laos.
In Luang Prabang lived a Chinese man who was a firearm dealer. In China we had this concept of recognizing somebody who was not related to you by blood as a father/mother/sister/brother of you, like adoption but can be also for adults. It’s to consolidate¬†bonds between them are. This weapon dealer came to Laos when he was still a kid. He came with almost nothing but guts. He started his business with weapon dealing very early. To foster his business he became an adopted son of the Minister of Defense of Laos. His business stretched to many countries in South East Asia and his influence became potent¬†in many a country. When he celebrated his 50th or 60th birthday (don’t remember this detail anymore…), many important figures showed up, including the wife of Thai Prime Minister. He had a huge¬†mansion¬†in Luang Prabang,¬†the wall of which¬†looked like the Great Wall……
Just to clarify, I am not showing off as illegal weapon dealing is nothing to be proud of. ūüėÄ ūüėõ
Well, his adoption father died just last year but he already found other supports.
There are always powerful fathers somewhere. ūüėČ
Little Cold was driving to his home in Vientiane. He spoke Laotian language and actually was dating a Laotian girl, who spoke to him on phone when he was driving.
A lot of Chinese men doing business in Laos have mistresses…… One of his friends has a young Laotian girl as his mistress. First it was just a trade of sex and money,¬†but two years later they developed some serious affection. They really wanted to be with each other but the wife did not allow it. It was a painful “battle”……
He also relayed some other gossips of who was cheating on who, the bad, the dark and the ugly things and so on…
We soon arrived in the WORST road I have ever seen!!! This appraisal was later confirmed by several other travellers I met. The road was narrow! Some places we had to wait for the vehicle from the opposite direction to pass first… The road was winding¬†through the high mountains. One could not¬†find even 3-meter length of straight road… or find 2-meter length of road without big holes in it… The dust! The yellow dust was so thick and easily disturbed that if there was a vehicle 20 meter in front of you, you would not be able to see a damn thing! and from time to time there were some surprise stones lying on the road!! This was the national road… !!! One side were the rocks and the other side the cliffs. Between the rocks and the “road” there was sometimes a ditch. We did¬†not talk anymore. Little Cold needed all his attention for the road… It was only his 3rd time to drive on this road… and he drove pretty fast. For many places I simply had to clench my teeth, hold the handrail fast and¬†even¬†close my eyes¬†to get through.¬†It’s getting really dark… There were of course no road lights… ¬†and the rocks on the¬†left side could easily block your view. “Dudu!”¬†A truck from the opposite direction suddenly appeared from the other side of the rock. Little Cold made a sharp turn¬†to the left to avoid it, The next instant¬†when I realized it,¬†we ended up in the ditch!! The left side of the car was almost hitting the rocks!! “Ah!!!!!!!” I clenched the handrail with the power of my life and shouted! We were gonna hit the rock and crash!!
He¬†did not blink for a few seconds, pulling¬†every muscle he could muster, trying to turn the steering wheel with all his power and suddenly “Pong!” We drove out of the ditch and back¬†on the road again!!!
“Ooops, scary!!! Luckily¬†no danger!” I said. He did not reply. He¬†just drove on with wide-open eyes and expressionless face. I exhaled deeply!!! I felt that I could even exhale my lungs out.
We rode on, The sea of grass, the mountains of trees had all¬†been¬†swallowed by this enormous darkness. It’s pitch dark now. He rode fast, and even wildly sometimes. Only one or two cars surpassed us. Construction fields, rocks, sands, kids, police, roosters, dogs, pigs, cows, goats…… anything could be¬†in the middle of¬†the road. No lights on the road side. Only sometimes there were dim lights from the bamboo cottages along the road.¬†it called for caution and patience not to hit anything.
We passed some villages where there was no electricity. People were cooking outside, using wood, boiling sticky rice. I¬†could see their faces, through the rising steam of the rice, lighted¬†by¬†the smoky fire, dark¬†red.faces, tired,¬†wrinkled, peaceful and gleaming. They turned¬†their faces to us when they saw the lights of our car.¬†I saw naked people taking showers with¬†streams of¬†spring water falling from the uphill. Obviously running water was not available everywhere. They did not mind when the passing headlights of vehicles exposed their rather hidden shower corners. They just carried on. That’s already part of their daily life, I supposed.

After some hours of moving like a snail, we finally descended from the mountainous area and landed safely in flat lands and road immediately became better. We had passed the WORST road.¬†The tension loosened up and we chatted from time to time. He told me how much he hated the corruption here and the fact that too many things¬†had to be done through “Guan Xi”, which meant networking in Chinese, although it was not so bad as in China. He just came back from a business trip, trying to get a project by networking and presumably also bribing but it did not work out.

We stopped in a small village to have dinner. The small¬†restaurant was run by Chinese people.¬†It was a very simple and rather shitty place but it was the best in this small village.¬†I was quite surprised to see that even in a small village like this there were so many Chinese people, not¬†passengers, not tourists, but working there and living there. Little Cold was focusing on his smartphone and did not eat much while I was devouring most of the food¬†—¬†rice with 3 or 4 dishes. When we left, Little Cold told me that the food there was horrible. He paid for our dinner and when I¬†asked how much it cost, he replied:”No worries. If I eat there alone, I will still order the same things. One more person, not much more cost.”

He said he knew a Chinese guy who owned a hostel named something like “Sunset River VIew” in Luang Prabang. If I needed¬†a place to stay, I could go there. I already looked up online and wrote teh addresses of the cheapest hostels in Luang Prabang on the back of my hitchhiking sign, so I told him not to worry.

When he dropped me in the begin of the city Luang Prabang, it was later¬†than 11pm. We drove about 200 km in about¬†6 hours…… Don’t trust google map when it tells you from Muang Xai to Luang Prabang it takes about 3 hours by car!
I stood on the roadside, slowly inhaled the cold air, wet, dusty and with a smell of banana trees. The view of almost crashing into the rock in the dark winding road flashed into mind again and again. I smiled and soon the smile largered into a laugh. No worries, HITCHHIKERS NEVER DIE!

The Green Sea of Grass and Trees -- Moutains in Northern Laos
The Green Sea of Grass and Trees — Mountains in Northern Laos

 

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