There Is Only ONE Road in Laos

Dec 22nd, 2014

I slept in this school yard. Did any ghost come out in the starry night? Actually I had no idea because I slept like a rose. 😛
6am the alarm went off. I woke up. The sky was already half white. I sat up and noticed some people coming out from somewhere behind the rows of classrooms and going out of the school gate. Then I realized that actually there were people living there. They soon also discovered me. When I packed everything and started heading out, passing their houses. They were watching me from their windows and laughing. When I waved to them, they waved back and laughed even harder. Nice!
If I started htichhiking right away, soon I would arrive in Vientiane, a big, noisy and probably also touristic city, then I would have to spend the rest of the day in this big, noisy and probably also touristic city…… No, that would not be fun. So I decided to unleash the wanderlust inside me and simply walk and see what would come up.
I just got up and my hair was in a very peculiar shape….. which might make people consider me as one of the homeless bums. As a matter of fact, I was (and still am) homeless, but no, I was not (and still am not) a bum! 😀 I saw an old man standing in front of his house on the road side. I signed to him if I could use his bathroom to wash my hair and so on. He nodded without any expression and walked back to his house. I found the bathroom and started to wash my hair, brush my teeth, use his toilet and so on.
I was soon on the road again, the national road 13. There is one good thing about hitchhiking in Laos — There is only one road which connects all the big cities and most tourist attractions — road nr. 13. 🙂
On my right side, there were a lot of small roads, some wide but dusty, some narrow and shadowed by tall plants. I took several of those small paths. There was quietness, the morning choir of the diligent early birds, tree leaves drooping because of the heavy dew, some grasshoppers half awake and half still in their slumbers. I was there, alone, with all these. Further than these small things, there were woods, thick woods that covered everything. Only when one came near she/he could see the river under these green layers and the floating mist above the green water. Even further there was a hill, made of stones of a colour typical for Karst topography. There was a quarry beside me, the bottom of which was full of puddles of various sizes. The water in them was of different colours, reflecting the misty sky with their mirror-like surfaces. I wandered and wandered in these small paths. When I could not go further, I simply hitchhiked scooters or motorcycles to come back to the main road and walked further again.
I saw two SIM cards on the roadside and picked them up. I tried both of them, neither worked…… Ok, otherwise people would not throw them away I guessed. 🙂
I had to make a new hitchhiking sign for Vientiane, but I did not know how to write it in Lao. I asked several people but the communication was difficult. They either did not understand me or their hand writting was worse than scribbling.
I took another side path and entered a village. There was a field. Behind the field it seemed to be a school. There were school kids and bulls walking and playing in the field, among each other. The space was filled with warm sunshine, laughter and screaming of kids, the occasional “Mow” of bulls and the smell of fresh bull shits. It’s a delightful scene. They were shouting “Hello” to me as I walked across the field. Many followed me as I entered the school with my camera. The kids were very young, so I supposed that that was a primary school. Finally I saw a group of adults there in the school yard, supposedly the teachers. I went up to them, with tens of kids following me, jumping and laughing. They were sitting in chairs, forming a circle, drinking beer and eating under the warm sunshine. They were pleasantly surprised to see a “tourist” there and they were very friendly and hospitable. They offered me Beerlao, the only beer one could find in Laos and said to be pretty good. Then they offered me some food, some cooked meat. These meat pieces looked dark, probably fried and most importantly. I did not know what meat it was. I suspected it to be some kind of insects. I ate everything and it tasted good, just a bit chewy. I had expected that one of them would speak English, but none did. They were laughing as brightly as sunshine. That was sufficient for communication with me. 🙂 I asked them how to reach the Karst hill I saw. They told me to go out the village and then turn right. We said goodbye. I was followed by a group of school kids, all together about 10 kids. They followed me when I went to look at the simple local Buddhist temple, when I walked across the village, meeting all kinds of curious eyes, when I stopped to take photos of the houses. They did not speak English. They simply looked at me, surrounded me and played around me excitedly, laughing, chasing each other, shouting. I could only see pure happiness in them and that also made me happy. I always love kids. Sometimes I think that if I will have more than 10 kids and still I can manage with smiles. The only difficulty is that so far I have not found any girl who would like to have more than 10 kids with me. When I walked further and further, only 4 boys were still following me now. I went to see the river, they came to see the river too. I left the river, they left there too. When I was about to exit the village, to get lost in the fields and woods, they waved goodbye to me.
I ended up in the fields. The crops had already been harvested and there were only the cut stems left. Some bulls and cows were roaming on the field, having their lunch in such an elegant and relaxed manner. They looked like the owners of both the fields and the peasants working on the fields instead of the other way around. There was a pergola at the rink of the fields. I hang my sleeping bag there in the sunshine. It was still wet from the morning dew in the school yard. I could have taken a nap in the pergola if not for the scooters and three-wheelers that passed by from time to time.
I went to make friends with the bulls and cows and take photos of them. They were not scared of my approaching at all. They simply remained their elegant style with perfect calmness. They did shit from time to time though, which enormously damaged their elegant image, but hey, they did it with perfect tranquility. 🙂 😛 When I came back from them, my sleeping bag was already dry. I packed up and moved on.
I don’t bullshit you. Normally I do not just walk around without any plan or purpose in my mind. If I do not have a purpose or destination, I will gather some information and soon pick one on the way. It happens very rarely that I simply wander, roam, look like moving somewhere but actually lost. There is something special when no destination is in your mind, no purpose is installed in your brain. You will lose the very reason to hurry, to rush or to make any correction for your route. There is actually no need to think anymore. Your legs, not your brains take control of the path. Your brain will be freed from the burden of planning and checking. It will enter another state, a state I experienced when I was doing the Camino de Santiago in Spain, when I did not care about how far I could go and whether my direction was right anymore. Your subconscious will realize that now you are far away from your normal life, from all the social obligations you have, from all the burdens and worries, so far away that they seem unreal to you. There is no salary, no mortgage, no colleague appointment and no consumerism. Your freed mind will enter a state like meditation. Only then another you, “the real you” will come out. The real things you want will come up in your mind. You will realize there is another real “self”, stripped of all social and media influences. You will get to know yourself anew, more deeply and more confidently.
Ok, enough philosophical bullshit (I have a lot of this kind of bullshit :P). It turned out to be impossible to reach the hill without crossing the river. I could swim but my backpack could not. I waited for some boats to pass so I could hitch one to the other shore, but none appeared in a long time…… I started back to the village, to go back to the main road, to hitchhike to Vientiane, although I still did not know how to write “Vientiane” in Lao. Suddenly it occurred to me that in that school where I drank Beerlao, they probably had a map of Laos somewhere and on that map I could surely find the Lao name of Vientiane! 😀
When I came back to the school, most kids were already going home and they were shouting “hello” to me again, again and again. The school was almost empty, except for one teacher. She was sitting on the railing in the corridor, having lunch. She offered me her sticky rice and some cooked vegetables. I refused because it was not a lot and if I opened my devouring mouth, soon there would be nothing left…… I walked around and saw a room with books! — library! I took off my shoes and went inside the library. “There it is!! A map!!” I found it. In the library room I made my hitchhiking sign and then I left,
to the ROAD!!

The School behind the Bulls
The School behind the Bulls
The Teachers and Beerlao
The Teachers and Beerlao
The Kids Followed Me through the Village
The Kids Followed Me through the Village
Karst Topography
Karst Topography
DSC_0475
Last Year in Camino de Santiago — Camino Camino Caminando ……
DSC_0411
Elegant Bulls and Cows

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