British Scooter Drivers

Dec 26th, 2014
We woke up early, so early that it was still dark. The sky was still how it was when I last time saw it. We moved on, with my sleeping eyes. Soon the cold air wetted by the dew squeezed inside the cabin. It’s chilly. When the sunshine finally came out, expelling the wet coldness, I was still half asleep. They dropped me somewhere in a town, among the bustling morning market, which was overflowing with the smell of griled chicken, cooked rice and some other divine food. I found water at a watermelon stall beside the road to wash my hair a bit and refill my bottles. Then the owner of the stall suddenly appeared from somewhere. I smiled an apology for using his water without permission.
I had some food with me — packages of instant noodles. They were cheap, easy to carry and high in carbohydrates. I so frequently resorted to them in South East Asia. Of course I ate them dry. The biggest challenge of having this breakfast was that there were cow shits everywhere in this place. I simply could not find a spot where there was no smell of cowshit so I could eat my food with a proper appetite……
I walked out of that small village. I tried to ask in a small gas station, but the guy inside the car even did not turn his head to me when I knocked on window. I could clearly see that he was just f…king closed-minded. He was frozen and still like a corpse. Seriously, the more one hitchhikes, the easier it gets for one to gauge a driver, or simply any stranger in a couple of seconds, whether he/she is cool or not, whether he/she is open-minded or not. I always get the worst feeling when I come across some very closed-minded people. It’s ok to come across very cautious people, but closed-minded people, oh hell! They are the hell itself! They are probably the type of people I hate the most. Before they even see you, they already give judgement, no, they don’t give any judgement about you actually. They simply do not give a damn about YOU, they simply imagine the air around them as a capsule and they immediately imprisoned themselves inside! No contact with the outside! NO! The prison is the safest and best place! No! Don’t look at me!! No! Don’t talk to me!! They even do not bother to turn their head to have a look who is addressing them. They are the ones who run away from any strangers in need of help. They are the ones who see any happiness of others coldly and turn away without any expression on their faces. FUCK THEM! The appearance of just one of them will be enough to freeze your heart in such a hot day in South East Asia. I cursed him and his fellow closed-minded bastards and moved on!
I stopped using signs, just to change my luck. I walked already for more than one hour, turning back every now and then when I heard vehicles. I only got a short ride from a scooter. It’s the countryside, again. Grass, white or gray, half covered the dry fields. Finally a car stopped. The driver was a man about 50 years old. No English, but he was friendly. We passed a scene. Obviously a boy of a family just became a novice and they were collecting money for that by the roadside. The women were dressed in bright and beautiful clothes, smiling happily and there was music being played. The little boy sat on a chair in full attire of a novice. He was really little, probably just 7 or 8 years old. Every time when a passing vehicle stopped, the women would come up to the driver, say something cheerfully. The driver would give some money to them. In exchange, they would give a plastic flower. My driver also gave some money and since I was sitting hearer to them, they pinned the flower on my T-shirt. I laughed! Before I left his car, I pinned it on his chest.
Then that was endless walking again. It was such a hopeless situation…… Even no taxi came up and asked for if I would pay for a ride…… There was only one thing I could rely on now — patience. I was almost dried up by the heat and I was walking almost like a zombie. When I came across a sign saying “Pakse, 200 km”, I was almost in despair. Hitchwiki said that in the South of Laos it was easier to hitchhike than in the North. Who the hell wrote that?!! I would punch him in his dumb face! Still, every time a vehicle came over, I would wave to them with as big a smile as I could sum. Scooters, scooters, cars, trucks, scooters…… Wait! These scooter drivers looked foreign!! I saw parts of their faces through their helmets! “Travellers help travellers!” I thought. I started to wave to them more wildly and started to shout to them in English:”Hi! Guys! Where are you going?” They stopped. I ran to them. “Are you hitchhiking?” One female voice asked me while she was taking off her helmet, revealing her blond hair. “Yes! I am! I hitchhiked all the way from Chinese border to here!” The other two people also took off their helmets and I saw them, face to face. That’s how I met Ellie, an English girl working as an English teacher in Vientiane, who asked if I was hitchhiking, and Lisa and James, an English couple working in Hanoi as English teachers. I kept talking with them. I was so happy to meet some fellow travellers in the middle of nowhere. Ellie used to hitchhike herself! That’s so cool and normally hitchhikers surely take hitchhikers whenever they can! They discussed the matter. The motorcycles of Lisa and James were quite heavily loaded with luggage. Ellie’s scooter had a problem also, so she could not carry much weight in the back. “How heavy are you, and your backpack?” She asked. “Oh, I am normally 60 kg and these days the heat in Laos has surely taken down some weight from me. My backpack is about 12kg.” I answered. “Just give it a try. If it does not work, just leave me. No problem! I don’t want to burden you guys.” I assured them. Ellie thought it over and Yes, she decided to give it a try and take me! How lovely!
We rode, although I did not have a helmet on. We were so excited that we started to shout to each other while she rode. “Where in China do you live?” She asked with a voice as high as possible.
–“Actually I do not live in China. My last residence was in the Netherlands! I lived there for 6 years!” I shouted back to her earsย at my highest volume.
–“I see! That’s why you have a different accent in your English!”
–“Yes! Many people say that I have a Californian accent! Do you rent these scooters?”
–“No! They are ours! Lisa and James live in Hanoi! They drove to Vientiane to visit me with their scooters! They just got married! We decided to travel in Laos together with our scooters!”
–“Where were you yesterday?”
–“Thakhek! There were some nice mountains there!”
…… The communication went on in this powerful way for a while until Ellie had to close his helmet to focus on the road. I just tried to position myself as comfortably as possible to hang on. Yes, the scooter made it! It worked!
On the way we made three stops, to eat, drink and take a rest. That’s when we got the chance to talk.
“Is hitchhiking a very Chinese thing?” Lisa asked innocently.
“No, not at all actually……” I said. Then I told them how hard it was to hitchhike in China, at least for me.
Ellie was a cool girl! She told me of her hitchhiking experiences in Europe. Guess what?! She was also in Couchsurfing!! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ WOWO! When I was in Europe, I noticed a phenomenon — those drivers who would pick up hitchhikers, if they were young and cool and spoke good English, then you could assumethat they were actually also in Couchsurfing! Oh Couchsurfing, the collection of the open-minded people! ๐Ÿ˜€ How I love it! Lisa and James were not in Couchsurfing but they told me that they had a spare room and if I came to Hanoi, they would be able to accommodate me. What sweet people! ๐Ÿ™‚ We shared some experiences. I was really impressed when I discovered that Ellie even spoke some Lao! ๐Ÿ˜€
When I was on the scooter, I did not feel hot anymore! The running wind served as a powerful fan! ๐Ÿ™‚ I started to watch the road and the landscape flanking it, grass, dusted trees, dirty little rivers, rice fields. There were cows, dogs, roosters, pigs, kids rambling on the road, like it was a playground of them. At a certain point, we drove on a length of road which was straight. There were endless trees and green rice fields on two sides and very little traffic on the road. Far ahead of us there was a mountain, crowned by some silky clouds. It was such a simple and beautiful scene! I could feel we were riding to freedom itself!
After several hours we were nearing Pakse and the traffic started to thicken. First the road became really good. The smooth forwarding delighted me and I shouted “WU!!!!”– cheering for wild freedom!! Then we came across some construction sites on a bumpy stretch and it was so dusty there that I felt I must have looked like just coming back from a holy colour festival for only yellow and red paints. It took us some time to actually arrive in the city center. The bridge we were supposed to cross was demolished and we had to find another way to enter the city. My new friends would stay in a guesthouse that night and the next day drive to Four Thousand Islands in the South, near Cambodian border. We split into 2 groups to hunt for the cheapest guesthouse. Ellie and Me one group while Lisa and James the other. Very much to my surprise many hotels and guesthouses were full!! Eventually James found one guesthouse with the lowest price, so we drove there. They checked in while I was using wifi to figure out future plans — to hitchhike overnight again to Four Thousand Islands if possible. When I found out the route, I said goodbye to these awsome British scooter drivers and dissapeared in the hubbub of the dawning evening.

With Ellie to Pakse!
With Ellie to Pakse!

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