The Scale, the Military Barracks and the Broken-down Scooter — Last Hitchhiking Day in Laos

Dec 30th, 2014
Once I set foot on the main road of the island, I started hitchhiking. That’s still inside the village. Guess what? The first vehicle in view stopped!! Wasn’t lovely?! (Applause!) – a young fellow in a pick-up truck. I got in with childish cheers, possibly infected by the kindergarten babies. 😉 “Do you go to Pakse? Pakse?” He nodded first and then shook his head…… That could be confusing, but no worries. 🙂 We drove on with the sunshine glowing on my face. When we just exited the bridge connecting the island and the shore, which was built by the Chinese, there was a traffic control point, where two policemen in white uniform sitting there lazily in the warm sunshine of early morning. The driver asked me to stay in the car and went to the police. To me, the most amazing thing about hitchhiking isn’t that it extends the possibility of traveling or people can be so kind, but the very trust between absolute strangers. That’s amazing, encouraging and even touching. How many times I simply left all my valuable things, including credit card and passport inside a truck and went for some errands. How many times the drivers let me stay inside their vehicles while leaving for minutes or even hours? Nowadays, the easy trust between strangers are becoming more and more difficult, which simply makes the existence of hitchhikers and those picking them up a lift of the faith for our species!
The police did not make any trouble and we drove on. Since he didn’t speak a word of English, and all the Lao I know were “I am from China.”, “I don’t have money.” and “Thank you!”, there wasn’t much conversation going on, so I spent more time reading Arabian Nights. He stopped at about 40 km to Pakse. I suddenly realized “That’s why he first nodded then shook his head when I asked him if he was heading for Pakse.” I thanked him, walked a while and crossed a bridge. Under the bridge there were two boats floating in the tranquil creek. I waved to those kids inside one boats, took photos of them and they waved back, with excited smiles.
I waited for quite a while until the next ride came. Hitchhikers like me can be so easily spoiled. 😛 If we’ve just experienced easy hitchhiking, these experiences stay so deeply in our minds that we become easily disappointed and even frustrated when hard situation comes up. Yesterday, not many vehicles were on the road, but almost every 1 in 3 vehicles would stop for me! and I witnessed so much kindness! My heart was so full with the sunniness of strangers and my mind was so overwhelmed by these impressions that I had the illusion that indifference and hard-heartedness were forever gone and already something unknown to me — That’s not true.
The second ride was by a scooter. This scooter looked totally shabby and even had a scale fastened on the back seat, but still the driver asked for money, quite some money actually. “I don’t have money!” I stated shamelessly and even cheerfully and proudly. 😛 The pride of owning such freedom and guts, you know. 😉 He hesitated and said it’s ok. He drove me to the edge of Pakse, where I could go to Thailand directly. He was a cheerful and nice guy after all. Again and for the last time, I left the hubbub of Pakse behind and headed out.
I crossed a huge bridge to completely exit Pakse. It’s hot and I was hungry. It’s almost noon. On my left I saw a big yard, almost concealed by some trees and grass on the riverside. It looked kind of military but I wasn’t sure. When I got in, I realized that it was a barrack, but there were no guards and it looked empty and unloved, if not deserted. I walked around and finally found 2 guys in common clothes watching TV in a hall. They were so absorbed that they were disinclined to check out this intruding stranger. They were a bit shocked but didn’t kick me out. I asked for water. One pointed me where the water was while still fixing his eyes on the TV screen, talking with another guy and laughing with his whole body at the same time. WOWO! What a multi-taksing guy! 😛 From an office in the corridor came out an officer, in military uniform. He took this intruding stranger seriously, asked me some questions but after all allowed me to take water, although still holding a straight face. “Eh… Is there something to eat?” I asked with a gauging and embarassed expression. That was in the middle of nowhere and I had already consumed all my Laotian Kip since I would be in Thailand in a couple of hours. They didn’t really understand my question, I thought and I was certain that I didn’t understand their answer. He pointed me somewhere “behind the hall”. I went “behind the hall” and saw a sort of kitchen, a shack to be exact, with some food lying there, already gone bad for days probably and was proudly radiating a over-heated revolting smell. Of course it was only revolting for human beings, not for flies. Yes! It was crowded by legions of flies…… Ok, no food. How about toilet? “May I use your toilet?” I went inside an office to ask another officer, since the previous one was already gone on his scooter. He looked confused and pointed me “outside there”. I went to find the lengendary toilet he refered as “outside there” but only found tall grass. Another guy came out, saw the confused me and said something with mouth and hands. “Right, it’s just here, in the grass!” I thought that’s what he meant. WOWO! What a military barrack!
I got out of this incredible barrack and stopped a scooter, which took me for a few kilometer. The road was straight now and there were only some nice villages along it. “I am going to be in another country soon!!” I was so excited! Then I hitchhiked another scooter, whose driver was a middle-aged guy who just came back from doing groceries. There were some bags of bean sprouts in front. His scooter was … WOWO! amazingly slow and shabby. He was a silent but very friendly guy. We stopped once because something in the scooter wasn’t right. Then we went on, but 5 minutes later “Peng”! the scooter came to a complete stop — the chain of one wheel broke…… The driver was trying to fix it. I wanted to help him but actually I didn’t know a damn thing about scooter. I forgot to tell you, I actually even can’t drive. 🙂 That’s right! I don’t have a driver license! 😀 so one more reason to hitchhike! 😀 I felt guilty to leave him alone but I had to, so I apologized, thanked him and went on. Outside a gas station a van stopped. It’s paid transport but the driver didn’t mind taking me for free. They drove me all the way to the border control entrance. Although the driver looked reluctant, he still agreed to have a photo with me — come on! That’s my last ride in Laos!!

A Scooter with a Balance Fastened at the Back
A Scooter with a Balance Fastened at the Back
The Chain Broke
The Chain Broke
LAST Hitch in Laos!
LAST Hitch in Laos!

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