Vientiane, Laos – February 22, 2000
I joined Wolfie, Tom and Wendy for a hotel breakfast and before we knew it, an obnoxious American had inserted himself into our conversation. He lived locally and his wife was Indonesian. He was originally from Ohio but moved to Canada in 1975.
After he left, Tom pointed out the obvious, that I had totally missed.
“Draft dodger,” he said. It was a testament to Tom’s age that he knew this instinctively. It hadn’t even occurred to me.
On to Lao Pako
Just what I needed, I groused silently. Another “rustic” eco-resort.
Lao Pako was solar-powered and in the middle of nowhere. The road doesn’t go there so we had to take a boat for 40 minutes – there was some complicated dynamics between the boat operator and the resort – the boats are a bit of a “mafia” in the area and have a monopoly on travel to Lao Pako.
Unfortunately, the resort had given away some of our rooms. Wendy was visibly irritated. “This always happens,” she said. Wendy volunteered to take a crappy room with a shared bathroom. Shared with the staff and assorted backpackers.
There was a possible solution. If the traveling friends, Brian and Colleen, would split up, then Hans the Swiss man and I could room with them and there would be enough rooms.
Or either Hans or I could take the solo room with the shared bathroom.
Hans was oblivious to the situation. This was normal and usually I would repeat things to him slowly after Wendy finished talking. No one wanted to share a room with him. I knew what I had to do.
“I’ll take the room with the shared bathroom,” I volunteered.
We all checked in. The shared bathroom was every bit as horrid as you might expect, due to the used-toilet-paper bin that sits in the corner of every bathroom in the developing world.
The rooms themselves were blisteringly hot, with all manner of strange insects and lizards. The mattresses were hard as rocks, but this was also normal for Southeast Asia. Mosquito nets covered the beds.
We spent the next two days lazing about in the humidity and gorging ourselves on pumpkin curry. The first night, a nearby slash-and-burn fire went out of control and scared us a bit. Other than that, the days went slowly. Some people took walks or tubed down the Nam Ngum river. I swung in a hammock, reading my newest acquisition, a John LeCarre spy novel.