Saturday, 15 January 2011

Clubs, smoking and cold rooms

Friday 14th January 2011

MP3 track of the day: In the end - Linkin Park

Weather: More blue skies with fluffy white clouds

Waking up on time I was just looking forward to getting back on the boat. I had this panic attack that I would miss the boat and be stranded here, in Pakbeng, for another day, if not longer. I was ready before either Fabera, or the French dude, where even up; I decided to head out of the room and see who was sitting having breakfast. As I went down to the restaurant only the other Fabera was as worried as I and seemed to be ready to go. She had just ordered a pancake for breakfast and therefore I did the same … sugar and lemon, lovely. We sat overlooking the Mekong and it looked lovely, I therefore took a couple of snaps before my breakfast arrived.

The others joined us about forty minutes later and they too sat down for breakfast; we were all ready to leave around 8:30am. As we walked down to where the boat was moored I was not looking forward to climbing down those rocks with all my stuff … going up is one thing but descending is totally different and I was feeling ill just at the thought. Luckily, when I arrived, we where getting on a different boat which was moored next to a set of steps (which made me wonder why we couldn't have used said steps last night).

This boat was the same length, and design, as yesterdays boat however what it gained in more comfortable seats it lost in space as there weren't any tables (just rows of seats like on a bus) and neither was there an area to stretch out at in the back. Fabera, Matt, Fabera 2, Mike and I all sat near the front. Instead of our seats facing forwards, like every other set of seats on the boat, ours face inwards meaning that our feet where in the isle. This gave us a little more leg room but not a lot.

It was nice to see that both Mike and Matt where feeling a lot better and so we chatted for a little while before we started to play cards. Yet again Yaneeve was chosen and so I had to teach it to Matt, Mike and Fabera 2, which wasn't difficult. To make things interesting Matt announced a little bet; the looser of each round (which can be as many as fifteen games) would buy the others a drink once in Louang Phabang. Matt then immediately lost the first round.

We played for the entire trip. We did have breaks where we walked around the boat for a while, took photos and a lot of the others smoked but mostly we played cards … and everyone got quite good. The only annoying thing was that, due to where our seats where, we had to make a table within the middle of the isle and dismantle it each time someone wanted to walk past … which was quite often (especially this Spanish bloke, he got quite annoying). After three rounds I had a drink waiting from Matt, Mike and Fabera 2 in Louang Phabang. We changed players after three rounds to let the two from the 'Isle of White' play; we didn't finish the game as we ran out of time. The only thing I remember from that game was the smoke; the two people from the isle of white, Matt and Fabera all smoked and no matter where I sat I seemed to always get smoke in my face.

We arrived at Louang Phabang around 5pm. Getting off the boat was much easier than in Pakbeng however I was still surrounded by people trying to get me to stay at their guesthouse; I also had one guy trying to sell me weed as an alternative to accommodation, which was interesting. I let the rest of the group know that I had booked into 'SpicyLao'; the others weren't really that interested and so, after ages waiting for them to decide what they where going to do, I left the harbor front, on foot and on my own, and headed to my accommodation arranging to meet back at the harbor around 7:30pm.

I arrived at 'SpicyLao' to find a pool table, table tennis table and a flood-lit badminton court all outside. Travelers where outside either using the above facilities or having a drink and a chat … all looked promising. I was then shown to my dorm; it was clean but it wasn't half cold. The stone floor and the fact it only had a sheet of cloth as a door didn't help with the warmth aspect and so I asked some people who had stayed here the previous night … they said it was pretty cold at night.

I looked at my bed to see a pretty good, and new looking, blanket. Most other people had sleeping bags, which I was a little jealous of; memories of the cold nights from the 'The Cameron Highlands' came flooding back … I hoped that it wouldn't be that bad as I plan to stay here quite a while. I sat down on my bed (the mattress basically gave into my weight as it sucked me down onto the wooden board beneath, however once I lied on the mattress all way okay) to view my options. 'SpicyLaos' seemed a fun place to be … near enough to the center of town, good facilities and the showers where lovely and hot. The bad thing was that the room might be freezing at night, through that does mean very little chance of mosquitoes. I decided to give it a whirl.

As I took my netbook up to the common room, to see if I had any word from Matt and Rachael, who should walk in but both the Fabera's. Apparently they looked at a guesthouse but didn't like it and so they checked in here. Also, at the same time, the two young Aussies and two young German girls from the boat checked in too … 'SpicyLaos' was starting to look even better I thought.

It was getting close to 7:30pm and so Fabera, Faber 2 and I headed out to meet the others at the harbor. There was a group of eleven of us and once at the harbor we headed to the night market, which was vast, but little food could be found apart from cake (which is not a bad thing you understand). Whilst we stood in a big undecided group Matt and I ventured back into the market to investigate further. Down a small alleyway we found all the food stalls however I was a little concerned to find that all food displayed was in the open air looking like it had already been pre-cooked. We ventured back to our group to explain our findings however it had seemed that a restaurant had already been decided upon and so we walked out of the market.

After about ten minutes of walking more indecision fell upon the group as all where hungry and no restaurant had been found. We then decided to venture back to said food market and eat there. What I hadn't noticed previously about the food market was that, sure you pick the food from plates that are left out uncovered, but then the lady behind the stall cooks it for you. I was much happier. Being my first meal in Laos I decided to go vegetarian and I had a plate of vegetables and noodles which cost 8,000 kip (60p) and was served piping hot.

The food was okay however there was a lot of smoke floating around from my 'smoking' friends, which was a little unpleasant. For pudding I stopped to pick up a cake, which was edible; we then walked twenty minutes to a pub, recommended by the lonely planet, called 'Utopia'. The pub was basically a large garden with stone seats and tables; it was very atmospheric, if a little too dark, and yet again I seemed to have a cloud of smoke in my face. As the group had bumbled around town for so long we only had time for one, or two, drinks. You see in Laos it's law for all pubs and clubs (bar very few exceptions) to close at 11pm. Not satisfied with 11pm closing time we asked a truck driver if he knew of anywhere that stayed open late; 60,000kip (£5) between eleven friends later and we had arrived at a club.

Now I'm not really a club person and, considering this club was playing bad-techno music (is there any other?) so loud that your ears would bleed, I would have preferred to gnaw my arm off than spend another minute in there. The floor was sticky and had broken glass bottles lying around and all-in-all I wasn't really in the mood. However, it was quite an interesting place as a lot of local Lao people where there having a good time. Luckily for me the club closed at 1am and so we all headed back to our own accommodation, using the same truck as before, where I went straight to sleep at 1:30am. The room was freezing and so I basically slept with all my clothes on and I used my coat as another layer over my blanked; I made a deal that tomorrow I shall get my fleece and my 'sheet sleeping bag' out of my bag to try to add further warmth. I couldn't do it now, it was to dark and to late so I would just have to put up with the cold. Just before going to sleep I smelt my clothes … they smelt like smoke.

Toodle Pip!

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