Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The US Imperialists and their puppets!

Wednesday 26th January 2011

MP3 track of the day: Taina - Enemy at the Gates

Weather: Hot

For once it wasn't me waking up at an early hour; Patrick was up, and dressed, by 7:30am itching to cross the Laos border into Thailand. Half of me was still in the land of nod and so I wished Patrick the very best and I went back to sleep. When I eventually got up I knocked on Joe and Rachael's door to find out that they weren't up. A sleepy Rachael answered the door to inform me that they were going to have a lazy start to the day and asked if we could we meet up for lunch at around 1pm … no problem I said as I headed out into town.

I had another lovely bread roll, with jam, for breakfast before making my way to 'Wat Pra Kheo'. Being 'Watted out' it was a little strange to find myself paying 5,000 kip (40p) to visit a 'wat', but pay I did. The 'Wat' was pretty special; it had a very old look about it and its the only 'Wat' within Vientiane that wasn't raised to the ground by a marauding Siam army within the 18C (they used this 'Wat' as their headquarters). I stayed for a short time, taking photos, before leaving around 11am in search of a 'great art gallery' ... according to my guidebook.

My guidebook put the art gallery east of the presidential palace, but I couldn't find it. My guidebook also instructed me that the gallery was closed between 12pm - 2pm and considering the time was 11:30am I didn't think it was worth the effort. I returned back to my guesthouse. I met Joe and Rachael at 1pm and we went for a lovely, however a little expensive, sandwich (The Lao people can really do great bread). After wards we headed to the 'National Museum' to learn all about Laos' history. After paying 10,000 kip (80p) we entered the first room to our left which dealt with Laos' pre-history era. The rooms were in chronological order (one room had a 'jar' in there) and it all seemed rather well organized (apart from the disappearance of the English translation every now and then). It wasn't until I had walked upstairs to the 'modern history section' that things, shall we say, got very one sided.


Read one sign as I looked through a glass cabinet at three automatic weapons. The comments continued with the 'American Imperialist and their puppets' (puppets are the Royal Lao army) suffering horrendous defeats, using a spoon to kill the local population and eating tomato soup. Whereas the 'true liberators of Laos' (basically the communist forces) were showing winning the fight, handing out medication and grain to the local population and tucking into a steak and chips whilst offering half of their meals to the poor. The section, even though it used photos and parts where very factual, was laughable and you had to take every comment with a pinch of salt.

The next room moved on through the years and it concentrated on Laos' place within the wider world. The room was covered with photos of embassy meetings with other countries; if I see another Asian bloke, in a suite, shaking the hand of another bloke whilst presenting a fake smile (with the nations flags in the background of the photo) I think I will stick pins in my eyes. Fortunately the roller-coaster ride of propaganda, mixed with fact, was over and I headed back to my guesthouse whereas Joe and Rachael went out to find a pharmacy as Rachael still wasn't feeling well.

I got back to my guesthouse – stopping to get an ice cream – to start with my jobs. Firstly I purchased a VIP bus ticket to Savannakhet, apparently the 'Louang Phabang' of the south. The problem with this bus journey is that it's at night-bus leaving Vientiane at 8:00pm tomorrow and arriving at 5:00am on Friday. Not only does this mean that I won't be able to see any of the countryside along the way but I have been told that you have to be careful with your possessions on night buses (apparently a lao guy hides within the luggage compartment of a bus and goes through peoples bags). Not only this but the possessions that I keep on my person I'll have to keep an eye on, which will be interesting if I fall asleep. However I have no choice as this is the only bus leaving here to Savannakhet. This is only the third night bus that I've ever caught and hopefully it'll be my last.

The benefits of arriving in Savannakhet so early is that I should be able to find somewhere to sleep, even though I'll have to hang around somewhere until 8am / 9am (and if I can't find anywhere the city of Pakxe is only an hours bus ride away). Next up I scoured the internet to see if I could book some accommodation within Savannakhet and surprise, surprise you can't. I did find a few reviews of places within Savannakhet (which I've made a note of) but none of the guesthouses listed do online bookings.

Next-up was to update my Norton Anti-virus software which was as boring as it sounded. At the same time I had received an email to say that the 'Chinese F1' tickets where on sale; I followed the link onto the booking site and found a grandstand ticket, with a good view, for £81.00. This would be much cheaper than going to Malaysia (and less of a hassle) and so I began to fill out the booking form. The £81.00 ticket wasn't my favorite choice; sure it gave a good view but it wasn't covered and so if it rains you either get wet or get a great view of umbrellas. However this ticket seems to be a happy medium as it's a good spot to see the race yet not too much money to loose if I don't make it for one reason or another. Frustratingly I couldn't complete the booking process as the internet here is rubbish and so I'll have to wait until I reach my next destination; I shall also book accommodation at the same time as that will fill up.

Next up was to read through my guidebook about southern Laos. I have two weeks left here and I'm running out of land. Fortunately with Savannakhet, Pakxe and the 'Four Thousand Islands' there should be enough to keep me occupied for the rest of my Laos adventure … I hope. Finally I went onto the Cambodian embassy website to find out that I could apply for a business visa, which would entitle me to three months instead of the one month the tourist visa allows. I can extend the tourist visa to two months however it's expensive and it means visiting the embassy within Phnom Penh. The other thing I found out was that the Cambodian visa starts running as soon as you apply, NOT when you enter the country. Therefore it looks like it'll be better for me to get the visa at the border, which I'm overjoyed about doing considering the fun I had with the Laos immigration.

Soon it was 8pm and just before heading out for food I spectacularly managed to lock myself out of my bathroom. This provided much hilarity with the receptionist, but soon it was fixed and we, yet again, found ourselves in an Indian restaurant. I ordered a vegetarian curry as it was half the price of the meat ones. We casually made our way back to the guesthouse where we had a game of 'Risk' on Joe's and Rachael's laptop before I headed to bed. I lost by the way!

Tomorrow my final day in Vientiane – which I haven't got a clue what I'm going to do – followed by a night bus … oh goodie!

Toodle Pip!

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