More Lao Lao and Chang Rai
Feb 10, 2002
Plain of Jars
One of the greatest tourists attractions in Lao. A plain filled with massive stone jars of mysterious origin. No one knows how old they are, why they are there, or what purpose they served.
I didn't have any insight into the purpose of the jars but I was pretty convinced that I didn't want to travel 10 hours to see them. "They're just jars. Unless you're really into jars how exciting can it be?" I didn't go. The report from my friends... "Yeah... they're just jars"
Today I jumped off a cliff into a turquoise pool half way down a lovely waterfall. Then I walked down the hill and pet a tiger - beautiful animal. A hell of a day - these are the days that keep me traveling.
Slow boat up the Mekong
Taking the slow boat up the Mekong. Reading books to pass the days away. I'm intimidated. It occurs to me "Writer? - you'll never be able to write this well." Then I thought through it again. I had just put down Kerouac and picked up Hunter S. Thompson. Perhaps I should find other authors to measure myself against.
Here are some quotes from "Dharma Bums" by Jack Kerouac that seem to fit my life right now rather well...
"I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted."
I haven't been everywhere, but Lao's the cheapest place I've ever found for getting drunk. Fifty cents will buy you a liter of Lao Lao, 80 proof rice whiskey. That's for the good stuff too - the home brew down south is cheaper and even stronger. My last night in Lao a group of us got absolutely smashed for about 20 cents a piece. None of us have gone blind... yet.
I was in Thailand 4 years ago. I didn't keep a journal at that time, but I remember Chang Rai well.
Chang Rai scared me - it pushed my limits as a traveler. I arrive in Chang Rai to find that no one speaks English. All the signs are in the Thai script rather than in Roman characters. I can't read anything. I can't speak to anyone. It's hot. I'm hungry and I'm tired. I can't find a restaurant or a guesthouse. After a bit of a walk hunger becomes the overriding need. I spot an outdoor soup stand and point at the soup to order.
She delivers a murky soup of unknown contents. It tastes horrid, but I'm hungry enough to eat some anyways. Then I notice the sugar container on the table. There are more mites in there than sugar. I force down two more sips of soup and then walk out - still hungry and now a bit nauseous.
4 years later, I'm on the same street sitting in an air-conditioned pizza joint - and they deliver! Swenson's ice cream is next door and across the street is a Kodak Express. Chang Rai is a city of new found wealth. There is traffic and traffic lights. There are lots of tourists, tourist information signs and tour guides inviting you to go on jungle treks. In many ways it's better. It is now easy to travel Chang Rai and I do really like the nightly food court with a huge selection of good cheap food.
The surrounding country side is still beautiful and full of indigenous tribal people (sometimes in colorful costumes). In some ways it hasn't changed, but the adventure is pretty much gone. I remember that soup well, but I doubt 4 years from now I'll remember this pizza.
A stop in Bangkok to visit the US embassy and hope for a tax refund and then I'm heading South for a little adventure in the form of one more trip through Indonesia.