November 19th, 2011


Vientiane, day 3

This is what I was talking about in my last post:

Spent most of yesterday on the bus to Tha Khaek, where I am just now waking up. The seats had those handy little bulges on either side of the headrest to keep your head from flopping back and forth. Unfortunately, they were situated right at my shoulder blades. I took the VIP bus for an extra 4 bucks so I would have AC. I have to say it was the wildest bus I have ever been on. Judge for yourself:


Tha Khaek

Would you buy a dress from this mannequin?

Temples and monks are everywhere. It's hard to tell the relative age of the temples, although some definitely have very old stupas on the grounds. Stupas are essentially graves. The monk I spoke with in Vientiane told me they contain "bones". Some are huge, gaudy, and even have photos of the dead person imbedded in the surface. Others are simple, traditional forms. Mosy have offerings laid on them. The monks here didn't speak more than rudimentary English, so a lot of questions went unanswered. Like why was sticky rice stuck all over the ancient holy tree?

Thailand is right across the Mekong. You can hear the temple ceremonies. I'm sure they point their loudspeakers in this direction. There is apparently a good deal of traffic back and forth, although as seems typical around the world, there is more transportation than people seeking it. Ferries and other boats lined the shore. Naturally, people fish in the river, but I would think twice about eating anything from it. Raw sewage from three countries runs into it. I have seen three dogs with tumors in Tha Khaek.

Tha Khaek is a sleepy little town. Less than 80,000 people. It must get more tourists later in the season, but mostly people passing through, to or from Champasak and Vientiane. Lots of decaying Colonial opulence, with seemingly no local inclination to repair or maintain any of it. Some are government offices, but even they are barely serviceable. If I need a hospital, I will have them take me to Thailand. I saw a half dozen old mansions which would make great tourist hotels if anyone cared to do it, but instead everyone has built cookie cutter concrete boxes. I can't imagine the cost is any different. Got my hair cut, and it included a vigorous head massage, which actually felt quite good.