Nong Khiaw, Laos: Rainy Days and Gringos


It was bound to happen. After two weeks of going where we wanted and seeing what we wanted to see, it happened. The weather turned against us, wet and cold.

I’m sitting in bed at the Vongmany Guesthouse buried under the blankets including one I think they stole from grandma to give to us. There have to be 250 channels on the TV, but not a single one in English. The WiFi reaches our room but is slow and spotty and, as you will recall, we are down to one internet-connected device. The good news is that our guesthouse has a restaurant. The bad news is that it has no walls and we have to go out in the cold and wet to get to it. A hot pot of tea could coax me out from under the blankets. Well, maybe not just yet, it’s really coming down now.

So what does one do in a barebones guesthouse room when pinned down by the weather? Well, while the roads turn into chocolate pudding, we have time to cull the photos, flip through the TV channels a few more times in hopes of something in English… or French… or even Spanish… I would take a nice, hot shower if I was sure that was what was in our bathroom. Maybe sitting here under the blankets writing is a better idea. I hope it stops soon. Things can become serious if the rain continues all day. We are out of scotch.

The next morning the rains abated though it was still chilly. We had only brought a small bag with us from Luang Prabang where we left most of our warm clothes. Oops. We donned everything we brought and went out for a walk, well, more of a “provisioning” run than a walk. The local whiskey we hastily found the prior night tasted like vanilla water and was about as potent.

Unfortunately there seemed to be only one liquor store in town and you know what the law of supply and demand implies even in a communist country. We scrapped the plan to provision and instead took a walk out of town along the river.

On the road to Ban Hat Sao

On the road to Ban Hat Sao

It felt like we were heading to nowhere. A few scooters passed us, but infrequently. We saw a couple of places along the dirt road with men working and said “sabaidee”. They responded in kind. We were just about going to turn around when we heard heavy equipment and children, a sign of a village.

Sure enough, we eventually strolled into a small village. We felt like the first gringo explorers to set foot there based on the stares and quizzical looks. The children waved and giggled and the older boys wanted Pat to play football with them.

It was a very small village, so we turned around when we hit the other side. We popped into the only tienda we saw and sat down and ordered a cold BeerLao. The locals would walk by and do a double-take. The store owner went about her business of filling empty beer and soda bottles with moonshine. No, we did not provision there.

Boys hamming it up for the camera

Boys hamming it up for the camera

We were just finishing up our beer when a scooter zipped by with two gringos on it. Illusion blown. Walking back to our hotel we saw another couple of westerners walking toward the village. Oh well. It was intriguing to see the aspects of everyday life and feel like a novelty for a short while. Copchai, people of Ban Hat Sao, copchai.

Hike, Drink, Live, Laugh

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