You approach the guesthouse looking for a place to stay. There’s an old man sitting on a couch on the porch sitting in front of a bottle that you can’t identify – he’s calling you over to have a drink with him. The bottle is a semi-clear liquid amidst nearly a bottle-full off vegetation that looks like Chinese tea.

I couldn’t tell what it was, so I sniffed the top of the open bottle and didn’t detect any alcohol at all. “Right on, pour it up”. The guy pours himself a glass, kills it, and pours me one. I drink the glass quickly, and it takes maybe a second to hit me before I’m gasping for breath. It’s been a while since I’ve been caught completely off guard like that – the shit was like grain alcohol or ether. I had one more shot with him and stumbled up to check into the guesthouse with my passport.

I took a three and a half hour very scenic bus trip to get up here, but unfortunately I couldn’t take a speedboat along the Mekong as I had planned. Last night I met a girl from Newcastle named Pippy who told me that she had seen the speedboat and it’s passengers strapped in with helmets on and told me that she’d heard that it’s pretty dangerous. Oddly enough, that hadn’t even occurred to me until she mentioned it.

The guesthouse here is less than half as much as the last place where I was set in Vientiane, and the accomodations are more or less equal. I haven’t had a hotel attendant offer to sell me marijuana yet, but it seems likely, as the strip that I’m located at on this city is filled with foreigners and establishments catered to foreigners. Aside from this small strip, I am entirely in the middle of nowhere. I was looking out the window for the majority of the extended bus ride over here and I very rarely saw anything aside from vast, bright green rice fields. There are an abundance of rivers here, very similar to north Thailand – at times I felt like I was back on an island.

I have my choice of kayaking, tubing, and spelunking (exploring caves) in this town. They don’t offer a shooting range like Vientiane did, but there seems to be much more to do here. And strangely enough, as I was walking down the main strip, which is of course a dirt road because nothing here is paved, I saw restaurants and bars filled with foreigners fixated on TV’s. This is really an unusual sight for me, but even more bizarre was when I took a moment to see what they were watching – two out of the three places that I saw were showing Friends. Yeah, that stupid TV show. They’re in the middle of Laos, a completely isolated and foreign country, hundreds of miles from any kind of real civilization, and they’re watching Friends on TV. I do not understand.

I had a traditional Laos dinner which was relatively difficult to find on the street that’s filled with pizza and burger places, but it wasn’t until the food was already served to me that I was told by my friendly server that they (people of Laos) eat it with their hands. Well, that explains why the rice is so sticky. It might have been my first time eating an entire meal with my hands without being yelled at by someone. I was sitting among a large group of friendly Koreans. The drink menu offered such choice drinks as wishky and
Barcadi, but I stuck with a Beer Lao, which Lonely Planet calls the best beer in SE Asia. I might agree with them, I’m still contemplating.

Tomorrow I’ll wake up at 8:30am and meet some others to spend the day kayaking, hiking, and tubing. I don’t know what the itinerary is, but I know that I’ll return around 5pm. I booked my room for two nights which should be enough to check this place out and be ready for the next stop in Laos – Luang Prabang.