Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rocks, Lao Lao and BBQ Fish

So I did go climbing, eventually. The plan was to meet Ashley’s two Kiwi climbing friends in the morning. Of course the day before they’d gone tubbing so waking up was a challenge. Luckily they eventually made it and after getting food, renting a harness and dilly dallying, we headed to the rock. Finding it was another story. We walked across the river to the other side of town and realized we’d been on the wrong side of the river. This side was quiet and beautiful with little bungalows where people were chilling out and swimming. Now I know where to stay next time.

We had hand written directions that said to follow the fence next to the bungalows, walk through town, through the rice patties, take a left and find the trail to the wall. Right. We followed the white flags through the rice patties, the mountain jutting up in front of us.

When we reached the brush the trail was guarded by a few Lao demanding money to pass. We explained that we were going climbing and not seeing the cave. They still wanted 5,000 kip each. We asked why and they didn’t understand. The climbing guide said nothing of a fee and we didn’t feel we had to pay. If it was their land I wanted to pay, but we had no way of knowing. They could just sit here and scam tourists all day. So we tried to just keep walking. They got angry and kept on us. So we paid half and walked away. One of the guys who’d been sitting and eating gets up with his knife and says something mean in Lao. The kids laughed loudly and we understood he was threatening us. We weren’t scared of him, but didn’t want to deal with it anymore since we couldn’t speak the language. 5,000 kip is less than a dollar, but it was the principle. We would have been happy to pay money that went to re-bolting the wall, but not to unofficial guards. The other thing is that you have to start thinking in the currency you’re in if you want to budget. I mean, I won’t haggle a poor old lady for .50 cents, but when 3 dollars is a nights lodging you can’t just throw dollars away. Anyway, we then tried to find the trail and could not. After going back and forth wondering which way it was we asked the girl working near the cave. She lead us back the way we came and went through a closed gate to the trail that we never would have found. She lead us all the way up the steep hill to the rock wall and asked for some money. We were happy to pay her and when we gave her what we had she was grateful and didn’t ask for more. Just goes to show you there are people of both sides everywhere.

The rock was awesome and the view of the valley below was beautiful! Huge stalactites hung down the wall above us and were incorporated in some of the routes. Joe had one rope so he lead the first pitch and we all took turns. The rock was smooth and there were plenty of holds. It was really fun climbing. We did two pitches and I made it to the top of both- my arms killing me. The view from the top was incredible! Sweaty, dirty and tired we headed back to town as the sun was setting.

The four of us met for dinner after hot showers. We went to one of the Friends bars- oh Vang Vieng is full of restaurants where they play TV shows all the time. You lay on cushions, order food and drink and watch Friends, Simpsons or Family Guy. Those are the three options pretty much. I can see that it would be nice when you’re hung over and don’t want to do anything, but why would anyone come to Laos to watch American TV? Plenty of backpackers party at night and then sit and watch TV all day. Personally I prefer climbing, tubbing, biking and caving. Anyway, the only BBQ place we saw was playing Friends so we faced away from the TV and ignored it. We ordered a whole BBQ fish from the grill, some curry and phad thai. The fish came first with some sticky rice and we just attacked it eating with our fingers and sucking the flesh from the bone. It was delicious! We also ordered coconut shakes and mixed in our Lao Lao whisky that we’d bought in the whisky village. And right as we were about to eat the power went off. Friends was stopped and candles were brought out to the tables. It was perfect!

After dinner we decided we’d actually go out one night and check out of the many bars. We had to finish our whisky anyway. We ran into Owain and Ashley and the six of us headed to Smile Bar across the bamboo bridge. A DJ played loud music while people danced around fire pits. We did the limbo and secretly mixed our Lao Lao with soda. I ran into Kelly who I’d met in Chiang Mai and another guy from Portland, OR. It was fun, but I was glad when the place closed at midnight (I’m getting old). The street back to our place was lined with carts selling sandwiches and pancakes and the westerners slowly dispersed with their food.

Today I’m taking a chill day to read and do email. I also have to book my flights south. Tomorrow I’m heading to the capital- Vientiane and then down to the Thai beaches. Ciao ciao!

I'm a millionaire!!! (1 million kip):

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