He was awake since 5am, restless and determined to spoil my sleep making noises in the room of the excellent Alisa Guest House in Pakse, south of Laos.
He had fallen asleep by 9pm the night before, while I kept staying at the PC till the late hours.
Anyhow, by 9am Claudio and me were ready to start our motorbike day, but not one of the bikes we agreed to rent.
The semi-automatic 100cc motorbike, but I should call it moppet really, was injured and being taken care at the garage.
We filled in the time visiting the Pakse new market. Apparently the biggest market of Laos, we were only impressed by the baguette bread you can find here, heritage of the French colonial era.
Surely the most impressive thing was that the only item we was looking for, a pair of sandals for Cloudio, was not present in any of the shoes boot around.
We found a pair of fake Crocs, he liked them, but we had a misalignment on the negotiation strategy so he ended up paying 40.000 Kip (4.4€).
In the meantime I broke my sunglasses and I upgraded them with a pair of great fake Ray Ban for 100.000 Kip (9€). I love them and I think that after the two original Ray Ban sunglasses I bought in my life, I was disappointed enough to try a counterfeit model.
By 11:30am we had hit the road with two vehicles: a good scooter with broken speedometer and a bad semi-automatic moppet that drove horrible, had an useless rear mirror and a loose handlebar grip.
The road was a boring straight line, but the view of the Mekong, that here is as large as Como Lake, was very impressive and pleasant.
But we can’t get distracted: cows, tractors and cats seem to have arranged a complot to stop our march to Champasak.
That we reach anyway in about one hour, just in time to stop to a nice farang restaurant on the side of the mighty Mekong, called Champsak in Love.
There between a banana shake and a friend banana I got news that today is my birthday*, an annoying pick-up line that Cloudio uses to make fun of local people around the world.
So the Thai girl working there promises a nice surprise, but only if we’ll come back later in the day. Great customer retention skills!
We continue driving till the ancient Khmer temple of Vat Phou.
The site is beautiful and I learn two main things:
- Barays are reservoir of water coming from the local springs;
- Lingas are phallic-shaped stones representing Shiva’s private part, symbol of creative power.
The lingas are monster-size, but the temple itself is quite small but still impressive as it was later converted into a Buddhist worship place.
The gray stones typical of the Khmer architecture, the green lush surrounding the area and the orange and yellow Buddha statues inside made the whole scene idyllic.
Especially because the sight of the horribly executed Cloudio’s haircut was replaced by worshipers in awe.
Around the temple there were a spring, some carved stoned and some kids climbing on jack-fruit trees to get some big fruits.
On the way back I got my birthday present from the girl working at Champsak in Love: a slice of frozen yogurt cake, that we had accompanied by some more banana shakes.
Tomorrow will be Cloudio’s birthday, then mine again!
The way back to Pakse was quite annoying.
I left the scooter to Cloudio and I was driving the crappy moppet. It was almost 6pm and was getting dark quickly, so we discovered that the back light was not working.
My helmet visor was dark, dirty and scratched so I could not see much and furthermore it could not stay lifted up unless I would hold it.
Not much fun.
Two cows appeared out of nothing, or better, they were on the road but I could not see them and I had an “oh-shit” moment avoiding them…
Then it started raining and it was cold, very cold! I mean, probably ~20C but on a motorbike with wet clothes temperature felt much lower.
I was observing my emotions: nervous and annoyed with the French guy that rented us this crappy material…
But we were already entering in Pakse through the Japanese bridge over the Mekong river.
Thanks to my tunnel vision, that consist in being unable to see anything but the road, I could spot something dark falling from Claudio scooter, that was ahead of me.
I remember that I thought ” that could be his wallet! But he already annoyed me yesterday, panicking for half-hour thinking he had lost it while in fact he had left it at the hotel. Can he be so stupid to have the wallet on his pocket?”.
After the bridge I shout at him to stop but he confirms: all his belongings are under the seat. I felt bad for doubting his intelligence, and we kept driving to the hotel.
But guess what? He could not find his wallet anymore so we went back to the Japanese bridge where, in between a puddle and a lost flip-flop, we found his wallet run over a thousand tires but still full.
“Life keeps sending the lesson you have to learn”, the sage man says. So I see two lessons here:
- Cloudio needs a nanny, not a travel buddy.
- The tunnel vision is a feature, not a bug. With great powers comes great responsibility.
To celebrate the epiphany, we stopped in a karaoke place along the Mekong where we were the only farangs and surely the only people eating french fries with chopsticks. All around us, happy Laotians were having Lao beer singing songs from Laos. Celebrating the Friday evening.
Cloudio pays dinner minus the 10.000 Kip he overpaid because of his poor negotiation skills at the New Market this morning.
The karmic cycle is completed. At least for today.
*my birthday is in August.