I was in Laos for four days, mostly travelling with a lovely American lady called Audrey who also teaches in Bangkok. We met by the Mekong River after a longtail ferry had brought us across from Thailand. We found rooms in Huay Xai and the next day headed deep into the dark heart of South East Asia - a place called Luang Nam Tha. You could find it on a map if you were interested enough.
There we hired bicycles and pedalled off into the countryside which was classically Laotian. A patchwork of tiny paddy fields, huts on stilts, blue mountains rising in the distance. We passed hill tribe villages where naked children played as pot bellied pigs and mother hens with large broods of squeaking chicks snuffled around in the verges and under the bamboo huts that the people lived in. This was not a place for tourist buses. The villagers bathed in the little streams that tumbled from the hills and they wove their own roofs from bamboo and palm leaves. Life is undoubtedly very tough for them and in parts of Laos there can be malnutrition and desperate need depending on the fluctuations of climate and farming. I know this because of my long conversation with a Laotian aid worker called Tao whom I met on my exceedingly cramped bus back to the Mekong. Lord knows how my joints survived. Tao wore Easyrider sunglasses and a khaki cap with a red star above the peak. His twenty nine year old heart was broken because his wife didn't want him any more. He was grateful for my counselling.
So I am writing this now in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai on the eve of the Buddhist New Year after a seven hour bus journey from the Mekong. Fortunately, that bus was spacious. Upon arrival, a Thai lady and her Malaysian boyfriend helped me to get a VIP bus ticket back to Bangkok on Saturday evening. All tickets for Friday had gone. Whilst I am up here I am thinking of signing up for a day course in basic Thai cookery.