Sunday, February 15, 2009

Communist Dance Party

Day 338
We were up early and soon had a tuk-tuk to the bus station. Luckily we got there early and got real seats. The people who were late had to sit on stools in the aisle. We were headed to Sayaburi for an elephant festival.

Towards the end of the ride we had to cross a river on a really sketchy looking ferry. While we were waiting our turn we watched a woman wash her hair in the river and another clean out a chicken just a few meters down stream. Across the river the traffic was so bad that we were not even on the road. A few large stones blocked the way and a couple of the passengers got out to move them.

Around lunch time we arrived. There had been a very oddly dressed man with a colorful and pointless pointy hat. We ended up sharing a tuk-tuk with him and found out that he was French. He asked the time and when Nicole responded that it was half past noon he didn't understand, I then said that it was 12:30 and added that Nicole doesn't speak English very well. (We spend a lot of time teasing each other and arguing over who speaks real English) The French man very slowly and clearly asked Nicole what her first language was. We tried to explain the joke to him but he just didn't get it.

We were dropped off at the tourist office and soon we had the address to our home stay. We had been warned that the conditions would be very basic. Due to this we decided that we would keep our room in Luang Prabang so that we would only need to bring small overnight bags with us. We didn't want to show up with all of our stuff when our hosts had nothing. A huge percentage of people in Laos only have one room homes. We expected to be sharing a room with the family.

It turned out that wasn't really the case for us. Our hosts had a two story house and then a separate building with a kitchen and bathroom. There was a small storage room with two beds for Nicole and I. We even had mossie nets.

Right away our hosts insisted on making us lunch. The mother of the family cooked over a fire while shooing away chickens. The food was good, veggies and rice, but we struggled to eat it all.

We were about to leave when Moonse, the eldest daughter, came to chat for a bit. She was overly and strangely apologetic saying that their home wasn't nice and that they only had a squat toilet and no hot water. Most people living in Sayaburi bathe in the river. They were clearly much better off than most of the town. I felt really awkward, but did my best to show how much I appreciated the chance to stay with them. It's really a wonderful thing to be able to do home stays on occasion and really see how the locals live.

As I mentioned earlier the reason for coming to Sayaburi was for a 2 day elephant festival. We thought we would just go for the second day, but later found out that the first had been much better. We had a printed schedule with a map but nothing seemed to be happening in the spot that was indicated. There was meant to be a roundup and a circus. All we saw were elephants giving tourists rides.

Our host family had invited us to dinner and we got back in time to take showers. It was really hot out. Earlier we had been asked what we liked to eat and had replied chicken. We ended up with chicken soup that had every bit of the chicken in it. Western manners dictate that you eat all of whatever your hosts offers you. Surly there must be a line drawn at chicken feet?!?! Luckily dinner came out of a few communal bowls (that you used your own spoon to dip into) and we were able to easily stick to veggies and rice without being noticed.

That evening Nicole and I headed back out to the festival for the music bit. We had a bit of time to kill and managed to supplement our dinner with some donuts of varying quality. We then found a bar/restaurant that we could easily see the stage from and sat down with some other westerners.

The music was really weird. There was some traditional dancing but most of it was a group of men and women in army uniforms dancing to very communist sounding songs. The crowd was even weirder. They didn't clap or even laugh when the comedy act came on.

When the music was over we had a hangeron American guy who neither of us liked. He wanted to follow us to our home stay and we didn't want him to know where it was. We ended up at a campervan bar for a bit. There weren't any tuk-tuks around. Eventually a group of locals were leaving and Nicole and I negotiated for Alex for them to take him to his hotel. He really didn't want to go, but he must have picked up on how annoyed we were and finally left.

Nicole and I then headed around the corner to our homestay. Everyone was asleep and they had locked the bathroom door for the night. Who the hell does that? Both of us needed it and had to think fast. Next door there were some younger guys hanging out drinking. We went over to introduce ourselves and then after a bit asked to use their toilet. This worked and soon we went to sleep.

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