Friday, December 24, 2010


In the last 36 hours, I have flashed six different women two different times.

The first was after I climbed off a nearly sleepless night train from Sapa, north Nam and forced myself into the lockless shower in my girls dorm. Not paying attention as I rinsed shampoo out to the "This is the shower stall" from the staff member showing new arrivals the room, three sets of eyes were on my naked form. Surprised and too tired to bother covering up, all four of us just stood there shocked.

The second time was last night when I went for a massage. Unlike western massage studios or even other massage rooms/curtains elsewhere in SE Asia, myself and a woman I just met downstairs were told to strip down to our undies - with three others in the room.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mind the mines in Phonsavan

The Plain of Jars outside Phonsavan, Laos was one of the eeriest sites I visited in Laos. Lying just below the surface is an untold number of unexploded ordinances (UXOs) and these are still killing and injuring the Laos people years and years after the Secret War.

(Recovered UXOs)

(Crater from bombs)

(Red is dead. Stay within the white markers and it's unlikely you'll get blown up.)

(Site 1)

(Site 1)

(View from Site 1)

(Site 2)

(Site 2)

(Russian Tank)

(Farm constructed with bombs)

After the Plain of Jars tour, I went to Hmong New Year celebrations with two new friends. Here's some bumper car action.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Don't get hurt in Laos, they'll chop your leg off

"It's the buffalo whisper," travel companion Jenny appropriately said quietly pointing to a middle-aged, sun-bleached blonde man, who tens and tens of minutes before was in the Nam Song tripping his nuts off on an untold cocktail of drugs and lao lao and communicating with a herd of massive water buffalo.

This, a few inebriated slips and tell-tale crutches and bandaged ankles in town were miraculously all we witnessed while passing through Vang Vieng, Laos, a town made over into a backpacker destination for its tubing and renowned for its scale of partying, death and drugs.

Accidents are also very frequent.

Two weeks before my first lap through VV, a tuber died after hitting the bottom of the river after plunging face first from a slide. A few days before my second visit, a girl broke her leg in six places. Since Laos lacks adequate or any, really, decent hospitals, her leg wasn't set and placed in a cast, but amputated above the highest break.

The stories, rumours and quickly issued warnings about the river's appetite for turned ankles, broken bones and lives lost too early were sobering reminders that too much fun is possible and excess is capable of extinguishing.

Gemma, Jenny and I made a sober pact that we were to mind one another and absolutely not allow each other onto the dodgy swinging trapeze, crudely engineered flying fox or fourth-grade-science-project slides.

Learning upon arrival at the launching point that tubes had to be hired from the cartel in town, we were limited to stopping at makeshift bars we could walk to. This didn't prove to be a problem as we quickly found ourselves at the bottom of another lao lao bucket and not an early grave on the Nam Song,