Even more than Pakse, the southern Laos city of Savannahket epitomises the beautiful, slowly decaying French colonial Laos. It’s so stunning, so ridiculously sublime and attractive, so much like the stars you see just before passing out after getting hit in the back of the head.
And then there’s the coffee.
Down in Si Phan Don, I asked one traveller I met who’d been in Laos for nearly a month what she thought of Tadlo and the Bolaven Plateau.
“Oh,” she said. “I didn’t go there. Too many waterfalls.”
From the relatively urban Pakse to the extremely rural Si Phan Don, travelling down the southern end of Route 13 by sawngthaew was one of those only-in-Southeast-Asia experiences.
When I was younger, my parents would drill into my head the importance of first impressions. “Wash your hair,” of course, but also “Cut your hair,” “Take off that motorcycle jacket,” or “For the last time, you can not go out without pants.”
I had a rough childhood.
Anyway, first impressions: my first true Laos experience occurred, I think, while I was still in Thailand. Getting from the train station in the eastern Thai city of Ubon Ratchathani to Chong Mek and the Laos border was ridiculously complicated. The night train in from Bangkok was sweet and easy, with comfortable bedding, clean aisles and toilets, and trash bins every two feet. It was all very and pleasantly un-Indian.
You’d never have thought that teeming Bangkok could be a quiet, calm place to soothe your savaged nerves, unless, of course, you’d just left India.
I might have a few more things to say about India, but I think for now this list of places to stay and eat and a few things to bring will tie up in a nice pwiddy widdle bow my first Indian adventure. Whenever possible, I’ve included contact info.
UPDATED 19 MAR
The Indian government tourism department promotes the country as being “Incredible India!”
It’s more like, “Frustratingly Interesting – India!”
But before I tell you why, and if you’ve noticed a date six weeks in the future from my last post, I figure I should explain just what the heck is going on.