the wedding and other stuff

Vientiane, Laos

Tue, 29 Jan 2002 06:28:27 +0000 (GMT)

Hello everyone! Hope you're all well. I'm a little hungover so imaginative subject lines are in short supply.

I'm about to head into the south of Laos/north of Cambodia where communications may be a bit trickier than normal so I thought I'd let you know how I've been getting on.

After bidding farewell to Lek the nec, I arrived at the another one of Thailands ancient capitals, Ayuthaya. Unfortunately it was pretty much closed at 4:30am and I had to spend a couple of hours sitting on the street with some nice Danish people and a lot of mosquitos until a Tony (manager of Tony's place naturally) arrived and up sleep on one of his couches. Fair play to him.

Photos of Ayuthaya are far more impressive than the site itself. I spent an hour cycling around and I think I took just 1 photo. A major let down.

The next day I headed for Lopburi, a town famous for having some other ruins but also 2 troupes of baboons that are ready and waiting to distribute rabies to anyone who tries to feed them! Certain parts of the town are just crawling with them the train station has also has an enormous statue of a baboon. It's facing away from Bangkok so that the first thing you see as you arrive is an enormous pink baboon's arse. I actually saw it on the way to Chiang Mai but when I tried to tell the other people in my carriage about it they just looked at me funny.

On the way back I got chatting to a lovely young Thai girl, she just wanted to practice her English. Despite Lek's weirdness, I still think that many of the people here are really nice.

I spent the next few days in the small seaside town of Ban Chang, staying in the house of a Canadian teacher that I met in Laos. Just sitting around doing nothing, recharging the batteries.

I decided this would be a good time to get my hair cut, so I headed to the local barbers and explained I wanted a wash and cut. This being Thailand, they do the cut first and then the wash. Whatever. I got accross that I wanted a number 4 at the back and sides and just to shorten the top a bit. Or at least I thought I did. As soon as she was finished shaving the back and sides she went for the top and half way up the right hand side when I stopped her. I wasn't too bad, there was plenty of hair left and we had a good laugh about. Well she did anyway.

I decided I may as well have a proper shave while I wa at it. It was only gonna cost me about 40 pence. She was using one of those big cutthroat razors and I must say she was very thorough, she even shaved my forehead! Have I got a hairy forehead? Have people been making jokes about it behing my back?

Then it was off to Laos again for the wedding. I arrived on Friday morning after a really shitty night on the train, checked into Saysouly guest house again and snoozed for a while.

I got my wedding invitation in an envelope addressed to "Mr Fergal with lover". I think it gains something in the translation.

That evening was the pre-wedding party. We all headed to Toui's house - he's the groom - and got smashed. Unfortunately there was no beer, only lao lao (the local whiskey - maybe they named the booze after the country but I've a feeling they named the country after the booze) and wine lao (a weird, alcoholic, incredibly sweet, fizzy raspberry drink). Not a good combination. Afterwards, some of us headed to the Paradise Club, a Lao nightclub. It was pretty much the same as an Irish nightclub except the music was a good bit worse. I was the only foreigner there and being as drunk as I was, I was dancing away. It's possible that people might have been looking at me to see what the latest sophisticated western dance moves were, in which case I reckon I've set the Lao dancing scene back by about 10 years!

There was one difference that fairly caught me by surprise. I headed off to the loo. In fancy places over here, the loos will sometimes have an attendant, like the guys you get in Irish places these days. The big difference is that on my first trip to the loo, this guy snuck up behind me while I was taking a leak and started massaging my shoulders!!!! I'd like to see someone try that in the loo in Knightsbridge! Naturally I was a bit shocked and he was very lucky I didn't piss all over him when I turned around to see what was going on. He just smiled and nodded and since there was another local using one of the other urinals, I realised this was all perfectly normal if a little disturbing!

The next morning was pretty bad hangover wise and when I went to the wedding ceremony I was truggling slightly. The ceremony involves a procession of the groom's family to the bride's house. They have to stop at the gate because it's closed. Then they ply oneanother with more of that manky whiskey. Unfortuntely they plied me with it too. I wasn't allowed in the gate until I drank 3 very large measures of the stuff and a glass of beer. I came within inches of barfing on the brides uncle, which would have been his own fault really.

The actual wedding involves people trying lots of bits of string around their wrists and some 5000 kip (50p) notes as well. Not too exciting.

I didn't get too drunk at the wedding reception as they were concentrating on whiskey again with not a whole lot of beer to be found. This made it a good bit harder to get up an boogy as I'm not really one for dancing sober. I did a few rounds of the ram wong. This is the traditional wedding dance in Laos and I think Cambodia too. It involves all the guys forming a circle around a pole facing out towards a circle of women and everyone has a partner. The dancing involves the whole circle slowing rotating as people shuffle around. In the mean time, the women are doing this thing with their hands where they bend and twist their wrists around and they fold and unfold their fingers. The guys do something similar but not so much of it. The only other rule is that the women don't look at their partners, they all stare away into space with a look of utter boredom and they absolutely refuse to make eye contact. I was at one wedding where one of the guys was pretty drunk and was humping this girls leg and she was just calmly ram wonging away, fascinated by nothing in particular (although I have seen this particular custom in Knightsbridge!). An English girl told me that it's because people will think your easy if you make eye contact.

Then we went home. It wasn't too exciting really. The hangover didn't help but I'm still glad I came back.

The only other thing of note is that I spotted Mrs. Boun Loum the mad old woman who may or may not have stolen my glasses. If I wasn't in a hurry I would have stopped to say hello but I was starving and I needed some nice food. After eating, I went o check my mail and guess what... I had a mail from her!!!! I feel a bit guilty including this but...

Subject: hi are you remumber me

Dear fergal

how are you ? are you remumber me .my name is LOME befor i ever by your laos teacher .how is you went to teavel POANG SA LY provine ? is long time i'm don't meet you ? how about your live ? i'm very miss you . i hope some one i can meet you agian . you are very well for me ... i can't forget you . do you think of me ? how do you think about my self ? how long you will come to visit laos ? i waiting you .... befor you will come to laos .placse send e-mail tell me . can you ? when you recive my mail, placse aswer me in e-mail take care of your self byebye

What can I say?

Next destination is Cambodia. The border between there and Laos only just opened for foreigners so I'm going to try and cross. I've heard that when it was closed, you could get through if you payed the right people. Hopefully, now that it's officially open there'll be no palms that need greasing.

I think things are pretty primitive in that part of the world, no electricity or phones so emails will be unlikely once I get there. It should be very interesting.

Anyway, that's all for now. Don't forget to say hello every now and then. See ya,

F