Brides, brothels and boat races

Vientiane, Laos

Tue, 18 Dec 2001 09:41:54 +0000 (GMT)

Eventful weekend just gone, although maybe not that interesting to read about but I'm sending this anyway, so I don't forget it myself.

Thursday evening, we (myself and the 2 girls) went out to get som traditional Lao food. We went to what looked like a good bet. A place on stilts, sticking out over the bank of the Mekhong river. What I ended up with was fried chicken, french fries and Westlife's greatest hits playing at full volume!

After that, I went with Vongxay to 2 or 3 parties and helped wrap cutlery in napkins for his girlfriend's sister's wedding (which clashes with the one I'm going to). Either I have been truly accepted into his social circle or they figured it'd be funny to get the white guy to do the shitty work! They did feed me. Chicken noodle soup with a special extra bonus, y bowl had the chicken's head!! This was followed by chicken's feet. As you can imagine, I didn't eat much!

Stumbled back into the guest house at some silly hour and was once again let in by the porter. He sleeps out side under a moquito net! People here sleep all the time. When we visited the school library, they had to wake up the librarian who was conked out on a table. It's no big deal.

Was woken as usual at about 5 or 6 by some tag team roosters who usually spend about 3 hours each morning waking us up. It's not until 7 or 8 that the tooting and ringing of the mobile street vendors kicks in. As far as I can tell, the fruit vendors have bells and the people who sell things from manky looking buckets have horns. It's not the greatest system ever but it seems to work for the natives.

Got up and had brekky with Corina and Christine and we went to see our monk friend, Phet. He's a bit spooky. Really intense. We said we'd write to him when we got home and he kept asking us would we forget. As far as I know he's spent the last 4 years (he's 18) in the monastery and we were about the first people he ever met since he went in. He also only sleeps for 2 hours each night. It's not some sort of super power that Buddhist monks have from years of self discipline, the head monk was still asleep at 1 o'clock and his mates think Phet's mad and will probably die because of it!

I made my excuses to leave for the wedding and the girls went on to his house. They said that when they got their, they didn't feel at all welcome, so they left quite quickly.

I was picked up for the wedding by the lads and we drove north to Phon Hom. The car was a Toyota pick up truck. It was obviously built for smaller people as I could just barely squeeze into the back. At one stage there were 7 of in it, not good. Checked into our "guesthouse" and headed to the wedding.

In terms of traditional weddings it was a bit of a let down. The family is stinking rich. They had the most popular band in Lao playing for them (they never play weddings but obviously this one was worth it), with about the biggest sound system I've ever seen. People sat around under a marquee, eating and drinking. You may as well have been in Dublin. Except that the whole thing took place in a field beside a petrol station and the forecourt of the petrol station had been turned into a kitchen. The whole thing about naked flames and petrol pumps hasn't really caught on here yet!

About an hour into the proceedings, the lads reckon it's time to go. I thought this was a bit odd, we're going back to the guest house rather than staying here for the free beer. What I didn't realise was that when you book a room at the guesthouse, you also get a girl! The whole wedding was just an excuse for the lads to go away for a night and get their end away.

They tried to make me put the moves on a very shy Lao girl, who was afraid to even look at me. I was having none of it. In the end there were only 3 girls (we arrived late and the rest were asleep!) and 7 of us. Everyone except me and 1 guy who had a girlfriend scored. It was a pretty strange experience. Also a bit worrying as the government is very paranoid about Laos turning into a Thailand type sex country and has been known to raid guesthouses and look for foreigners with Lao women. I felt slightly safer for the fact that each of the rooms was decorated with posters explaining the workings of the various sections of the Lao government!

We got up at 6:45. I assumed that was the rule in these places but no, one of the guys wanted a condom, so instead of asking 1 person, he knocked on all the doors and got everyone up and then asked them. We went for breakfast and were drinking Beer Lao by 8:50! Jess, you would love Lao!

The setting was stunning. On the banks of the Nam Ngeum river. The owner of the restaruant was the daughter of the head of the village, she was very cute. I think she was about 25. Our driver fell in love with her and they are now going out. We sat around drinking and eating and waiting for the annual boat racing festival to begin. We even formed a team and had a quick go ourselves. The lads were singing karaoke to the truly appaling Michael Learns To Rock ( ). They seem to be pretty big over here and they were quite surprised when I hadn't heard of them. I wanted to sing myself but for national pride I insisted on Westlife. Luckily they had none at this restaurant.

That afternoon we went to Kaet's girlfriends house out in the country side. By this stage we were all pretty drunk, including the driver. We got there and had a massive feast of freshly caught and cooked fish, and of course another load of beer.

I was introduced to the head and deputy head of the village who took the piss out of me because when I try to sit cross legged on the floor, my knees are about 2 inches below my chin.

Then back to the restaurant for Gone (the driver) to spend a bit more time with his beloved. By the time we left we'd been drinking for 12 hours and almost everyone was steaming. Luckily one of the lads had stopped about 12 and also had a bit of a snooze, so he drove us home and I slept all the way in the back of the pickup.

Next day, I woke up and my stomach was in bits. I assumed it was just from constant drinking but now it seems I ate something dodgy and am having my first dose of the trots. It had to happen some time I suppose.