Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

Udon Thani, Thailand

Sun, 6 Jan 2002 08:16:47 +0000 (GMT)

A: To die horribly under the wheels of my bike!

I've been doing some cycling in Northern Laos. It was fun but tough going. The only bikes they had were really old and not built for someone my size. There are lots of animal wandering around the roads but only the chickens seemed determined to get themselves crushed under my wheels. They start at the side of the road, watching you as you approach, slowly edging their way towards you, they stop and wait until you are right beside them and you think they're going to wait until you pass and then they jump out and try to wedge their necks into your spokes or something equally stupid.

We got to go to a country fair. We also met another young monk and he gave us some raw sugar cane which is pretty nice but I doubt it's much good for your teeth. Later, I had a couple of games of the national sport, kind of a mixture of volley ball and football, naturally I ws very good ;-) It's odd, the monk we met in Vientianne said they're not allowed play games. The monks in Muang Sing seem to have a different idea and apparently the monks in China go to cybercafes to play wargames. My opinion of buddhist monks is changing rapidly!

Hope you all had a good xmas, I got smashed on redbull, pepsi and whiskey, coupled with a few beers. The party was in a guest house run by a Nothern Irish guy and his wife. His first name is Kingsmill, I didn't believe him but he was sticking to the story 1 week later so I think it must be true. I couldn't ring Ireland for some reason but I managed to get through the next day for about 6 quid a minute!!!

Headed north from Loung Phabang to Muang Sing, about as far north as you can get, only 10km from the Chinese border. It was a 12.5 hour journey on a minibus with 20 seats and 30 people. All buses in Laos come with a supply of plastic stools that they give to people to sit on in the middle of the aisle (assuming the aisle isn't already full of rice or vegetables or baskets of kittens!

Muang Sing is a town with electricity between 6pm and 9pm and no telephone! Also no hot showers but they give you a thermos flask of boiling water in the morning and you can mix that with some cold water to wash.

Myself and Corina, the German girl I met in Vientiane, did a fair bit of walking and cycling there and it's also where I celebrated the new year. Nothing too exciting.

Once again my stupidity kicked into overdrive as I realised I'd left my mobile in my guest house in Louang Phabang. Not having any phones in Muang Sing meant I couldn't even ring them, so I had to abandon my plans to head straight for the Thai border. Instead I took the bus/truck back to Louang Phabang, this time it took 2 days of solid travelling, the first day by bus.

Q: What smells of fish and gets wetter the more you vibrate it?

A: The big bucket full of water and dying fish beside my seat on a two hour bus journey along the world's bumpiest road!

I got away pretty lightly though. My bag got a bit wet from all the bumping and splashing but after one really vicious pothole, the bucket landed on the foot of some poor local guy, and split the nail on his big toe, vary nasty looking! Poor guy already had a big plaster on his nose.

The second day was by truck and I managed to have my fleece jacket stolen by some fecker. I wouldn't have minded so much if it was stolen at the end but it was before we even started and it's freezing on those trucks!

And of course when I got to Louang Phabang, it turns out that the guest house owner thought I was living in Vientiane, so she gave the phone to her son who lives there. This meant another 10 hours on a ridiculously overcrowded bus and what I think was an attempt to get me to marry the bus drivers daughter! It also completely bollixed any chance I had of leaving Laos via the north.

I have to say though that once again I had a really good time with Vongxay and his piss-head mates. I went to another wedding, this time in his home village and I was a celebrity! Unfortunately it was more of a Daniel O'Donnell celebrity status than a Brad Pitt. I danced with various aunties and some uncles forced there poor embarassed daughters to boogey with the foreigner. I'm also invited to another wedding on the 25th, this time it's a guy called Touie. I met him a couple of times and I also took a tour of the hospital he works in. Apparently there's an English girl from the hospital that I met for about 3 minutes who is dying to meet me again at the wedding and no, she's not a patient!

On a similar note, I've been told by my friends that Lao women are very attracted by westerners' big noses, which would make me the ruler of the love planet over here... if any of them could speak English.

All this partying happened yesterday afternoon and by 4pm I was plastered! Not good since I was supposed to be crossing the border on the 5 o'clock bus.

Luckily, Touie drove me to the border, we had a few more drinks and I finally left Laos. The last person across the border on the last day of my extended visa! 25 days in a wonderful country and then back to scheming, cheating Thailand, or so I thought...

On the bus across the bridge, I got talking to a Thai man from Phitsanulok and to cut a long story short (yeah right), he gave me a lift into the town, bought me dinner, sorted out a hotel room for me. The next day he bought breakfast, drove me to the nearest big town, helped me buy my train ticket and invited me to visit him in Phitsanulok. It's on my list of places to go, so I reckon I will. He is a little bit odd though (as usual), he stopped a few times to give sweets to children along the way and he also invited himself along to the wedding in Laos and started planning our trip to Africa, where I can guide him around (Africa's quite close to Ireland, so I must know it quite well!) still, it seems that maybe I need to ignore my feelings about Bangkok for a while and give the rest of Thailand a chance to make a good impression.

So now I'm sitting in a cyber cafe, passing the time until my train leaves, another 5 hours to go. Lord of the Rings is showing in the Cinema beside me but it's dubbed into Thai!! I can't get everything my own way I suppose.

Rightyo, another mammoth email. I hope everyone had a great new year and you're all sticking to your resolutions, bye for now,

F