Tubing down the river in style

Ok, ok, ok. So I haven’t been pushing myself so hard. Give me a break. I’ve been in Luang Prabang for several days now and really like it. What have I been doing? Well, I’ll summarize some of my adventures. I made a date with the German couple and some other people I had met on the trip to the waterfall (see last post) for the evening for checking out a pub. We split up after dinner and I never saw them again (I later realized that we never really said where we were going to meet!). No worries. The next day, I headed out on a mission to find out about how to make a call to the states at 2AM (when it’s 10AM back home). No one had any ideas. I found some payphones and eventually figured out that I had to go to the post office to get a card, but they helpfully informed me that they, “no have.”

“So, no one can use any payphones in the whole city?” I asked.
“No.”

Welcome to Laos.

So I eventually found out that upstairs I could buy a phone card that I could use from my hostel’s phone. I bought it and headed to the hostel to try to explain to them that I would need to wake them up at 2AM to make a phone call. It was pretty entertaining seeing as they don’t speak English. So anyways, I met an Australian girl and two American guys and we chatted for a while. I’ve got quite a few random stories and so I can usually entertain just about anyone for quite a while nowadays, “So, you studied Chinese in Bolivia, but the classes were in Spanish?!” and I ended up making friends with Holly and we spent the next few days together. She is a really cool and relaxed girl and we got along great. After walking around town, we saw a bunch of kids in the river tubing and playing and just having a great time.

“Let’s do that,” I suggested.

So we set out trying to figure out how to get a tube. They don’t rent them here, so we had to find some random kids and convince them to rent us theirs. $4 later, we had a small tube and a big tube and we were soooo tubing down this river, with hundreds of kids staring at us in disbelief. I think we were the first two foreigners ever to tube down the river. They waved at us and swam after us, and we decided to do it again the next day and convinced some other kids to rent us two big tubes the next day. That evening, we went out to the only cool pub in town and had a few beers and met some new people. The next day, we got a massage at the Lao Red Cross (we justified it by saying that the proceeds were going to charity) and then picked up our tubes at the prearranged meeting place and the 17 year old girl there (who looked about 12), gave us a ride in her bus a few kilometers up the river. To make a long story short, we had about 13 kids latch on to our tubes and float down the river with us. We had a flotilla of about 6 tubes in all and we floated for quite a while before heading up in a huge group back through the town and up the river. All the other tourists were staring at us because they were jealous that we had tubes and they didn’t. We actually spent several days explaining to random people that came up to us that we just paid some kids for the tubes and you couldn’t get them at any tourist office. We were (are) famous.

It’s pretty cool. There must be several hundred kids in this river at any given time. They have tubes, and bags filled with air and Styrofoam all doing back flips and throwing stuff and swimming and laughing in the river. There are monks floating by on boats, women and families bathing, little naked boys and girls running around. They just float down the river, then run back up river and do it again. It was cool to be a part of it.

We tried to go to the museum, but when we got there (the second attempt because the first attempt was thwarted by it being 4:30 when they closed at 4:00) and realized that they weren’t open on Tuesdays (of course not). We ate a bunch of deep fried bananas and had a few fruit shakes and then went to the waterfalls (the second time for me) and I got some killer photos and swam in the river, jumped off the top of a few waterfalls and swung off the swing into the water. It was great and loads of fun. Our tuktuk driver ended up stopping for another broken down tuktuk and they took apart the axle before leaving us all and heading back to the waterfall for spare parts so we just hitch hiked back to town.

That night, after having some incredible bbq’d fish at the night market, we all went to the pub again and chatted. Alex and I got into a heated discussion about US foreign policy and the Iraq war and it was fun. It was a bit of a challenge but I won (he in a nutshell said I was right and we changed the subject). It’s always kind of disappointing when I win a debate because I don’t learn anything. It’s kind of a let down, but hey that’s how it goes. Debate is certainly an art form though. I love it.

Today Holly and I bid our farewells and I spent the day on the computer and finished the DaVinci Code on my hammock that I set up on two trees by the river before it started raining, at which point I went to the coffee shop and bought a new book, “Don Quixote,” which is in old time Spain Spanish so it should be interesting.

Tomorrow I either head west or north. I’ll think about it for a little bit more and make my decision. It’s supposed to rain here in the north of Laos for the next week, so I might as well head to Thailand.

Decisions, decisions, eh?

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