Well, that was quite a thing. Was sitting outside the hostel the other night with a few of the other residents having a beer or two. Across the road is a sort of garage. There are bits of carburettor and other assorted defunct car parts lying around everywhere. The guys who work there had finished for the day and were sitting about relaxing. One of them was playing a guitar rather well; no mean feat, as it wasn't a great guitar. We listened for a while and finally, I couldn't resist. I got my guitar and asked if I could join them.
It felt a bit like discovering a blues man in the Mississippi Delta.
The studio by day.
Ze big boss.
A great evening ensued. Several people from the hostel came over and we started jamming. One of the other mechanics was playing an improvised drum kit, made up of a carburettor, water bottle and other odds and ends.
The singer had soul and was pretty slick at throwing in a few lead riffs. His friends would occasionally join in with harmonies. Some of the songs were from the region; melodic, but very definitely influenced by western music, others were standards known the world over, including the SE Asian anthem of the last 40 odd years: 'Hotel California,' which I have to confess, has never been my cup of tea, with its crass metaphors. I much prefer the comment of an American friend on her 80th birthday: 'Life in the last lane.' (Hi Ethel).
Not for the first time, they were all fascinated by my thumbpick. Always have loads of them with me, so I gave some to the guitarist along with a few finger picks, which I've stopped using. It was a duck to water situation.
We arranged for another session the next evening, but they weren't about. Instead, I had a beer or two with a couple of German guys I've been hanging out with. We then went to 'Utopia,' the hot spot in town. A lot of drinking was going on and I suspect that I had more beer than I thought. By the time we got to the bowling alley, things were getting a bit blurry. There really were a lot of people stumbling about, probably myself included.
The next day everyone was rather quiet. I felt OK, having gone to bed at three thirty. The others had stayed up later and looked pretty rough.
The situation reversed in the evening, when they started partying again, whilst I started feeling queasy. It's the first time and I'm nearly half way through my trip, but I was as sick as a dog.
Next morning didn't feel great, but got up and took the bus to Vang Vieng. When we got there, it was pouring with rain, but not as hard as it is as I write.
Had a sleep and avoided alcohol. Finally, felt a bit better, so went out with David and Jonas and had a pizza. A 'Happy Pizza,' to be precise. The menu was like something from a gastro coffee house. Opium pizza, mushroom pizza, plus teas and various drinks made up of hefty doses of whatever takes your fancy.
Decided to share a pizza, as they have a reputation for being quite strong. A smallish, pizzaesque looking thing arrived,with some sort of sauce on it. It tasted OK.
Walked over to the local night spot: 'Sukura: Drink triple, see double, act single.' This is where things started to get stranger in this rather odd town. Firstly, 90% of the people in the place were Korean. Vang Vieng used to be a hot spot for Europeans on the cheap drinks and thrills circuit until the accident rate got ridiculous. People were getting killed.
It was at this point that a Korean film crew turned up to make some sort of reality show, based on tubing.* The viewers couldn't get enough of it and Vang Vieng became the number one destination for young Koreans. When I left the bar, (early), there were several guys outside hanging onto cars to stay upright. As the night wore on, they started dancing on the tables. The token Brit drunk outside, a harmless, uninteresting person, as drunks tend to be, was a pillar of sobriety compared to the dancers inside.
There was also the most extraordinary old guy outside; a local, about 5 feet tall, very skinny and about seventy years old. He staggered around in a reversed baseball hat and spoke an incomprehensible language, whilst chain smoking cigarettes between thumb and forefinger. He looked like 'Dobbie' from 'Harry Potter.'
Or maybe that was just the pizza.
*Tubing, as the name suggests, is getting an old inner-tube and using it to drift several km with the current. There are now only 5 bars. There used to be a lot more. At each bar, you're given a free whisky (from Laos). It costs a dollar a bottle, so don't think I'll bother with that bit.