Dec, 31, 2017
After an international bus ride to the border, a slight mixup with Donna’s visa (corrected by the border policeman that knows us well) we crossed into Laos !
Closer to home still we had one night in Pakse.
We checked into the room and took our excess baggage to the travel company. Then Chantho (our tuk-tuk driver friend), Meg, Donna, and I all went to our favorite Khao piak restaurant (noodle soup also called Pho). So yummy! Donna and Meg walked back to the hotel while I ran around town picking up some of the items on our Pakse list. Important stuff like wine and telephone scratch cards for internet time!
Donna ditched the walker back in Ubon leaving it with Kalone to give to some person that needed one but couldn’t afford one. Now she was using a cane. All the hotel’s rooms start on the second floor in Pakse so “Up with the good, down with bad” became her mantra while climbing the stairs to our 3 person family room. A short nap later we went downstairs (down with bad) to have a G & T and a light dinner at Dao Lin (our other favorite Pakse restaurant) before going back to bed for the night.
The next morning, a light breakfast and we walked back over to the travel company to catch the bus to the island. Since I couldn’t carry much the company guys hauled most of our baggage over to the bus for me. The owner (also a friend) said not to tip them because they would get used to that and just want more and more. We claimed the best seats since we arrived early and the bus filled up with fellow travelers and backpackers. Soon we were on our way. Donna and Meg sat together and talked. I listened to a favorite album on the iPhone with earbuds. The bus stopped at Champasak and we picked up several people giving me a seatmate. As always when they find that we are American the conversation turned to “Is your president really as crazy as he sounds?”
We arrive at the midpoint and everybody jumped out of the bus milling about, stretching their legs, perusing the grilled bananas and sweet potatoes for sale and to find the toilet. There, in the middle of all this was Mama Nuu (Mama Rat) a sweet little lady from the island. She was as surprised to see us as we were to see her! She was coming back from Pakse on another bus that had some Laos people as well as some tourists. After a short break, we all piled back in our various busses and took off again.
Suddenly one girl comes running to the front of the bus in a panic, “This is not my bus! All my stuff is on the other bus!” We determined her bus was going the same direction, to have a seat, all will be fine. The driver telephoned ahead and shortly we caught up to the other bus She was very relieved to change back to her bus. These things happen. I called for our boat to meet us when we arrived, “Okay!”
We arrived in our port village, Nakasang, where we pulled our baggage from under the bus. We saw our friend that hauls things on his cart and he started loading it up with our bags as well the bags of a Laos person that was bringing a lot of stuff back to the island. Stacked high Meg and I started towards the port while Donna ‘hit’ the ATM to get some cash as we were a little low. I called again to say we were there in Nakasang but this time the response was, “Sorry, can not.”
So now I had to buy boat tickets as well as pick up a little shopping. Donna said the ATM would not give enough cash to make a withdrawal worthwhile, but we had enough kip to manage. The baggage hauler brought our stuff to the pier and Donna and Meg stood by while I took care of the last item to shop for, a headlamp for the bike.
We loaded onto the boat and after a short stop at the top of the island, we finally made it to our home! The boatman helped haul all our stuff onto the shore and I tipped him. Megan soon realized why we had to take the early bus. Arriving in the evening would not really work. It doesn’t matter how long you leave the house, one week or six weeks, the clean-up and reclamation of space from invading critters is the same. It’s a never-ending battle in a jungle environment. Geckos, skinks, rats, ants, and even just the leaves that blow in through the eaves make cleaning a full-fledged event. So we all dug in to tackle it. We cleaned the house and sorted our shopping, putting away the canned food items we brought back from Ubon. After cleaning the spiderwebs and sweeping the house out again it was finally time to put up the computers. They were in the green suitcase which is over… where? Maybe over here? No, is it…. OMG! Where was it?
We all looked around. It was not here!
So, I ran to a neighbor and negotiated a trip to Nakasang! The boat ride upstream seemed to take forever! When we arrived I asked the ‘boat mafia’ people if they had seen it, “No.” I went back to the bus station. Not there. I asked the hauler guy, he didn’t remember it. My phone was almost out of power so I went to one of the shops to charge it and called the owner of the bus company. He told me he would call his driver and call me back.
Time sure does tick by slowly when you are waiting for “that” call.
Eventually, that call did come. Somehow it got pulled from the other side of the bus and unseen was forgotten. But the driver loaded it back on and drove it back to Pakse. They would bring it tomorrow, no problem. I was so relieved!
I called and let Donna know all was going to be okay.
I returned home and she was kind and did not kill me.
By nightfall, we had carved our space back to a level of tidiness. We made some grilled cheese sandwiches and called it a night. Meg and Donna took the bed and I set up the cot I bought for the hospital.
The next day we continued to clean. I went and retrieved our motorbike from the repairman who fixed the light while we were gone. A rat had eaten the foam out of one side of my helmet. I drove to the head of the island, caught a boat to Nakasang, and retrieved the green suitcase. All was well with the world.
Happy New Year everybody!!!! Let’s hope that 2018 treats you well!