Drama in Laos

Laos – exotic, strange, poor, desolate, ancient, desperate, dangerous, wonderful and a great place for an on foot voyager to explore the unknown. Actually, I am still in Southern China anxious to cross the border into Laos tomorrow.

There was no English spoken on China Air aboard their flights to the remotest parts of this vast nation. Fortunately, my Chinese business colleagues helped me purchase a ticket from the modern city of Dailian to southern China city of Jinghong.

Not being conversant in Chinese I used the age old travelers language – hand signals.

It took several passes at mimicking sleeping, and then in desperation pretending to yawn, before the Jinghong taxi driver deciphered that what I really wanted was a hotel. As in most remote parts of the world there was no problem getting a room. Just walk up to the counter, lay out sufficient local currency and smile. Obtaining food which you feel comfortable eating is always a different adventure.

After showering in a small cabinet apparently built for midgets I mimicked to the hotel clerk that I wanted to stuff food n my mouth. Politely she pointed to a small flight o stairs at the end of the lobby. On a mezzanine a brightly colored plastic mini-bar was ceremoniously guarded by five large wall posters meticulously lettered in Chinese characters. A young woman appeared. I unceremoniously put my fingers in my mouth and she obediently pointed to the posters. Every globe trotter sooner or later has ended up in the same situation. Following tradition I closed my eyes, ran my fingers down one of the posters, stopping ceremoniously in the middle. The desk clerk who had come over to assist and the other woman both happily applauded while directing me to sit at one of several plastic covered tables which were all devoid of other customers.

I waited passing the time reviewing a large map of Laos located thirty miles to the south. I was soon rewarded when the waitress placed in front of me a tall concoction filled with a cold gluey substance and covered with sliced bananas and coconut chips. Yes, it was a Chinese version of an ice cream Sunday!

The hotel as it turned out did not have a restaurant just a lonely ice cream parlor.

That evening I noticed a number of polls in the hotel garden. Each was a torch with a flame flickering in the gentle breeze. Crowds of people wandered onto the hotel grounds from the surrounding streets where vendors were selling freshly prepared food. Each poll had a banner likely describing the food being offered. Not taking any chances this time I carefully inspected the assortment being offered, avoiding the obvious rice dishes, staying clear of multi-colored fruit carts and the little black flies hovering around them, and finally settling on a skewer of well cooked meat. The tasty dish had the consistency of chicken but for all I knew though it may have also been snake.

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