It’s been almost a month since we left Bangkok for Lao PDR, a month filled with friends, weed and copious amounts of fun in the countryside. We just came back to Bangkok to our tiny new apartment on Sukhumvit soi 71, sub soi 21. We rented it for one month, went for our first visa run to Vientiane, Laos, and came back to it with plans to update our resumes and finally edit the short doc we shot in the Philippines.
It’s a cheap one bedroom apartment, but there’s a pool right below the balcony, so that makes up for the lack of space. It’s also quite far away from where the temptations are, so our daily schedule will mainly consist of hanging out online, editing, eating cheap street food and hitting the new waterpipe I got for my birthday. This doesn’t mean I’ll be able to stay away from the fun times, though. I couldn’t really, even if I tried - if you’ve ever been to Bangkok you know what I mean.
I feel like I finally reached a sunny meadow in this lush maze of traveling, where I can do some of the things I’ve been dreaming of while on the road. I plan on doing some big paste-ups around the city, very hyped about that, there’s so much good art here it’s almost a must to go out and make your own. I can’t wait to begin editing the footage on the field recorder, I’ve gathered an impressive amount of sound in my audio journal and I need to mix it into one long track.
So far we’ve made one Romanian friend in Bangkok, and surprisingly enough he’s a salsa teacher from Bucharest. Who knows, maybe I’ll take up salsa and decide to earn some money by teaching English to prostitutes and ladyboys. Anything is possible in Thailand, and I relish the idea of doing something both funny and mentally rewarding. Let’s see how that goes.
We’ve also met a great deal of full-time travelers in Laos, people who find it cheaper to move around the world than to stay at home. More and more young people are driven to explore and take up the nomadic lifestyle because it’s easier and more affordable to travel than ever. These are people who embrace social failure to go looking for the invisible, people who live by the hedonistic principle which states that you shouldn’t be working for people with more money than you but for yourself, that you need to be your own teacher and try to understand as much as you are able to from life, and then pass on the goodwill, information and understanding you have.
These people haven’t much to do with the hippies, in fact they’re very down to Earth and much more aware than I am of “the real world”. Most of them are loaded with gadgets and travel paraphernalia; they somewhat resemble survivalists, but they’re not paranoid at all. It seems to me that it’s a lot of fun (demanding fun, but still fun) to be able to live your life like this, having minimal needs and still feeling free and content, away from any political and economical distress, finding pleasure in gutting fish or picking fruit or helping out at farms for that extra buck.
I wonder if I could be one of these people, but so far it looks like I’m much too much of a flashpacker to be able to give in to simple life so easily. I’m streaming this thought in my consciousness because the three towns I’ve seen in Laos (Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang) made me appreciate simple life more than ever. If you grew up in the countryside or spent your summers there, you must remember that genuinely innocent feeling of playing in the sun with your good friends. We shared this feeling with our good friends, whom we saw again after more than a month of absence. They crossed Vietnam from South to North on their two 100cc Honda Wins and came to meet us in Laos.
We spent almost one month together, exploring dirt roads, forests, rivers, waterfalls, caves and whatnot, jumping off ropes and doing traditional drugs in the evening. It’s very, very rewarding to be able to smoke one while playing future garage off your mp3player in your favorite bar in town, out in the open like that - because in Laos weed, opium and mushrooms are literally on the menu. But Laos is by no means a place to get lost in, and if you’re lucky enough, you might even find some new personality traits you didn’t know you had. I learned that fear comes and goes, but it’s always easy to vanquish when it shows up.
On the day before my birthday I got stuck under a very narrow bridge while swimming and I hurt my left calf by hitting it on a greenish concrete wall. At first I thought I could handle myself and I struggled to swim out of the torrent, but I couldn’t, the water was greedily sucking my body under the bridge with massive force. I panicked for real as I felt I was very close to self-inflicting a major wound or even drowning, had I gotten stuck under the bridge. I climbed up the concrete walls, burying my nails inside them. I haven’t felt so much adrenaline pumping for a very, very long time.
A lot of people die in Laos because of their recklessness. 16 people have died in Vang Vieng since January, most of them drunk-drowning or hitting their heads on rocks while jumping into the river. In my opinion, this is a very good illustration of how the fittest members of a species manage to survive, and that’s why I think selling drugs in bars is a very good idea after all.
The photo above is of the sun (background) and Mount Meru (foreground), the holy mountain of the Hindu gods, resting on on the head of a Buddha, as seen by a local Laotian shaman in the 1950s. I feel like it conveys the sense of peaceful wonder Laos left me with. I hope you go there one day, because I’ll join you if you do.