The boat journey down the Mekhong to Luang Prebang had tuckered me out.
I didn’t realize it, and towards the afternoon of my arrival I decided to lay down ‘just for a few minutes’. When I awoke when it was nearly ten p.m., so I turned off the overhead fluorescent light, undressed and went back to bed. While I had been snoozing with the light on, a convention of beetles and assorted flying critters had found my room (they must have had a passkey) and had been having quite a shindig near the fluorescent lamp.
Now, without the lamp on, they had apparently become bored and so instead were now amusing themselves by dropping onto the rotating fan blades and then being flung downwards by the fan blades onto my semi-naked body. Perhaps this was some sort of the invertebrate version of an E-ticket ride. All through that night I kept having dreams of Lao beetles walking over my stomach, only to awake and find a hapless Lao beetle walking across my stomach, now quite lost without the handy lamp fluorescent lamp that I had thoughtfully provided earlier.
And where were my gecko pals now that I needed them?
Much of yesterday was spent lounging. My day started with cockerels crowing their hearts out from right beneath my bedroom window. This must have seemed reasonable to the roosters, it being nearly 5:00 in the morning. I wiped the beetles from my face, shuffled outdoors in my bare feet and listened to the BBC news at the top of the hour on my short-wave radio next to the river. After the BBC confirmed that there will not be peace in my lifetime, I went back in, showered and prepared for my busy day of lounging.
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I have settled in at a combination internet café and barber shop. Yesterday, I decided that I needed both services but was unsure of which to try first. I asked the proprietor of the internet café the price of the haircuts; a haircut in Luang Prebang is only 15,000 kip, slightly less than $1.50. I decided that perhaps that I would make fewer spelling mistakes with shorter hair, and opted to be shown the way to be shorn before checking my email. We both walked next door to the barber shop. The internet café owner is also the barber.
Shortly thereafter, now looking like an overweight Lao military officer, I sat around and read the important world news online, starting with a Dilbert cartoon. Occasionally, scruffy backpackers would poke their heads in, not needing haircuts, would inquire as to the price of internet usage. The going rate in Luang Prebang is 300 kip a minute. That miniscule amount of money (there is 10,141 kip to the US dollar) combined with unusual time period, discouraged several backpackers in a row, who scurried away with puzzled expressions.
Math is hard.
The manager within me surfaced and I proffered a suggestion. “These people don’t work by the minute” I said, “they want to know what it will cost for ten minutes; what it will cost by the hour”. This bit of business acumen went right over the head of my barber, so instead I composed a price list for him in MS Word (that I wrote in somewhat clear English) and suggested that he print it out and post it. It’s turns out that this internet café does not have a printer at its disposal, but I do highly recommend their haircuts.
After butchering the English language with my last email, I decided that it was time for lunch. I dined for a couple of bucks on Mutton Vindaloo curry, rice and a couple of vegetable Samosas. It was 85 degrees and quite humid and I was quite parched, so I astonished the staff by drinking three mango lassi’s in a row (the yogurt drink, not the Collie).
I like Luang Prabang very much.