Never tangle with a travel writer. You too might end up at a street corner doubling as a bar, at 2 a.m., in a communist police state. One with 12 a.m. curfew, and a man in green with a big gun across his chest, watching, to see just what you are going to do when you finish that beer you seem to be drinking rather slowly…

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ITB needed his BeerLao. It seemed a great idea in Udon Thani, Thailand. Two TripAtlas travel writers in town. Blow going down to watch redshirts in Bangkok, the rest are all here. Team effort on Buan That Luang, the biggest festival in Laos.

Well, it would have been a team effort, instead of a Naga Saga coming from every which way. If Anne Anderson had remembered to take her phone to Vientiane, ITB had remembered to mention the name of the house of the boom boom room, and either had been able to see each other for monks and two million other people.

Following a swarm of people we found the festival before ITB found a hotel. They turned us out so that the rubbish collectors could get in. There’s something about going out of a different gate and following a southern hemisphere sense of direction north of the equator.

For the next three hours, Lao people were so nice. When asked for directions to barely remembered landmarks, clutched like straws in speech, they did not like to disappoint. Why disappoint by saying you don’t know when an answer will make falang happy?

The midnight tuk tuk drivers were a different breed. They offered help at prices intended to blanch white falang faces. They did.

Courtesy of the grandmother, runner of the street corner bar, and the singer, ITB turned up a hotel. He had to wait until 3a.m. for the “boom, boom” in his room to finish. We’re still not sure about the sheets…

More about ITB’s souveniers in the second Naga Saga, this way, some people never know how to find a rainbow in the clouds. Anyone would think he didn’t know about bed bugs.

But the strife and turmoil of human life all melts away like orange candles, and unless you’ve been to That Luang, you’ve never been to Laos.

The Kings of Ankor in Cambodia built a laterite road leading to the place where the Golden Stupa stands. A swamp nearby probably once harboured Nagas, water snakes demanding sacrifice. After Theraveda Buddhism arrived, so did one of Buddha’s many pieces: perhaps a hair, perhaps a finger nail.

Seated King Xetthathirat’s statue stands before the monument he built. Four hundred and fifty years ago he moved his capital to Wing Chiang to keep Burmese kings at bay. Golden spires rise around a golden dome, topped with a finial.

Each year, at the full moon of the 12th month, Laos empties into Vientiane for the festival of Buan That Luang. The pictures say it all.


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