Thursday, June 09, 2005

No One Told You Life Was Going To Be This Way

Hark! Backpacker! Come to Vang Vieng. It’s a lovely Laotian hamlet just north of Vientiane and it won’t take more than a couple days of your time, assuming you muster the good sense to leave. Get off the bus and choose a guesthouse, any ole’ guesthouse, they’re all the same. Get a nice one down on the river if you like. Look at the limestone cliffs on the other side of the water, watch the sun go down behind them from your porch.

Get dinner at a restaurant, any ole’ restaurant, they’re all the same. You’ll see. Same menu, same prices, same little cushioned platforms with little knee-high tables. The seats all face TV’s playing episodes of Friends. All the places—four or five of them can be seen from one spot in the middle of the dusty main road—are not only all playing Friends, but playing the same season of Friends at the same time. This is not hyperbole in any form, so please friend, really, choose any ole’ restaurant. You’ll choose the one that’s always crowded of course because you think maybe you’ll start a conversation with one of the other solos taking up their own booth. You might even nod a knowing nod at the girl you left in the middle of season eight last night, who is now eating breakfast to the early episodes of season nine. You’ll make a joke to the girls to the right about them maybe watching too many episodes if they know there the rapid fire “da-dam-da-dam” hits in the “I’ll Be There For You” open. You’ll smile appreciatively at the different quick-cutting shots they use in the open from season to season. You’ll think about peaking your head into one of the dim, sparse bars that have dared to play Kill Bill instead. (This is literally the only other programming I’ve seen in any of the bars of Vang Vieng). But you’ll see it’s a bad copy of the movie and keep walking.

In the day go to a travel place, any ole’ travel place, and rent a tube. You’ll know the tubes are all the same because no matter who you give your $4 to, the same pick-up picks you up and drives you three miles up the river. They drop you all off and give you good-sized yellow inner tubes and you jump in the river. You drift down slowly; no, leisurely, with your French-Canadian friends and the Aussie girls who shared your pick-up and the Danish couple that didn’t speak but were physically in the pick-up too. After not long guys on the banks of the river start throwing ropes and bamboo sticks at you, shouting “jump and beer, jump and Lao beer.” You grab a rope and they pull you to the side of the river. They’ve built little bamboo platforms on the edge of the river. They’ll watch your tube for you as you buy a Lao beer and jump off their platform into the river. The jump is free if you buy a beer. If you don’t buy a beer the jump costs 5000 kip, half the price of a beer. So you buy the beer and make the jump—10 to 20 feet depending on the place. The water is deep enough, they insist, and on your first jump—when you fold your legs to stop from going in too deep—you can’t even touch bottom. The second time you do more of a pencil jump, going much further down and hitting your left foot hard on the rocky bottom and maybe breaking a bone.

You drift along for awhile and get another beer and talk to the Aussie girls and start to feel tired that way you do when you drink in the afternoon. You get back and take a shower and head into town for a coffee and a snack. A coffee and snack should be the length of one Friends episode (all the commercials are cut out and they play on an incessant, continual, addictive loop). You think you’ll make something out of your evening after the snack but then it starts pouring and there’s no way you’re walking anywhere in that so you do some e-mail and it’s still raining so you have to go back and watch a few more episodes and get some dinner and watch a few more episodes. You have to be sad that you’re leaving Asia and its quirky, pointless, carbon-copied backpacker sloth-villes. So please, visit Vang Vieng or Ko Samui or Siem Reap or Nha Trang. Any ole’ backpacker town, they’re all the same. But you’ll remember Vang Vieng; that’s the one with the tubes on the river under the limestone cliffs.

6 Comments:

At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Akshay said...

Seems like heaven and hell at the same time. Good times to be lazy and just drift and relax, but then you're stuck with...well, Friends 24 hours a day. Do they have Seinfeld?

 
At 8:49 PM, Blogger *BITCHES* said...

as i have no desire to do what you're doing brook, thank you, b/c this way i can live vicariously through you and never have to leave the comfort of my bed. i will however, drag my ass out of bed for new years 2005 in ny...

 
At 5:03 PM, Blogger Brook said...

euros love Friends and have no need for seinfeld...can't explain it...mmm, new years

 
At 7:07 PM, Blogger KT said...

...another New Years, eh? Does this mean we have to find another girl friend named Katie?

 
At 6:27 PM, Blogger Brook said...

no Dodd? Outrage! I'll start looking for a third Katie now...Do Czechs name girls Katie? I'll go find out.

 
At 9:12 PM, Blogger KT said...

Actually I meant us three plus yet ANOTHER Katie. (Cuz ya know, every new years has to be a step up from the last, right?)

Or maybe we can find another Brook to even out the ratio a bit. =p

 

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