Monday, 5 November 2012

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A – Day 8: Battered babes and the blue lagoon

I was walking down some street in London, and kept amusing myself by quickly turning towards young kids, stepping to them with a loud stomp like I was going to attack. I found it hilarious how they’d all jump. One of the boys I did it to had a really attractive mum, and we got chatting. She said she was glad that I’d shit him up, saying that he was naughty and deserved it. As we strolled along conversing, an old guy tried to school boy me by kicking my back leg into the front one as I walked. It was clear he was trying to show me up. He took another kick at my bag, but I turned and caught his leg with one hand, pulling him down and dragging his old arse across the road. I pulled myself away from the old man, and back into my bed, just as my alarm went off and I realised I’d been having one of those vivid dreams that I often get, which leave me equally as tired when I wake as I continue living for all those lost hours in a different world, then returning to this one. If there is any lesson I can take from this dream experience, it’s that I’m now at the perfect age, 28, to beat people up, regardless of whether they are in the older or younger brackets. If they’re young and smaller than me, chances are one dig will lay them out, and if they are old, they are easier to push over and then punish. Being a practicing pacifist, all of this is irrelevant as I never want to throw another punch again, but it’s an interesting thought nonetheless.

I snoozed for ten minutes to make sense of what was going on. With the second alarm, I jumped up into my dehydrated shell of a body and hurriedly threw all of my crap into my bag, before checking out downstairs. Ben, Eran, Ieke, Maddie and I discussed my dream, and lucid dreaming in general, as we ate breakfast at the organic cafe, and I told them that my usual mechanism is to wake myself up as soon as I realise I’m dreaming, in order to avoid the disturbing things that usually occur. I agreed to remind myself to change that function, and instead try to control things when it happens next.

We went to a tour and travel store and I haggled a guy with a van down to a reasonable price for our group to go and see the Kyang Nuai waterfall and the Blue Lagoon for the afternoon, before our bus back to Vientiane arrived at 1.30pm. After a 20 minute drive we were dropped off, it was another small village with a few wooden huts and some locals with large red cool boxes brimming with icy drinks, smiling at us as we passed by. We trekked along a rocky path up the mountain, across a dangerous looking bridge made of rope and wood which took us over a small waterfall below, and further into the forestry to be greeted with an 80ft, heavily gushing, turquoise waterfall. We all stripped off and skipped the stones across to get as close to its full force as possible. Now even when three metres away from it you’d still get splashed by it, however, underneath it was a whole different ball game. It felt like taking a power shower with rocks instead of water, and I took the lashing for a good minute or two before backing off and laying a few feet away up against the rock face beside it. It was so refreshing to wake up by being blasted in the face with the full force and power of Mother Nature. My own Mother had never woken me up in such a way, perhaps if she did I’d be a doctor now instead of a poet. Or perhaps I’d have killed myself. Who knows.

Celebrating my morning power shower

We dried off on the ten minute walk back to the van, grabbed a couple Beer Lao’s from the lovely ladies cooler and went on our way, arriving at the Blue Lagoon just as I’d finished my last sip. We all clambered out of the hot van, and stripped off once more before diving in. There was a great tree that hung over the lagoon which had been rigged with ropes, swings, and steps up to two branches, one notably higher than the other. I climbed up to the first level, tip toed my way along the branch with a rope in hand, then jumped off like Tarzan, gripping the rope with my legs for a fair old swing, before letting myself fly. I crash landed in the fresh water and swam to the shore, noticing a series of cuts up my shin which must’ve been from the rope. We all took it in turns to dive whilst the others took sequenced snap shots, capturing our journey from air to water.

When I’d finally readied myself, I made the mission up to the trees’ second branch to complete my leap of faith. This man made route definitely could’ve done with some repair work after probably thousands of feet had scaled each step and some of them were missing, but I steadily ascended, and wobbled my way across, feeling weak at the knees. It looked higher than James Brown in his prison mug-shot now that I was standing there, but there was no turning back on my quest for YES! As my legs were about to leave me, I left them. On my descent I heard a high pitched shriek, it was only as my head hit the water that I realised it was coming from me. I laughed underwater bubbles at myself and checked to make sure I still had two testicles, before emerging from the pool safe and semi-sound.

Again, we dried in the sun and watched as others followed our earlier movements, then at 12.30pm, returned to our van and headed back to Pan’s Place. I had a quick wash and said goodbye to my three day family that I’d grown really fond of, then threw my bag onto the first of a series of vehicles that would be taking us down to Si Phan Don, the 4000 Islands. Maddie and I were first so we scored the front row of seats behind the driver as he did the rounds, collecting a bunch of sun tanned travellers, a lot of whom we’d already crossed paths with in the bars and river. I got chatting to a funny nineteen year old kid called Ben from Chelmsford. He said that he hated London and that it was a shit-hole, but when questioned further, he hadn’t really been there except for Oxford Street and Dagenham, which is a fair shout if I’m honest. We had a good laugh along the 5 hour drive, sharing stories of what we’d seen and done so far. He handed me a little container, and when questioned told me it was his appendix, which he’d had taken out one week prior. He also told me that he got his scrotum pierced. I said that I hope that decision doesn’t come back to sting him, but in all honesty it probably will. The ball bag is ugly enough as it is. No amount of work, short of chopping them off completely, was gonna make them look any more becoming. You can’t just whack a pearl earring in and hope they gain some sort of distinguished reputation. It’s all bollocks to me anyway, he was happy, so I was too. He got out his laptop and we watched about an hour of The Other Guys, both cracking up constantly whilst the maniac driver drove from side to side of the road often narrowly escaping impact by inches. I’d survived with the drivers in India, so this didn’t faze me like it would have done a few years ago. We arrived at a travel office in Vientiane and everybody went their separate ways. We were told to come back in an hour, so went off for a stroll through a nearby night market.

I grew bored quickly and wanted some more barbequed meat after passing a place that had enticed me earlier, so I left Maddie and headed back, stopping on the way at a stall that sold stress balls with the globe on them. I liked the idea of holding the whole world in my hands, and if I ever feel evil enough I might give it a squeeze, just to shake things up a bit. I demolished my half roast duck in record timing, downed a bowl of rice, then found a quiet spot to smoke some Bethnal Green outside a housing complex down the street from the store. I went back in and waited until Maddie and a van arrived to take us to the bus depot. As we waited two more girls arrived, one of whom seemed to be struggling, so I gave her a hand, pulling her ridiculously over-stuffed bag onto the back of the van as she swung her leg over and sat. She looked in real pain, I hated it. “Fucking mopeds”, I thought in my head. You see it a lot, holiday makers limping around, scratched up to shit and bandaged all over after taking a spill on a hired scooter. Fuck that for a laugh. We all got chatting, and it turned out that they were two sisters from Australia, Rachael and Katherine, and also heading to the 4000 Islands. Maddie asked Rachael what had happened and she explained that they were out drinking with locals the night before, and pretty drunk when they decided they wanted to find a club or bar with foreign travellers. They were led by two cops, who then took them into a room in some place that quite clearly wasn’t a bar. They were somehow separated, and the cop put his gun down on the table and stuffed his tongue down Rachael’s throat. Fearful that reacting badly or causing a scene could anger him, she allowed it for a second, knowing that a kiss is no big deal, but when he opened a door and gestured for her to go inside, she burst into tears. Somehow as this was happening her younger sister Kat managed to get her out and they both sprinted off, being chased by the crooked cops. Whilst running, she tripped on one of the open holed street drains and went flying, smashing her knee and face in the process. She was so thankful that her little sister saved her, and dealt with the situation well, as things could have been so much worse. I was so angered by her story that I could feel my blood boiling, I abhor the cowardly fucking cunts that put women through shit like this, and felt instantly protective of the poor things. It made me think back to some of the treatment Sarah got in India and I felt extremely upset for these girls. They said they just wanted to get out of town, and that they’d feel safer when they did. I told them that they’d be safe from now on and that we’d stick together. After a short wait I loaded our bags onto the sleeper bus which would be taking us overnight to Pakse, and we tunnelled past the series of cots on either side until we reached our bed numbers. We were the only four foreigners and were all thrown together at the back of the bus. Rosa Parks wouldn’t have stood for that, but we were thankful as it meant that rather than having to squeeze two into the space of a single bed, we had enough space for the four of us to lay quite comfortably. That was until the bus started moving, then we felt every bump.

A line popped into my head so I went to write it down, and it turned into another little ditty for my darling, who I was well aware wasn’t having the best of times dealing with my absence:

“Distance is deceptive when you’re in my heart,
never too far from each beat,
now that I’ve found my missing part,
every moment feels complete.
There’s no need for sadness, no reason to cry,
when love is all we see.
Each night I’ll write you a lullaby,
if you dream a little dream of me.”

I had a big bag of sugary sweets and some valium, which I’d bought in Vang Vieng, and shared both with my three companions. Like somebody had hit my off switch, I was out for the count.

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