That ain’t no Lao Santa
I wonder if they met at Samlo
Was I that drunk?
Whenever I’m faced with an early morning departure, I usually try to stay
up all night partying, intending on sleeping when I’m on the
train/plane/boat. In Russia, I passed out many times just as the train was
pulling out of the station at 6am, for the Russians do know how to party.
In China, my luck wasn’t so good, for the Chinese, with a low alcohol tolerance,
aren’t ones to down vodka by the liter. Facing a 10:30 am flight to
Bangkok this Christmas morning, I tried my luck with the Lao, and what a
night I had!
My Christmas morning didn’t start the way it usually does, with piles
of wrapping paper scattered all over the living room floor as my parents
and I dig for the goodies. No, Christmas Morning of 1999 officially
started with me standing on the back of a Lao’s moped, flapping my wings
and trying to fly.
I’d planned my cash, and Christmas Eve found me with $5 in kip (Lao
money) and all of the Vientiane nightlife to explore. I started out at
Samlo, an expat pub, where less than a $1 got me a liter of BeerLao
and a seat next to a New Yorker and a Londoner taking the piss out of each
other. No, this isn’t some odd homosexual twist, ‘taking the
piss’ is English slang for talking crap about life, love, and the
usual bar subjects.
Two hours, another liter of beer, and an Aussie later, I was chatting
with a Finn, an Aussie and two local girls. With those bad three to two
odds, I moved over to a table of guys from Detroit who were having a blast
barking like dogs. With my own yep added, we managed to formulate an
excursion to the Chess Club with three local girls.
This is where the moped scene comes in. Unlike anywhere else I’ve ever
been, everyone in Vientiane rides mopeds or motorcycles, and from this
experience, I have only one observation: Chicks on bikes is sexy! So there
I was, on the back of a Lao’s moped, singing, flapping my arms, and if the
fuzzy memory is correct, I even stood up and closed my eyes to feel like
Luckily, we arrived at the club alive, though the Lao girl quickly
disappeared when the massive language barrier (she didn’t know English
or Russian and I sure don’t know Lao) became apparent.
Her friends then sent what I vaguely remember as a procession of women
over to me, either to keep me busy while they seduced the men from Detroit
or because Lao is just that friendly of a place. I didn’t last long as
the odd man out, and wandered outside for a tuk tuk home. These
three-wheeled motorcycles, with benches in the back for six, are the
luxury limos of Laos, and this night I was the sugar daddy paying for a
group of Laos to get home after working at the restaurant next door.
We didn’t make it to my hotel, not because none of could speak the
same language, but because the tuk tuk, as happens, broke down a block
away. Walking home in the cool night air, I heard a ‘hello’ (I
told ya they’re friendly!) and wandered into a birthday party going in
full swing. There I found a seat, tasty Lao food, and a Russian speaking
host, proud to show off his 20-year-old daughter to the world.
I don’t have a clue if I ever saw her, but I did see a photo of him
and his brother on Red Square in Moscow, one of the few signs the Soviets
were in this People’s Democratic Republic. At daybreak, I crawled up the
stairs to my room, skipping the cold water shower, and just brushing my
teeth before heading to the airport.
As I slowly sobered up at the airport, I found more money in my pocket,
about $5 in kip. Without a clue how I got it, and no need for the money
now, I gave it to a young mother who could use it, while she waited with
her friends and family for a flight to some remote village.
Hey, it is Christmas morning!
Now, after a swim in the pool, and fresh seafood fried rice for lunch,
I’m gonna take a well-deserved nap before seeing what presents await me in
a Bangkok Christmas Saturday night.