So the hotel we had booked in Steng Trung said they would send a car to pick us up from the bus terminal. We arrived and there we were in a dirt parking lot. We called the hotel. “You want us to send a car to pick you up?” they asked incredulously. Hmmm, was it lost in translation, that we misunderstood the offer that encouraged us to book the hotel, or was it the communication between the people that had offered the ride, and the people that had to provide it. “Anyway, we send someone, but we need to charge like maybe $2 for this service”. We assured them that we would be ok with the added charges. Ten minutes later a kid showed up on a little scooter. We looked at our giant packs, and at the tiny bike. We thought that maybe he could take one of us and then come back for the other person. He assured us he could take us both and our packs too. We were skeptical, but there we were, three people, two large packs and a couple of smaller bags, zipping through the main dirt street on a tiny scooter, looking like a Barnum and Bailey clown show.
The hotel turned out to be nice enough. They originally put us on the first floor with an enormous picture window facing the street. They were happy to move us upstairs where the window display factor would be mitigated, as long as we were ok with twin beds instead of a double. I actually like the twin beds, because it gives us one bed for our packs and one for us to sleep in.
They suggested we go down to the Riverside Cafe to eat. That name really makes it sound nice. The food was ok though, and they also were a hostel and tourist agent. We found out that we could book passage up the Mekong river in a boat to the border of Laos for about $70, and a $35 to get us from the border to 4000 Islands, and an extra $10 to see the river dolphins on the way. Booya! We had been told the trip was impossible or that it would cost some unimaginable sum. We booked. The boat would leave early the next morning, and we ordered lunch to take with us on the boat.
We decided to go out to one of the nearby ruins of a temple and rented two motorcycles. Of course they didn't have automatics, but the shifters were easy to use. The first thing we had to do, was put some fuel in them. This was the most interesting part, because the gas pumps were oil drums with an old glass hand cranked pump. Luckily, there was an operator because I’m not sure I would have been qualified for the self service lane.
|Just a standard gas station in this part of the world. The other option is the self service area where you just buy old coke bottles filled with petrol and pour them in.|
We drove down the road past the village and past all the buildings on the outskirts, including the prison. We went over a giant modern bridge. As we drove up the country road, I stopped to hear music playing and noticed that the small village was having a wedding. The people came out and encouraged us to come in. We went and everyone was greatly entertained by our presence. The children were very happy to pose for us to take pictures and were so excited to see themselves moving on little videos.
|The lovely little rural wedding|
|Cooking the wedding meals|
|The boys were so happy to put on antics so we could film them|
In the end we gave them a few American dollars as a wedding gift and the priest tied a red string around my wrist and around Greg’s. It is a kind of blessing, and I hope still to have it when I return home. It is an interesting cultural difference that these people in their little tiny village with half a dozen big huts that they shared, had no issue with throwing their disposable plastic cups and packages wherever they fell. The ground was quite literally littered with them, and kids and adults alike just tossed their empty containers on the ground. This of course would have worked fifty or one hundred years ago, when there was no plastic, or even 20 or 30 years ago when most packaging was paper or cardboard, and drinks came in glass returnable bottles. Hopefully this disposable plastic society will come to an end before we have covered the entire earth in a plastic coating. If anyone reading this still drinks bottled water, I encourage you to watch a You Tube video called “The Story of Bottled Water”.
|Driving through the market|
|The little shops at the edge of the river|
|Houses at the edge of the river|
|A village house|