I based this day on meetings-up, which actually were short-lived. I should have left town today, but it’s OK, I’m still on schedule.
This is Christmas Day, but it just feels like a Sunday. Most places are closed. My morning is a gentle cycle to a few Wats, taking me to an Indian lunch. I have bought a Laos SIM card to facilitate rendezvous, but neither Sombath nor Em reply during the morning.
After a pineapple lassi I cycle out of town via Wat Si Muang, which is built around a stone pillar and worshipped as the founding stone of Vientiane. Planted there when King Setthathirath decamped his capital from Luang Prabang. Before the pillar was lowered into the hole it now stands in a volunteer sacrifice was needed to jump into the hole. They got this. Apparently.
Back to the sauna. Fewer people and I get chatting with Tobias. a German who is working as a volunteer marketing water processing plant equipment.
After some SMS chit-chat I meet Sombath, the novice, once more at the Mekong. He asks me to read to him the story of the young Buddha, and I teach him some words, but I don’t think he grasps them. Feels like the people around us are listening in. What a weird thing to be doing. Before we part I ask him about his dream and hope. He wants to be a “businessman” and earn money to support his family and develop his country. I thought he might say that. I take a last picture of him. It looks timeless. Orange robes, dignity, a background of the desert-like dry Mekong Riverbed.
I have also been trying to meet Em, with whom Ive been chatting on-line for quite a long time. I’m a bit confused by his texts and when he does turn up on his motorbike I have already gone for dinner. When we meet we barely talk and I don’t really understand what we are going to do. Anyway it turns into a 20 minute windy bomb around some of the sights (which I have already seen) with a few snatches of question and answer. Then back to my guesthouse and he rides off to work. So weird, we didn’t even have a conversation or even look at each other’s faces.
Evening again and nothing much to do once more.