Day 16 – On the brink of getting out of Vientiane

i was planning to get the daytime bus to Luang Prabang and got up at 7am to sort myself out. But, the prospect of arriving there in the middle of the evening and having to search for a room put me off. I bought a ticket which means I will miss the passing countryside, but I hope I can see it on the way back.
After a chat with a guy from Singapore called Mervin I walk across the sands of the Mekong to sit by the water. and it really is like a beach with fine sand…and nobody there.
My novice friend and I have a chat by SMS (so weird when you think about it) and I get him confused when I mention my orientation. Either unheard of to him or just doesn’t get what I mean. I guess sometimes it’s better avoiding those issues.
Anyway I decide to spend my day on foot for a change and go to the veggie buffet place and am the only customer. It’s another 2 juice day, the best one coming at the end: lemon and mint…wow it really punches the thirst.I also devote some time to my book The Redundancy of Courage by Timothy Mo. Oddly it’s the second book I’ve read this trip on the subject of war. This is a satire on civil war in South East Asia. It could be Malaysia or Indonesia.
I spend most of the afternoon watching everyday stuff at the big central market, which was originally housed in a pair of temple-like cantilever-roofed houses.

The space between them has now been taken up by a newly constructed and unfinished modern shopping mall. There are a few shoe and belt stores on the basement and the first floor has a couple of jewellery stalls which seem to be being kitted out.

Other units are empty. The top 2 floors are reachable by escalator and there is no security to stop you wandering the acres of empty spaces and looking through unglazed spaces onto the roof of the old market and the haphazard overspill mess of corrugated roofs and tarpaulin covers.

Under these is a maze of stalls selling everything from washing machines to books to dried fish to yards of fabric. This is also where the hairdressers are. The smell of heated hair mingles with tossed threshed garlic and offal.

Women crouch on their stalls chopping meat, an old lady lounges among her baskets of oranges.

Porters wait to be called to wheel their handcarts across the broken concrete floor full of bags of goods. I am the only falang there.

ThisĀ is not Tesco’s. Shopping is noisy smelly hot work, and selling looks exhausting. Brand presence? There is none.
Outside the new market (mall) there is a pick-up. On board is a Buddha statue, it’s a kind of portable temple. A young orange-robed novice sits in there cross-legged tying orange strings around the wrists of supplicants. An old man in regular dress sporadically bangs a gong hanging from the struts of the pick-up.

Now 45 minutes until my pick-up for the bus to Luang Prabang. Finally moving again.