I went to Laos the long way--overnight train from Bangkok to Nong Khai, different train from Nong Khai to Thanaleng, beat up old van from Thanaleng to Vientiane--and crossed the border on a rainy Monday morning (yes, two weeks ago because I've been writing.) I was here for two reasons. 1 was to continue this whole journey of exploration thingie, and 2 was to get this:
Now I can keep the journey going without having to leave every month (this gives me five with one border run in between). I know, sounds counterintuitive, but pulling up stakes on the regular gave diminishing returns--I was spending so much time looking for places to lay my head I rarely felt settled enough to pull thoughts out of it.
So Laos was the destination because, in addition to being a place people in the know told me I had to go, the Thai Consulate there is the easiest and fastest.
I was in and out in 20 minutes for visit one (document drop-off and verification), so all was as advertised (so far). Next it was time to find local currency and SIM card before checking into the hotel. And as I walked down Vientiane's sometimes crumbling, sometimes crowded sidewalks...
in a gentle rainshower, I began to giggle at my good fortune. At this strange and beautiful life I'm now living. Four months ago I was in an office, going through the motions in transitioning to my fourth manager in less than a year--and while two of them had been very good and one was tolerable, this boss would be impossible. Thanks to him I saw the best minds of my division destroyed by his madness, dragging themselves through pointless meetings looking for a deliverable fix so-called strategy concocted by a clueless nimrod Dilbert parody.
I wasn't having it. Granted, I'd long before made my decision (for that and other reasons), but it was a valuable exclamation point to see where the company was moving--far from where I thought it should.
So instead of refreshing yet another slide deck, iterating prior recommendations that weren't heeded into new recommendations that wouldn't be heeded, I was starry of eye and gapped of mouth, drinking in the view of my fourth Southeast Asian country in as many months. I never expected the capital city to be so lush and verdant--guess the rains weighing down my clothes and pack explained some of that.
But who cared about a little water? Look at where I was--and think about where I wasn't!
So my humor was buoyant. Giddy, even. Even when the first ATM didn't take my card. Even when I had to walk on and on and on since Vientiane didn't have five ATMs at every corner like in Bangkok. Even as the rains picked up, steadier and harder, soaking me through. 'Well at least it's not sweat.'
When I saw the second ATM sign I felt relief--with a twinge of cynicism. 'Assuming it works.' I crossed the street, entered the booth...
and it didn't. It sucked being right.
Back into the torrents.
This walk was no longer charming or fun. I wasn't giddy. I was trudging. I wasn't doubting my decision, exactly. I certainly wasn't missing that old life--but I was missing dry).
Then I saw this:
Those white streaks are rain--you should've seen me trying to protect my iPhone possession while capturing a message I knew I needed to retain. A reminder that I am exactly where I need to be.
The walking went on for quite a while, and three more ATM rejections later I gave up, found a tuktuk (thankfully I had just enough in foreign currency to pay him) to my hotel, stripped off my waterlogged clothes and got warm and rested under the covers.
Of course it all worked out--the logistical details of such not worth repeating. But the photos of my next days in one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen surely are. Please enjoy:
Bonus: my next to last day in Laos, while in Luang Prabang, I got wet again: