From Vietnam to Laos, the mini bus leaves only once a day.
This sentence contains everything, including the fact that on that day from the entire border town of Dien Bien Phu only a few travelers and a few local people are heading to Laos, which suggests that this is not a very popular direction. The minivan moves unhurriedly, stopping here and there, efficiently taking various goods for transport (roof plate, food bags, bucket with something alive), thus filling all available space. The driver is doing very well, and this pleases Kitty R. (in Vietnam she has already vomited a few times because of the driver’s madness; the situation when even local women have softened and got off earlier than their destination). The road itself often has holes, stones and lots of bends. As soon as Kitty R. crosses the border between Vietnam and Laos (she loves border crossings in the mountains!) she immediately falls in raptures. The power of nature, cloves and forest plants piling up in the surrounding mountains; a real multi-layered jungle covers the mountains completely, presenting all the shades of green that only nature could come up with.
At noon Kitty R. and Sir Last arrive at the small town of Muong Khua, rather a transit type for most travelers. A narrow bridge, suspended on ropes high above the river leads Kitty R. and Sir Last, (how else?) to the only guesthouse in the town. In the evening, they treat themselves with their first beer lao and local moonshine, they eat home-made dinner together with other travellers (a couple of older Australians on a Hong Kong cycling trip over to Laos, young architects from Germany and Austria on a longer vacation, Argentinian from Australia heading to Europe, a French man travelling around with no fixed plan, a Dutch team consisting of grandmother, mother and daughter traveling around the world for several months). The host of the place gives Kitty R. an awesome gift: the Polish edition of the Unbearable Lightness of Being (Polish letters, welcome back!), In return Kitty R. leaves a polish crime detective book. In general, these mobile libraries delight Kitty R.; the traveler takes a book from one place, in return leaves another, and after reading leaves it in the next place or country; that’s the reader-travel circle! Moreover even the book explores different countries. Wonderfull!
From the town, if at least 4 people gather, a boat leaves once a day. With the same crew, a bunch of people who accompanied Kitty R. and Sir Last on the way to Vietnam and later dinner, they board a tiny, narrow boat and start moving deeper into Laos. It flows through the jungle, a winding river between the mountains, tossing a hen or sack of onion into the villages hidden by the banks of the river. At the same time nothing happens and everything happens. Every now and then Kitty R. observes water buffaloes immersed in water, sometimes a stunningly blue bird flies, sometimes the usually inaccessible jungle is slightly thinning and a tiny village full of bamboo huts appears. At this moment Kitty R. promises herself to watch again Apocalypse now.
After a few good hours on a narrow Lao boat, Kitty R. and Sir Last reach Muong Ngoy. Some people accuse this village of excessive tourism (is it a disease nowadays?), but Kitty R. has the impression that this is a huge exaggeration. For her, the local population is perfectly integrated with tourism, with pleasure for both sides; the atmosphere is lazy and not invasive. In fact, the whole village is built around one stony street, along which there are only a few home diners. There are no ATMs, hotels, bookingcoms, agencies offering tours. There is no chocolate in a small shop; instead there is beer, lemon, cola, ginger and batteries. One day Kitty R. and Sir Last order a pumpkin curry, the young girl takes the order and then lively runs to the backyard garden to collect and then bring a nice pumpkin to the kitchen (so fresh and so delicious!). The same girl catches butterflies with her hand and then opens it to spread beautiful white little butterflies around Kitty’s face. Her father welcomes Kitty R. and her travel friends with shots of Lao moonshine. Time spent in Muong Ngoy passes in a very pleasant comradeship, with L. and Y., wonderful people from Argentina and France; characters with whom Kitty R. and Sir Last quickly clicked on well and all together bent space-time to a completely free, lazy flow for next days.
Kitty R. and Sir Last install themselves in one of the modest bungalows near the river bank, neighbouring Y. and L. bungalow. They spend time in the village admiring the beauty of the surrounding mountains covered with jungle and watching the life of the villagers rolling around the river. Kitty R. also experiences her first closer encounter with nature. Already on the first day she wakes up with a swollen and very painful eye and strange, extensive burns on her neck. It looks so strange, as if someone has pureed some acid on Kitty’s eyelid and neck that she. falls into panic. They go with Sir Last to the nearby house, where they ask the European who has lived here for 7 years, whether there is a doctor in the area; of course there isn’t, the nearest doctor is the whole day of the river-bus route from here. For this his Laotian wife approaches Kitty R., with a trained eye she looks at the kitty’s eye and makes a definite diagnosis:_ ‘ it is the urine of one of the insects that causes such burns and wounds, you have to wait’_. This Laotian woman is so sure of what she says that Kitty R. decides to trust her. She spends the following days in a hammock, admiring nature, the calmness and the local children frolicking in the river, making the pain slightly less. ‘The urine of insects caused burns to the eye and neck, sounds like some Si-fi insects!’- thinks Kitty R. What’s more, on the same day, an insect-beetle (a brown-green one) slipped into her flip-flop, and because she didn’t notice it at that moment, she stepped on the insect and felt such a pain that she sat up and was not able to think rationally for a quarter of an hour. After 24 hours, the bite on her foot swelled up so much, that the only thing Kitty R. was able to do was to continue her lifestyle, that is lie in the hammock, drink beer and read The Unbearable Lightness of Being (with one eye), remaining in the hope that the limit of bad luck had ran out for a while. And that it will heal soon..
For the fate of Laos! Kitty R. is delighted and in Laos-love!