So, I was not planning on posting today, however as we were driving from Vang Vieng to Vientiane today I witnessed an event that made me cringe, so I decided to create a special post. Also, I totally forgot to mention something that we did in Luang Prabang that you may find interesting.
First off, the cringe worthy event. This may only interest a certain few readers, particularly those who cycle, but there was a charity cycling race on the main highway from Vientiane to Vang Vieng today. You may ask, why is that such a cringe worthy event? Well, if you had read a few of my previous posts you would be familiar with the highway system in Laos and how its drivers navigate on it. There are no shoulders to ride on, there are no center lines to keep each driver in the lanes. Combine that with the hairpin turns that require a horn to announce your right of passage and you have a scary piece of road. Add to this about 1000 cyclists and you have yourself a cringe worthy event. There were no safety cars, no aid stations, nothing. You just got on your bike and cycled the 200+ kms to your destination. I do not even really like riding the Sea to Sky highway that has a shoulder. There is no way you would get me on a bike on the highway here. I really would not be surprised if I read about an accident in the race in tomorrow’s news.
Anyways, that was it. It may not seem like much but I was pretty taken aback by it. Hopefully nothing goes wrong.
Now, about that other thing we did while in Luang Prabang. One morning we actually volunteered our time at an organization called Big Brother Mouse. It was started by an expat who, many years ago, noticed that people in Laos do not read books. When asking around he was told that people do not read as there are no real books to read. He set about creating books for children that would make reading fun. They have now produced many books for kids and have started programs to get them out into rural villages as well. This is a pretty simplistic summary of what they do and I would encourage everyone to look them up. We actually went to their office one morning and spoke English with locals who wanted to practice. I actually sat with a novice monk who was reading the Life of Pi. Not really a good book for a beginner but he tried his best. I helped him understand what he was actually reading and explained to him words he did not know. After that we just chatted about where I am from and where I have traveled and where he would like to travel and do when he is older. It was a pretty fun experience.
Aside from that we are now in Vientiane. We are staying at a place called the Moonlight Champa. It is really nice. They have a white board out front and our names were written with a message welcoming us today. It is a really well run place. It is probably the nicest place we have stayed at so far and it is not even the most expensive. We spent the afternoon walking around and visited the COPE centre, which is a museum of sorts on unexploded ordinance in Laos. It is the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world and there are still many casualties each year from all of the cluster bombs that did not explode during the 60s and 70s. We are going to check out the local food market tonight, hopefully to get some pork bracelets (use your imagination) and will then head down to the night market. We fly out tomorrow and I am not looking forward to leaving the life of shorts and t-shirts for that of coats and shoes but vacation had to end sometime.