After Songkran little Jameson and I packed our things to set out on a three day journey to Luang Prabong, Laos. That night, Jamie woke up with the yaks continuing until the next morning when we awoke bright and early to catch a mini-bus for a winding ride through the mountains. My own flood of nausea accompanied the early morning rays and I fought back bile burps, believing I can think my way out of vomiting, considering it’s been years since I’ve puked—sober or intoxicated. I’ve got a steel stomach.
I manage to sleep all 8 hours of this hellish bus ride, a nominal feat for a terrible sleeper. Jamie and I forced sprites down our throats at the first rest stop and couldn’t even find the physical strength to walk a block to take pictures of the amazing White Wat in Chiang Rai; something I’ve wanted to see forever. Finally we’re dropped at a random guesthouse where the driver instructs the entire van that we’re to stay until tomorrow morning when we board the slow boat.
With the departure of the van drivers went the last shred of informed people with English language, leaving us alone at this Psycho-esque motel 6. After 20 exhausting minutes of sweaty charades, I manage to get Jamie and I into a private aircon room, where we immediately crash for another five hours. Jamie showers as I flip between our two available tv channels—Thai soap operas or Thai game shows. I settle on more sleep. An hour later, I decide it’s my turn to shower the travel grime from my body, when I realize our water ceased flowing. Weak to the point of forgoing cleansing my filthy body for another 20 hours until the boat docks, I lay back in bed. But the insight that my hair has enough grease in it to power a KFC factory, rises my zombie body from the bed.
I ask one of the Thai women where I can shower and she points to a bathroom down a creepy alleyway, but I grab my toiletries, now determined to find running water. I soon discover this bathroom hasn’t any water either, save the butt sprayer that trickles a decent stream when operated low to the dirt-encrusted tile. So here I am, more physically weak than an osteoporosis patient, Asian squatting in the middle of a disturbing commode, whose wallpaper was no paper at all, but imprints of the carcasses of jungle creatures as well as shadows of living ones. At this point, I’m close to my low point in traveling and Thailand in general fighting back tears and the urge to rip this ass hose out of the wall and choke someone with it.
The next morning, we saunter down to the boat dock and are shuffled into this wooden arc filled with people who’d managed to get their sleepy asses up to stake claim on some seats. Seats being the wobbly old mini-van benches some shyster stripped from a junkyard to set precariously on the running boards of an already questionably secure “watercraft.” Apparently, slow boat is code for Farang Slave Ship.
We’re herded with the other stray sheep to the back of the boat, behind the engine, where we realize we’re being forced to sit Indian style for the next 8 hours behind this massive, toxin-emitting engine. After avoiding a near-death conversation with creepy Chem Trails man, I occupied my time with journaling and staring out the square portal to the past. Through that window, I watched tiny villages pass where children dance and swim at the bank of the muddy river, wearing little beyond a smile, simply enjoying the company of other kids just all being real kiddy. And as much as I sound like a predator, I yearned for that innocence, to be swimming stark naked in a river in the middle of the woods.
These little mountain goat children hop from cliff to cliff on quartz moon rocks, their padded jungle feet adhering to the slippery surface like tiny Velcro shoes. I gave a wave to a small boy fishing and he countered by raising his trophy—a tiny fish barely visible—pride glowing on his tiny face. These scenes transported my mind to a much simpler time, where a lone fisherman fastens a blue tarp into his blue shelter on his deserted strip of heaven. And as sun dips below the mountains, a flaming raspberry hanging above the jagged space crystals and paints the mountains as pink as those strangely pigmented buffalo littered along the riverbank, I’m thankful for this rickety boat, gas fumes and Laos.