The Motorcycle Diaries, Laos
Friday, 29 April 2011 22:13
IMG_7766This feeling is inside me for a long time, got in my body such a virus and not going out. It is numbing my body and brain like a drug that I don't want to wake up. As I feel the humming of the wind in my ears, as the dust of the crimson dirt road filling in my eyes and turning into mud on my sweating face, the feeling is getting stronger. Although the heat burning the ground is hitting on my face such a flame ball I don't care due to this feeling. Only a muddy puddle I am passing on is able to cool my feet burning from the hot asphalt road. At this time waving of the bare foot kids by the road is taking me to those years I used to wave to tourists in my town. It makes me taste the pleasure of swimming with them in a brown river that I have never had before. All because of this feeling. This feeling which made Che Guevara to hit the road is also making me travel land by land, pushing me from one emotion to another one. I call this feeling freedom!

IMG_7714It was again an adventurous passing from Thailand to Laos. The train took us to Laos border was more like a metro rather than a train. The seats of the train were hard and also the direction of the seats were lateral to moving direction. The people lying on the floor was again the proof of our existence in the lowest class carrier as in all countries. We were almost at the border and we woke up by the people's panic moving towards doors also their shoutings. We were the only people didn't get what is happening and remained seated at this time. The flame appearing in the begining of the carrier, the smoke getting inside along with its smell evoked us one thing. One of the Thai man was able to say "fire fire" to us. We were sure about our idea anymore. The train was moving as fast as it can and also burning at the same time! The train could come to a small station and stop there. People jumped from the train immediately even some preferred to use the windows instead of the doors. Fortunately the fire was under control in few minutes and after some time we again got the same train and headed to border town Nong Khai.

IMG_8534Nong Khai is a border town settled by the Mekong River. This part of the river is the border line between two countries. After passing the friendship bridge connecting the two sides we came to Vientiane which is the capital city of Laos. The city is more like a town than a city and the life is quite unlike other capitals. The country got its freedom from French in 1949 and only thing remained from French seems their baguette breads. Country is administrated with Socialist Republic by the communist single party. Thats why there is always a communism flag just next to Laos flag everywhere. Due to this understanding all enterprices have to stop their work until midnight because the life should go on the following day properly. While we were stepping in the silent streets it was enough reason to get in the restaurant the name with "İstanbul". The owner is a Turkish family moved from İstanbul 4 years ago. After eating the tasty foods of the restaurant İdris Abi always filled our glasses with Turkish tea. İdris Abi, Songül Abla and Cem always helped us and let us spend good time during our stay in the city. Again we appreciate their behaviours.

IMG_7801We changed the format of our trip in Laos and we decided to travel the country by motorbike. While walking among the rental motorbikes we felt so close to one of them. How similar it was with the motorbike in the movie "The Motorcycle Diaries" that is telling the story of Che Guevara's journey. It was our new travel mate anymore that will accompany in Laos trip. We prepared a small back pack and left our big ones in İstanbul Restaurant. After we started a 10 days road trip adventure towards north Laos. First we headed to Buddha park on the way where various kinds of Buddhas take place including the huge lying Buddha. From here we moved towards Vangvieng town. The most important part of traveling by motorbike is discovering and socialising. We turned to several sub roads from the main road that we had no idea where it was going. These roads sometimes took us to a village and sometimes we came to a nice nature scene. Stopping and communicating with the people on the road made this trip more exciting. Due to bad road conditions and taking the secondary roads on the way, it took 7 hours to get to Vang Vieng which is 150 km away from Vientiane.

IMG_7842Vang Vieng is famous with Nam Song river just next to the town. There is an activity called tubing on this river which is made by inner tube. People take the inner tube and sail on the river for several hours where they can watch the nature. There are lots of bars by the river, those who have tubing might grab the ropes thrown from these bars and they can pull themselves to these bars any time. It is also popular to swing from the high platforms and release yourself to the brown and cold river water. These places are mostly preferred by party lover British people. Apart from these the town is famous with its caves. In fact there are many similar such caves in Turkey including the one "İnsuyu Cave" which is in my hometown Burdur. The only difference is in Laos that you can swim in such caves which I like. Thats why I released my body to the semi dark and cold cave water.

IMG_8132It may be the best week to be in Laos during the year. Because Laos new year is celebrated this week with a festival called Songkram. In this festival old and young all people throw water to each other and have fun. The last day of our Vang Vieng stay some people started the celebrations earlier. We were invited to the celebrations in a hospital garden. We accepted this invitiation and after getting under the water we danced with many local and got wet all day. After leaving from this party we were about to get dry but this time we were attacked by the kids on the street and we got wet again. We and our travel friend Megumi joined their game and we all became kids and played water with them. It reminded me the years in my childhood that we played this water game. The following day we left from the city and changed our direction to Luang Prabang city where the festival would be celebrated most crazy.

IMG_8069Luang Prabang journey was both difficult and funny. Because all the way on the road many people were prepared and they threw water on us. In the first minutes of the journey we immediately became wet. In fact it is nice feeling to get wet in such a hot weather but after getting wet some people threw powder on us so we had to ride like two ghosts on a motorbike. Since we had been attacked all the way we decided to give an answer and obtained our water pomp. Nothing can prevent us from getting wet nowadays so we just tried to get some fun as all other locals. On the way we were sometimes invited to tables but these invitations end up feeling a big bucket of water on our back and a greeting word, "happy new year". Besides our faces were painted in various colours by these people. We continued our way with some paint and pwoder on face, wet body. Our fighting with mobil trucks sometimes continued by stopping our vehicles.

IMG_8111While we were on a secondary dirt road we heard some music coming from a cave. As we stopped and checked inside we realized this cave was a temple and villager women were celebrating the new year by dancing. One of the women came to me and pulled me inside. I was surrounded by villagers. There was only one thing I could do, I took off my water weapon and started dancing as I felt. They served some warm local alcohol which was so hard to drink. At the exit of the cave we again had to water fight with the kids of the village where they were all prepared for us. What a wet day! We kept on going on our way. We came to an end where there was a pond and many children jumping in this natural pool by various acrobatical moves. We joined them and jumped into the water and got the pleasure with swimming them. Non of these children have a computer or television at their bamboo made home. But they were spending great time all together in this natural beauty. We said bye to our friends and turned our steering wheel to another point where the music comes from. It was again a new year celebration. We participated in this party also but unfortunately there was a situation with the motorbike. While our bike was parked due to soft ground it was falled on to a car. In order to compansate the driver's expense we gave all our money in our pocket. Now we had another problem, we didn't have any money even for buying gas. The closest ATM was 150 km away. We decided to keep on going where our gas will finish...

IMG_8466It was already evening time when we came to PhouKhon town on the way to Luang Prabang. According to our plans we were planning to spend the night in this town but we had no chance to fulfill this anymore. We were already hungry. We were used to stay homeless and hungry but we had a big travel mate with empty gas tank. There seemed there is no other possibilty to go to the closest village and to be guest on of the houses. Just that time one of the Laos people came to us and speak to us in English who changed everything. I would never expect somebody to speak English in this small town on the mountain. He asked us if he could do anything for us. We asked him if we can borrow some gas from the station and we would pay it back when we come back in few days. We have been to the only gas station in the town which was constructed from simple woods. The owner of the gas station agreed it and they filled two foreigners' gas tank without any money even they offered to give some extra in the bottle in case of need. We appreciated these men's help and hit the road again at night time. We have a 120 km way with holes on the road and lot of sharp curves. Besides the bike had problem during starting the engine that we had the push it sometimes. On the way we had the similar scenarios with the movie due to oil on the road. Fortunately we arrived in Luang Prabang, we were wet, cold, tired and we had powder, paint and oil on us.

IMG_8122The next day it was the first day of the festival thus people got in line by the main road of the city. Of course they had water pomps and buckets prepared. We had a walk on the street and got wet first, which is a must and we stand by the road where the ceremony will be made. All social foundations in the city attend this ceremony walk with their traditional clothes from monks to ladyboys. After some dance and fighting shows all city started a water game that I have never seen such a crazy fun before. All people in the city became wet in few minutes. Since everybody became wet tihs time people start powdering and painting. Our face first turned to red and then blue and black followed it. Even all shop owners were playing water in front of their shops. Once you need to buy something they come inside in a wet condition and do his job. As I saw the police officers trying to arrange the traffic in the city with some paint and powder on their faces and with wet uniforms I understand how they celebrate this festival. Apparently these officers were smiling while they were doing their job even though they were wet. We were not sure whether this game will continue the next day or not. The following day as soon as we stepped out from our hotel we felt a bucket of cold water on us and heard "happy new yeaaaar". Anymore we had no more suspect, the fight continued in the same way in the second day. All people ignore other things of life they were just playing water. Some of them getting in trucks and some of them waiting in front of their houses. All city and people were wet. Once we also get in one of these trucks and joined the water and paint game. Kids were the most happy among these people. But some children were supposed to be away from this fun. We saw some child monks watching this festival behind the temple wall. I think these child monks are at the wrong side of the wall, they are just child.

IMG_8324Luang Prabang is among the world heritage list. The city owns lots of old temples and natural beauty at the same time. The first day we didn't have the chance to visit the city due to water fight. The second day we could visit some temples with our wet clothes and the third day we were able to go to the Kuang Si waterfall a little bit away from the center. One of the things that I like in Laos is the possibilty to swim in all natural waters like rivers, waterfalls and caves. People were swimming and having fun in the waterfall. It was the first time I had chance to stand under the waterfall and swim in it. One of the most interesting moments in this city was monks collecting food from the people in sun rise which is called morning alms. At this moment thousands of monks get in the queue and get food help. There is no speaking or any sound around that shows how respectful activity it is. We spent around 4 days in this city and we turned back to our starting point. We passed through mountains and valleys and reached to PhouKhon town and met with the owner of the gas station again. We spent the night here in a guest house. The following day we arrived back in Vientiane through VangVieng and came to the end of journey.

IMG_8088We were not aware of this small country before and we didn't expect to love here that much. Our travel mate has also affect on this for sure. Traveling by motorbike made us feel in the movie "The Motorcycle Diaries". Even we experienced some of the scenes from the movie exactly. Apart from this we have never seen so far such a nation knows how to become happy. All faces smiled us on the road, all hands raised to wave, all people told sabaidee (hello) all the time. All kids stopped their game and showed us their greetings. All these people have very simple lives. They live inside the banana gardens and rice fields, their small houses our made from bamboo without any furniture, electricty and water. They supply water from the rivers, they make laundry and they have shower there also. Their main food is sticky rice prepared from their own rice, natural plants even reptiles. They prefer living minimalist and they don't look for more. That is why they always smile. We never saw any fight or arguement during this festival, they all know how to entertain. As a result this trip impressed us so much as Ernesto Che Guevara said. Let the world change you and you can change the world.

Note: We thank to people who took action after we lost our cameras. You all made us emotional, our hearts are with you.

ismail
This feeling is inside me for a long time, got in my body such a virus and not going out. It is numbing my body and brain like a drug that I don't want to wake up. As I feel the humming of the wind in my ears, as the dust of the crimson dirt road filling in my eyes and turning into mud on my sweating face, the feeling is getting stronger. Although the heat burning the ground is hitting on my face such a flame ball I don't care due to this feeling. Only a muddy puddle I am passing on is able to cool my feet burning from the hot asphalt road. At this time waving of the bare foot kids by the road is taking me to those years I used to wave to tourists in my town. It makes me taste the pleasure of swimming with them in a brown river that I have never had before. All because of this feeling. This feeling which made Che Guevara to hit the road is also making me travel land by land, pushing me from one emotion to another one. I call this feeling freedom!This feeling is inside me for a long time, got in my body such a virus and not going out. It is numbing my body and brain like a drug that I don't want to wake up. As I feel the humming of the wind in my ears, as the dust of the crimson dirt road filling in my eyes and turning into mud on my sweating face, the feeling is getting stronger. Although the heat burning the ground is hitting on my face such a flame ball I don't care due to this feeling. Only a muddy puddle I am passing on is able to cool my feet burning from the hot asphalt road. At this time waving of the bare foot kids by the road is taking me to those years I used to wave to tourists in my town. It makes me taste the pleasure of swimming with them in a brown river that I have never had before. All because of this feeling. This feeling which made Che Guevara to hit the road is also making me travel land by land, pushing me from one emotion to another one. I call this feeling freedom!