New year passed in boredom. We ate an expensive (45,000 Kip) but small pizza at Pizzeria Milan (infamous for its “happy” pizzas and a drug den upstairs) in honor of the changing year, had a few beers, looked into the Irish pub to see if there was action and fun to be found. There wasn’t. The atmosphere was pretty gloomy, the crowd was decidedly English-looking, and still too sober. We basically just gave up and went back to our hotel. We barely managed to stay up until midnight and that was that as far as our New Year’s Eve was concerned.
The next day we took a minibus to Luang Prabang. The bus was nice enough, the fare cheaper than a VIP bus’ and the driving swifter. And now I finally got to experience the hairpin bends and sheer cliffs. So did girly, who spent most of the way with eyes closed, in prayer to whatever deity it is that atheists in the foxholes pray to. We drove through many a thatched village clinging to the steep mountain slope, basically just a collection of huts clustered along the mountain road, eking out a meager living from selling Chinese merch and local food to trucks and buses driving by and goat herding. Eventually our minivan ascended into a dense cloud layer and didn’t leave it for a few hours, until the descent into Luang Prabang. That meant that it was rather chilly all of a sudden and that the dangers preying on our intrepid little minivan could no longer be clearly observed. Apart, of course, from numerous orange mining trucks that seemed to leap out from behind every curve. Luckily they usually sounded their horns before rounding a bend, but a few didn’t, which meant some pulse-raising evasive action on our part. All that nauseating swerving and braking meant that it was impossible to get any sleep, or play iPad games, or even read, and the trip seemed very, very long indeed.
Eventually we reached Luang Prabang, where a long haggle-war ensued between passengers and local tuk-tuk drivers. They wanted 20,000 Kip for a drive to town and we only offered 10,000 Kip. The tuk-tuk cartel won, of course. We were in no position to negotiate, and they had no competition we could turn to. Petty cash, in European terms, of course, but you can’t help but think according to local values, and I think it is the only right way to think in terms of prices. The tuk-tuk drivers didn’t really know where to go, either, so we just hopped off in town and looked for a place to stay on own. We looked at about 5 places, and were unpleasantly surprised with the price rates. Prices were at least 1.5 times the Vientiane or Vang Vieng average… A portent of the things to come.
But enough, the lappy battery is down to 10%. I should probably praise it now, the poor thing survived an untimely HD transplant half a year ago, after only two and a half years of service. Now it is creaking and clacking, many of the keys rubbed bald, all rubber padding on the lid disintegrated and the fancy speaker grille long gone. The battery still manages four to five hours of wifi surfing, and as much as six to seven of text editing, and it’s great for playing older titles and indie games. Photoshop CS2 runs fine and photo editing is, of course, head and shoulders above the possibilities my 3rd gen iPad offers. So all praise to my old HP Dm1z, may you putter away for many more years to come.