The weather is still cool when the train pulled into Nong Khai station in the early morning so I wander, and get lost several times, trying to find the border crossing over the Mekong to Laos. Eventually I make it up and through the border crossing to a $1 bus to Vientiane, which I am happy to find after initially being offered a cab for about $25. I share the back seat of the bus with a couple monks, busy on their phones playing videogames. Monks like Minecraft. Who knew? Now you do. As the bus pulls into the station in Central Vientiane I walk over to my hotel that feels as though the block next door had just been bombed. More than half the lights in the place are not on, there are many cracks in the floors and ceilings, and the drywall is beginning to crack just about everywhere. I move to my worn down room, which likely would have been nicer if I had accepted the frontman’s offer for a free upgrade to a room with windows. Whatever, my cell was suitable for sleeping in air conditioning, and doing the homework I had slated for those Laos days. I finish and walk around the city. I cannot recall, between gaps in my photo stream, what I did that early afternoon. I likely wandered the sleepy streets, still sleepy myself from my restless comings and goings from Thailand. That night, by chance, fate, or misfortune, I emerged from my hotel, only to be greeted by a couple who had accompanied my tour from Ho Chi Minh to Bangkok.
I was aware the two were planning on continuing to Vientiane, but I thought it improbable that we would meet. We did, however, and had a lovely dinner of laab and mango over sticky rice for dessert. We conversed deeply on contemporary potential (or lack thereof) for intellectual conversation, given the endless distraction the internet age provides. They told a compelling story relayed to them by their new Laos guide about an American war vet who stayed in Laos after the rest of us left in the 70s. He had a family up in the hills somewhere, in some village hardly traversed by Americans, in hiding from Western life. I thought that fascinating: a man still MIA after all these years. The guide explained that whenever a visitor came by, the vet would flee into the bush and come back when the visitors left, with his half-Lao, half American kids at home. He really didn't want to be noticed and I guess I got it. The war, I imagine, had changed him, and who was he to leave his Sweetheart near Luang Prabang for a country that had only screwed him over.
We called it a night after drifting through the Vientiane night market, and so that is a wrap for the Australians, at least for this trip. The following morning I went to the Patuxay monument, Sisaket temple, and Pha That Luang stupa complex. I had a half-Lao, half-mac-and-cheese pizza and drank some of my Kip away before retiring to a park nearby to lie down before my flight.
I am starting to grow accustomed to the lazy day before the night flight, by which I mean I am not becoming accustomed to it at all. Most of this writing was done in the day after my last night in Bangkok, a time of deep reflection, but also a time when I wanted to get the hell out of Bangkok. Perhaps, my traveling style affords so much in the way of counteracting restlessness, that is to say that if I want to run away from a place I can, but one cannot expedite a wait for a scheduled flight. On days like these I live in McDonalds’ and Starbuckses, waiting for the sun to set, or rise, and just pouring all of my energy into journaling or walking, so as not to feel trapped. In Vientiane I lay in the shade of a tree with my bags bolstering my back on a Laos park bench, mulling over the many events of Laos and eagerly awaiting my recently purchased flight to Bangkok. One can only stand so many ten-hour overnight buses and trains before he caves on a 125-dollar flight that arrives at a location in one-tenth of the time. That night I arrived late, and got to my hotel at roughly midnight after taking the airport to airport shuttle so I would be poised to hop a couple blocks to my 7 am flight to Yangon the next day.
Victor Bernabei is just another millenial travel blogger. But here's the twist: He isn't a millenial! His goal is to see as many countries as he can, and spread the message that the world is not as scary as the news wants you to believe, and that there is beauty in all people, places and things.