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Laos

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Sorry for the delay, folks, I know you’re all just dying for some closure to this whole sordid affair. Now that we’ve been back for nearly a week I think it’s probably well past time we finished up. Things have been a tad hectic since our return but the trip back itself was rather uninteresting, which is pretty much exactly what I look for in a plane ride, even a 20 hour one (actually three different ones). Our last day in Bangkok involved a whole lot of souvenir / gift / “impulse purchases that will never be used at home” -shopping. That, combined with temperatures upwards of 40C, train fatigue, and Bangkok’s ever-present innate charm, made us actually anxious to get on the plane (or at least into the air-conditioning). Upon finding ourselves with some time to kill several thousand feet above the Pacific we started to compile some notes…

The report card on Vang Vieng turned out as follows: 1) Caves: check; hiked to one in the rain, pretty cool, and very Flintstones 2) River tubing: no check, unfortunately; it looked fun, but the weather was way too ugly (still raining) for pussies (i.e. us) 3) VCDs in restaurants: partial check; restaurant, singular, with an apparent requirement that they only show movies that I had seen at least three times 4) Lots of grubby backpackers: emphatic check, in bold red ink; the majority were even grubbier than usual (yours truly included) thanks to the mud and rain 5) Timm, our friend from Pulau Weh: check; he was right there when we got off the bus, albeit extremely unaware that we were on it or, for that matter, that a bus had even pulled up. It turns out he’d acquired a bit of a taste for the local poppy products…

Hiyo. There are so few certainties in life that it’s nice when you find some things that can still be counted on. For instance, karaoke. If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that the singing will always get steadily worse as the night progresses. It’s not just the alcohol, although that does play a large part. The other major factor is that there are inevitably dozens of bad singers who are, at first, unsure about going up for reasons varying from shyness to plain, old common sense. Unfortunately, once the first truly horrible voice makes its debut those petty concerns are swiftly set aside. Suddenly, these fence-straddlers (who are, of course, getting a buzz on by now) start telling themselves, “Hell, I’m not that bad!” Oh, how often they are wrong. And so begins an excruciatingly painful decline toward the lowest common denominator. That, in a nutshell,…

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