After I wrote the last entry, I went across the street to one of the riverside restaurants. This one had a platform on the ground with cushions to sit on and tables made out of old truck tires, painted gold, with plywood on the top. It was quite lovely with little christmas lights and a beautiful, orange moon rising over the river. I had fried noodles with vegies and at my host's insistence, the homemade icecream with sticky rice. Absolutely delicious.
While I was sitting there, I found myself thinking about whether I was ready to go home or not and I realized a couple things. One, I am ready to go home but I don't want to stay home. I really want to see everyone but there are still so many places I'd like to go. I'm sure finances, however, will dictate when the next trip will take place!
The other thing that finally sunk in, was just how lucky I am. Not only can I afford to travel to all these amazing places but I also hold passports from two countries where I can easily get a visa to visit almost any country I want to. I started remembering conversations, particularly in Egypt, with people who would have loved to travel but were unable to get visas to the places they wanted to go. The other thing that makes me, and any English speaking westerner, really lucky, is the fact that where ever I go, someone speaks my language. I've been in some pretty remote areas, and am now in what I've been told is the most undeveloped country in the world, and yet I've never had a problem communicating as there is always someone around who speaks English. And they want to speak English. They don't even seem to care that the only words I ever master are "hello" and "thank you". It's really amazing when you stop to think about it. It also makes me feel consistently ashamed that I do speak only one language and everyone else in the world seems to speak at least two!
Anyway, I had a lovely day in Savannakhet. It's one of the largest cities in Laos with a population of about 125,000 but it feels much smaller than that. It's got a rather ghostly charm about it. Alot of the buildings are, or were, very beautiful but many of them are falling apart and seem to be abandoned. They say Savannakhet was what Luang Prabang was before it got gentrified. I much preferred Savannakhet - not a fancy tourist shop in site.
There's not a lot to do in Savannakhet - no real tourist attractions except for the Wat and the Dinasour Museum which was a hoot. It was one, rather small room, with some bones. The descriptions were all in Laos or French so I couldn't even read them. After that, I wandered around some more and ended up having a gastronomic feast. I found a little restaurant where I was able to get a baguette with crisp romaine lettuce, tomatoe, cumber and Norwegian smoked salmon! It was absolutely delicious. To top things off, after I left the restaurant, I found what looked like a duty free shop where they had real Swiss chocolate. Even though it cost almost $5, I had to have it. It's been a long time since I had really good chocolate. I topped off my eating day by going back to the same restaurant in the evening for salmon steak and mashed potatoes. Quite the treat.
I also found some more chatty monks in Savannakhet. I was sitting by the river in the late afternoon when two of them from the Wat across the street approached me. We ended up talking for about an hour. Our conversation covered everything from the cost of living in Washington, DC to life in Laos, gambling, marriage customs, politics, travel, our families, etc. etc. It was really fun. I just wished I had asked to take their picture as Bu (?) had such a lovely smile. His friend, Bilu (?) didn't speak as much English but he did try to ask a few questions and seemed to be following what Bu and I were talking about. Bu had a good laugh when he realized I was the same age as his mother - he was only 19.
I left Savannakhet this morning and travelled further south to Pakse. I was able to get my plane ticket to Siem Riep arranged for Monday afternoon and plan on spending the next few days in the Four Thousand Islands which are a couple of hours south of Pakse. I'll come back to Pakse on Sunday so that I can be sure to catch my flight to Siem Riep. It's time to see Angkor Wat which I've really been looking forward to. I hope everyone is well. Take care.