To the south

14 Mar

So, a few hours to spend in the bus station, peoplewatching, reading and, incongruously, watching the FA Cup semifinals. As evening falls, the sun hangs like a huge orange fireball in the sky, watching over a world for whom everything will be different in the morning… slowly descending as the sky fades into muted pinks. I looked at the bus options for getting to Pakse, and decided against the 17hour boneshaker local bus (strictly for masochists, says the Lonely Planet, and who am I to argue) and went for the top of the range VIP sleeper bus. With beds. It’s actually a really nice arrangement – although if you’re travelling on your own, the possibility of being stuck (like I was) in a narrow double bed with a random Lao is quite high. Nice and snuggly for couples though.To Pakse (1)

I spent the first half of the night gazing out at the darkness, the occasional punctuation of homesteads and farms mixed with restaurants but set against the backdrop of an inky black sky, the stars reassuring me that all was well in my world.

Eventually, a spare bunk opened up, and I managed to snatch a few Zs before arriving in Pakse – a sleepy little town but none the worse for that.

Although the bus says ‘None stop’ (sic) it stops, rousing me at 5am – enough time to watch the water buffalo amble lazily around the rice fields. Sometimes the bus stops (mostly for stray cattle) causing the occupants to slide down the bed and pile in a jumbled heap at the bottom. I finish my second bag of keenhu crackers from Luang Prabang – kinda honey and chilli biscuit… I hope I can’t find them again, or I am going to get FAT.

And into Pakse. For the first time on this trip I have no hotel booked – but the tuk tuk takes me straight to a lovely little place recommended in Lonely Planet (what, you don’t think I’m doing this without some advice from somewhere, do you). I love the sign on the wall which reminds me that I should ‘ask the Boss of the Guest House to watch over my values’, (I thought that was my job) and invites me to ask Mr Vong or Mrs Phet for a free service (any time I need my values serviced, I know where to come). I’m also not sure what to make of ‘In case a loos we don’t accept no responsibility’  but this may just be a warning to take care in the bathroom. What I do know is that, judging by the giggles when I attempt any Thai or Lao, I may not be making much sense myself. And I’m glad, since I moved into Room 13 on the 13th, that I’m not superstitious.

Sawaydee 2 (2)

Sawaydee 2 (4)

And while we are on signs, I was somewhat alarmed by this outside the Tourist Office, showing the different types of transport available to get to Si Phon Don. Not sure the last one is totally practical..

Odd Sign


I’m roused from my revery by the sound of rain, which was a surprise. On closer inspection, I find their hosing down the corrugated iron roof of my room, which is quite welcome if a little disconcerting


Sawaydee 2 (6)

Not much to do really, but it is where the Se Don flows into the Mekong, which by now is wide and slow, hitching itself up to create the Mekong delta. So a bit of a wander round town, a chance to say ‘sabaydee’ to lots of interesting locals.. visit another wat, see the rivers, and find a cafe that Jonny would approve of.

Panda CafeSe Don (5)DSCF2116DSCF2119

and then a wander out for a Lao massage at the recommended Clinic Kee Ou Done.. a bit of a walk out of town, but reallly nice. On the way, the sun was setting so I got some shots over the bridge.

Sunset in Pakse (5)Sunset over Mekong (1) 

And then I submitted myself to what felt like the attentions of a chiropractor with a grudge. It’s quite a comedy trying to communicate with each other, which is mostly of the ‘point and wave’ approach. From what I have experienced, and I am no expert, I prefer the Lao approach to the Thai approach… the Lao seem more… insistent.  She may only be little but she’s tough! Mind you, I now smell of Tiger Balm (for those who’ve not come across Tiger Balm, think Vicks Vapor Rub with more ginger in it). You know, I thought I was coming out on a sort of spiritual pilgrimage, not on a comparison of massage approaches across Asia. Still, if the job needs doing, I’m your man.

Just wondering…

While I was there, I did start thinking that the reason I’ve not really got into massage in the past is that I actually have quite a deep seated reluctance to let people give to me. I’m so focussed on how I can give to others, how I can help them out, that the whole question of letting others give to me is swept away. There;s a sense of too much pride ‘- ‘I can make it on my own’ – and I think, too, that we can get afraid of losing control, of perhaps being in someone’s debt – when in fact all they want to do is to give and let go of the gift (which is the right way to give – expecting nothing in return, and knowing that the Universe will bring it back to us).

I can often not ask for what i need – like with the tuk tuk yesterday – I should have been very specific about where I wanted to go, not assume that it would work out OK. Or like the hotel in Vientiane – I should have made sure I got A/C, free WiFi and so on. If I had asked, I would have got – but I didn’t ask. Sometimes, I think, we actually block the flow of goodness into our lives simply because we don’t allow it to happen – we push it away and resist it.

So where do you need to open yourself up to being cared for by others? Where do you need to be clearer about what you want, knowing that others are ready to give to you? Where do you resist the love others have for you – and when would now be a good time to start letting even more love into your life?


2 Responses to “To the south”

  1. David March 15, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    “which is the right way to give – expecting nothing in return, and knowing that the Universe will bring it back to us” – So altruism is dead eh?

    • Tim Hodgson March 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

      For context.. David is my eldest son… and he, like his brother, asks me hard questions and challenges me. It’s one of the things I love about him. So here’s an edited version of the reply to him…

      But a fair point. We should also be giving and letting go of the outcome – the need for something to happen… and yet secure in the knowledge that what goes around comes around (if you like) – that what we put out does actually return to us. Perhaps not in the same form, but as a friend of mine said – “you can’t out give God”.

      We also, I think, have an expectation that someone should recognise what we are doing, or that someone should say thank you, or that there should be some sort of ‘payback’ – and in fact we just have to do it, let go rather than expect a reward in any sense – in other words, it’s up to the great ‘order of things’ to work out my reward… and I don’t do it for the reward, anyway, otherwise…

      So I guess what I do IS to give and not expect something back (altruistically) and yet fully knowing that actually, if I am giving, then I’m also going to see that returned. And also, it’s OK if I don’t.

      Love you lots
      Dad x

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