Left the hotel and rode along the banks of the Mekong, muddy smells of a slow moving river along with the sweetness of burning Juniper. I crossed the river on the mighty Lao-Nippon Bridge overlooking a magnificent buiiding on the left. I find it on Google Maps and translate the name from Laos to English, from the Hat Che Dao Bhang family but all available research stops there. I’m in Pakse, where I was two days ago at Le Jardin de Pakse, a sweet mock colonial new build established by a neat little woman called Madame Noi. It all sounds deeply South Asian from a Graham Green historical novel set in Indo China
Pakse, known for being the 'Mouth of the River', which is the literal translation of the cities name. It's where the infamous Mekong River and the Se Don River meet.
Next an ATM then I ride out of town, rows of melon sellers, sticks of bananas standing upright, takeaway trees and plants, sacks of fertiliser and general garden access all the trappings of an economy on the move.
Just after the roundabout where I misguidedly turned south, the smell of freshly baked bread and how odd when I see a tyre store I smell the rubber as I pass.
31kms before guesthouse I pass an industrial village, Steel workings, truck undercarriages and diff-shafts piled in corners next to rows of veg sellers, potato, sweet potato, garlic, cucumber, cauliflowers, everything dusty, some of it brown at the edges, burnt and rusty tin shacks and homes not finished, a little bit soiled. Life seems less finished than central and northern parts of the country, untidy, less pristine because for me Laos has an immaculate feel. It’s a clean country, unspoilt, a place of innocence where the vendors sleep in between selling or nuzzle new babies. I don’t see ambition and greed. No one over charged me not once, an honesty that is impressive as it is rare.
So another day ends. My guesthouse is £4 for a room, and it is without adornments, no decorative memorabilia on the walls, just green paint and reasonably clean bedding. Easy to swat the mosquitoes and then I shower. Adjacent to the row of guest rooms is a small restaurant from where I see plumes of smoke riding to merge with long thin clouds standing quite still in an inert sky. Lower down small birds flit in and out of bushy trees with languid leaves, nothing moving anywhere unless it has to.
Map of the Day