February 16, 2010

301206 Pak Beng - night version

All guesthouse rooms in Laos have one of various versions of such a notice in Lao-glish pasted on the wall:

Click here for larger version

Endorsed by the village headman (in this case a Mr Saengkham Thamphavong of Ban Pak Beng, according to the red official stamp), it lists prohibitions such as:
  • 'Don't bring any...weapon in to Guesthouse'
  • 'Don't use the guest house as the place for playing ang gambling such as playing card, selling illegal thing, dugs, sexual.'
  • 'Don't...making noisy when other one are sleeping'.
Local curfew time (time after which the guesthouse will be locked up for the night) & check-out time are also indicated. Many Lao seem to struggle with the foreign concept of 'AM' & 'PM', often mistaking them as the equivalent of 'daytime' & 'night time' - hence the '12:00AM' check-out time for Monsavan Guesthouse.

The notice also alludes to two other aspects of Pak Beng's reputation - the persistence of certain individuals in selling 'dugs' to tourists, & the above average propensity for cash, credit cards, cameras & other valuables to vanish from guesthouse rooms without any trace of forced entry/break-in (i.e. 'insider job'), which explains point #3:
  • 'Please saving any valuable thing with your own pbecause we won't be able to respond for any losing or damaging in the room'.
Village-mates of Monk TYF, Reebok cap & 3-day-old Monk have worked in Pak Beng before. Apparently quite a few in the tourist trade there are guys drawn from villages in surrounding districts (e.g. Beng, Houn, Nga) by opportunities that sound far more interesting than planting rice. Day after day up to more than 100 foreigners pour out of downriver boat(s) & flood into the tourist part of town. Even though quite a few of the tourists dress as if they cannot afford cloth & thread back in their home countries, locals know only too well that each of them carries up to a few years' worth of the average Lao farmer's income in valuables & the latest models of tech gizmos with high resale value. Temptation is great, especially when certain tourists appear to have left common sense (e.g. not leaving valuables unattended in rooms, not leaving rooms unlocked even for a short while, not flashing huge amounts of cash around) behind at home.

Laos also seems to be a place where herb-ivores - not the 草食(系)男子 soshoku(kei) danshi type, but the type that consumes weed in singular not plural form - can indulge cheaply. At check-in, Monsavan Guesthouse boy systematically asks all guests except cat if they want weed, opium or methamphetamine HCl - discrimination? Cat no fit customer profile? Puzzled elderly falang couple asks cat - what says the boy? Cat translates 'gan saa', 'yaa fin' & 'yaa baa' - 3 words that make up cat's entire Lao language Organic Chemistry vocabulary :P

During its stay in Pak Beng the cat teamed up with Mr Kiwi. Cat help Kiwi find guesthouse. Kiwi take room next to cat - cat bang on Kiwi door if need help. Cat help Kiwi understand Lao-glish menu & order dinner. Kiwi exits restaurant alone for smoke break - 'dugs' peddlers descend. Cat walks with Kiwi through streets of Pak Beng, 'dugs' peddlers see cat & leave Kiwi alone in peace (why?). Kiwi walks with cat - cat heeds Monk TYF's advice for girl not to wander around town alone after dark. Cat help Kiwi ask Phetsokxai Hotel girl if anyone has seen the 'gong tai huup' (camera) he left behind in his room days ago. Explanation + call to Ms. Phetsokxai Manager (gone to Luang Prabang for New Year holiday) + discussion = yes 'gong tai huup' was found & locked up for safekeeping by only person who holds key to hotel safe (Ms. Phetsokxai Manager). +100 bonus points for Phetsokxai Hotel for showing us the honest side of Pak Beng :)

So that light sleeper cat will be woken up if door is forced open...


...because it left its rubber doorstop behind a few towns ago, most probably in Muang Sing. The night was peaceful save for a couple of tourists who didn't pay attention when guesthouse staff told them that Pak Beng did not have 24h electricity & hot water would be available only between 9-10PM. They spent the whole night out drinking, missed the 'magic hour', then #@!*%&!* took it out on the poor guesthouse staff when they returned to ice cold showers many hours after the generators had fallen silent & the power supply for entire town had gone to bed.

end of day 14 (301206):
noodle soup/pho/feu/khaaw soi eaten to date = 09 bowls

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