You Can Check Out Any Time You Like…

Discussing Buddhist philosophy with a temple cat in Pakse

Hotel California seems to be a popular song in southeast Asia. Since arriving here, we must have heard the song dozens of times – original version, unplugged version, Muzack version, even Gipsy Kings version. We have interpreted this as a metaphor for our experiences in this strange and wonderful region of the globe.

Anyway – it’s been quite a while since my last dispatch! I have a number of excuses. First, I doubted being able to top the eventfulness of my last post. We’ve also been slightly overwhelmed by the reality that we now have to plan a wedding, the sheer enormity of which we’ve spent a number of moments contemplating. Finally, truth be told, Riccardo’s been sort of hogging the computer (something about “working” in order to “make money” so we can “live”).

Since the fateful day on which we first crashed our motorcycle and then decided to get married, we’ve been drifting along in a sort of blissful, surreal state which has been intensified by the extreme and stifling heat (don’t worry, I’m not complaining!)

Here’s a brief synopsis of some of the highlights of the last few days, some of which I’ll elaborate on when I have more time:

  • Calling our friends and family to share the big news, which apparently, came as a surprise to absolutely no one…?!?!
  • Sharing some celebratory Beerlaos (inexplicably, diluted with rice whiskey) with a couple of English tourists and a motley crew of tuk-tuk drivers, one of whom introduced his dog to us as “Mistah Doggie”
  • Embarking on an epic mission to find a legendary sandwich… and upon finally reaching it, pronouncing it among the best sandwiches either of us has ever had (this sandwich deserves its own post, so more on that later)
  • Riding from Savannakhet to the southern Lao city of Pakse, whereupon we discovered the cost to repair the damage sustained to the bike in the accident was a relatively laughable $42.
  • Establishing, following meticulous scientific research, that the optimal soundtrack to accompany the riding of a motorcycle through the Lao countryside is actually mid-80s Van Halen (Luckily, my ipod happened to be stocked accordingly. There’s nothing like speeding past impossibly green rice paddies and serene scenes of village life with Why Can’t This Be Love in your ears.)
  • Availing ourselves of the services of several truly fantastic hospitals in order to make sure Riccardo’s hand was healing well (stitches are out now, you’ll be happy to know)
  • Discovering yet another outrageously delicious sandwich in Pakse and puzzling the young Vietnamese vendor with our repeated returns
  • Learning about organic farming methods at a small, family-run coffee plantation in the Bolaven Plateau (the “organic” craze hasn’t hit Asia yet, so this was kind of a big deal)
  • Sipping a cocktail at the swanky rooftop bar of the Pakse Hotel, and nearly dying of laughter at hearing, yet again, and of course, Hotel California
  • Attempting to enter Cambodia without having to submit to demands for bribes by surly border guards, with varying degrees of success
  • Marvelling at the differences in culture, architecture, and food between Laos and Cambodia, as well as at the common appreciation of Thai pop music always played at obnoxious levels of volume
  • Admiring the mighty Mekong River from yet another angle (we’ve been following it south for almost 1500 km now)
  • Indulging in Khmer delicacies such as garlic pork ribs, bai sach chrouk, mee cha, fish amok, tomato milkshakes (trust me), cucumber milky tea (again, trust me), and unbelievably fresh squid with green peppercorns
  • Coming to the sad realization that despite my most valiant efforts, I suck at chopsticks (typically, my lamentable skills are snickered at by curious onlookers until, with mounting shame, I give up and finish my meal with the soup spoon)

Our current location is Sihanoukville, Cambodia – we’ve just spent a fantastically enjoyable weekend on the island of Koh Rong in the Gulf of Thailand with Riccardo’s friend Kylie and his lovely wife Tuit, who live there. It’s cocktail o’clock here in Sihanoukville, until our bus departs for Siem Reap tonight… more soon!

With the exceedingly enthusiastic curator of the Savannakhet Dinosaur Museum

Tuk-tuk mafia in Savannakhet

Pyromaniac son of one of the tuk-tuk mafia, glad to have an audience

Mysterious giant penguin in front of Cafe Chez Boune, Savannakhet

Extravagant gift basket - crackers and Johnnie Walker Black

The elusive and legendary sandwich we tracked down in Savannakhet


Examining the Mekong in Pakse


Farm dog inspects coffee seedlings in the Bolaven Plateau

Prayermobile makes a stop in Paxong (impassioned incantations are blaring from loudspeakers calling the faithful out for a blessing and of course, a small donation)

Stocking up on banh mi

Out for a stroll in Pakse

Rush hour in Pakse

Very sensible policy at a coffee shop in Phnom Penh (happily for me, this still meant I got served before Riccardo)

Fresh seafood at Central Market

Like Jean-Talon Market. But different.

The modern Phnom Penh-ite uses the hood of their Lexus to cure their fish

Cucumber milky tea (note the ingenious but incredibly wasteful plastic carrying device)

Khmer noodles for breakfast

Alms giving! Like treat-or-treating for monks. Every morning, armed with large bowls, they make the rounds to collect food for their morning meal

Traffic jam

While you wait for your motorbike to be fixed, why not pick up some cured fish?

Fresh noodles at the Russian Market

Noodle shops in the Russian Market

One of many sandwich stops

Our new pals

The tasty-looking beverage on the left is a tomato milkshake - way more delicious than you might think

Riverfront stroll in Phnom Penh

2 thoughts on “You Can Check Out Any Time You Like…

  1. Bravi, siamo contentissimi sentire vostre notizie dopo quello che vi e’ capitato.
    Belle le foto e anche immagino l’esperienza che state vivendo, avrete tanto da raccontare ai vostri bambini in futuro.
    LaMadonna della medaglia miracolosa che regolarmente prego per Voi vi era vicina nel vostro incidente, e fortunatamente l’avete passata bene.
    Vi auguriamo buona continuazione, ci mancate tanto, aspettiamo sempre e volentieri vostre notizie, divertitevi e se avete bisogno di qualcosa fatelo sapere.
    Un bacione, LOVE
    Ma e Pa

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