Not a whole lot to report really, had a very relaxing few days. Savannakhet is a great town for doing nothing in which is just as well as there is precious little to do. I did manage to spend a couple of days working on my Virtual Tourist pages and getting them uploaded, which pleased me as I was getting so far behind. Still not nearly complete, but getting better. For those of you who haven't a clue what I am talking about, Virtual Tourist is a travellers website where ordinary travellers like me post tips about places they have been. Other people then have a chance to read information that may well be more up to date than that contained in a guidebook. Visitors to the site can also rate tips as to how useful they are and currently I am number 273 in the "pecking order". Still, I have been writing tips there for over five years now, so I suppose I should be up there somewhere. Apart from reading about this current trip, places I have been eating etc., I recommend it as a site for anybody that is travelling anywhere, even to the next town for a weekend, or it is even a great read for the armchair traveller. If you want to find my stuff, go to the "Meet members" section on the front page and look for member name planxty (that's me) and you can see all the tips I have ever posted.
The little internet place I found near my guesthouse was ridiculously cheap even by the inexpensive standards of Lao. Internet connection on a good high-speed connection costs 4,000 kip per hour. The current exchange rate is just over 13,000 to the £ sterling, so do the maths yourself. Elsewhere in Lao the going rate is anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 depending on connection speeds.
Undeterred by my little prang in Thakhek, I hired a scooter one day and went for a whizz round the countryside, principally to visit That Ing Hang which is a religious site of huge importance to the Lao. It is not particularly impressive per se, but the surrounding countryside is beautiful and very, very peaceful. I did not see another traveller the whole day. I will upload a couple of photos to give you an idea.
The day before, I had set out looking for the local museum, one of the few things to do in Savan and ended up in a slightly embarrassing situation. I had my guidebook map, and I can navigate pretty reasonably, so when I saw where the museum was supposed to be located, beside the hospital, I found that with little difficulty. I had read that there was an old disused Russian tank in the grounds so it shouldn't have been hard to find. Well, I walked round for a while and came to the conclusion it must be the best camouflaged light armour in the world for of a tank there was no sign. The only sign was on the gate indicating this was the Savannakhet Province Nurse Training School which didn't put me off unduly as I know Government facilities are often co-located here. I blundered about for a while looking ofr any indication of a museum and I eventually saw a likely looking building. Having walked around so long, I was determined I wasn't going to be defeated, so I tentatively pushed open the door which was a little ajar to be confronted by what I suppose must have been an anatomy class of young Lao student nurses. Much amazement from them, much embarrassment from yours truly and yet another hasty retreat beaten.
I eventually found a group of women who informed me that I was in the right place but the Museum had been moved about half a mile down the road and was given comprehensive directions. When I got there, it was closed and nobody there (or from subsequent enquiries elsewhere) was able to tell me when it might be opening. Still, in my youth I had a few dalliances with student nurses, so just revisiting old ground as it were and no harm done.
Yesterday saw a five hour journey on a local bus which, whilst not too long by local standards, was hellishly hot. The thermometer mounted by the door registered high 30's the whole way. I dread to think how much water I drank during the journey. I don't know if it is the fact that I am moving South again or a change in the season but it is getting noticeably hotter again and I actually used the fan in my room last night for the first time in ages. The journey was also a little fraught as I was having another bout of the gippy tummy. Nothing serious but I did dose myself up well on the relevant medication to avoid any unpleasantness. I am sure you probably don't want to know all this!
Today, I had a wander round town to see all that was to be seen. That took about two hours of which an hour was taken up chatting to a very friendly young monk at Wat Luang so I have retreated to the relative shade of the guesthouse to put this together. Tomorrow I shall either go to Champasak or else all the way down to the 4,000 islands to relax for a few days before jumping off into Cambodia. I love Cambo, but I shall leave Lao with a great deal of regret as I have a very deep affection for this lovely country and it's people. I suppose you might have gathered this from the way I write about it. For people who travel a bit, the constant question you are asked is, "What is your favourite country?" and that is an extremely difficult one to answer. If pushed previously, I woud always have nominated Nepal or Burma but I think Lao may just have overtaken them.
I don't know what the internet access will be like on the islands (some of them only have generator power!) so my next entry may well be from Cambodia.
Latest update, now on thde islands, internet access is horendously bad and expensive, so only posting this here without photos. I will get these up soon. Ww will meet up again when I am in yet another country.