Waking up in A Monastery, Monk Friends and Hitchhiking to the South

Dec 25th, 2014

“Who are you?” “Hello? Where are you from?” I was still half in my dreams and not sure if what i just heard was from the dream or reality, so I stayed in my slumber. Then I heard steps of passing by people and laughter. The voices I heard were from some novices who discovered me, asleep and totally wrapped in my sleeping bag outside their dormitory, as still as a mummy, obviously a scene they did not expect to behold and thus those inquires ensued. After getting no answer from the “mummy”, they went back to a table made of stone just a few paces away from me and started their breakfast, with laughter and excited innocent talking. I gradually came into reality again from some dream. I stuck my head out of the sleeping bag and saw them. They also saw me. I smiled embarrassedly to them and nodded. They simply smiled back and did not look at me again. I was grateful for that. I went to the toilet to tidy up my hair, which resembled some wild bird nest now. You have no idea, how hard it is to deal with Asian hair…… It’s so thick and so easily molded into any shape and then stay so. It’s simply a stubborn badass. When I came back from the bathroom, all cleaned up and dressed ready, I found some snacks and drinks lying at the bedside. They were from the novices obviously. I said thank you to them and they simply nodded again and smiled. They definitely figured out that I was another homeless poor tourist hitchhiking in their country. 😉 😀 I packed everything and checked the time — 7am. Today it’s Christmas, which was totally not noticeable unless I checked my facebook. I did not, yet. I would hitchhike to Pakse today and maybe reach there tomorrow or the day after, depending on the road and the “Goddess of hitchhiking”. 😉 However, before I left Vientiane, I would go to visit my novice friends again and bade farewell, and just “by the way”, I was still hungry and could eat a whole cow. Intuition told me that my amiable friend Wencai would ask me again “Wei, have you already eaten?” and I could get some more breakfast there. Last night I also thought of staying in the monastery where Wencai and the novice with glasses lived, but when I passed there, under the bright lights and the golden red altars I saw the gate fast locked and there were some ferocious dogs patrolling near the gate, so I left. Later I came to learn that in South East Asia novices went to bed really early, like 9pm or 10pm and got up also early, like 4am, to chant the prayers together and to collect donations from the street, a process also known as almsgiving. So now the gate was already wide open. Soon I found my friends there. They asked:”Wei, have you already eaten?” I told them the truth:”Eh… yes, a little.” Wencai seemed to understand it and asked again:”Only a little? Are you still hungry?” My God… It felt so hard to tell them that I was still hungry and please feed me. It felt like begging. I guess dignity and vanity were still holding strong positions in my mind. I hesitated, stammered and said:”Yes, I am still hungry.” Wencai led the way to his room again, where I had more food. When I finished the meal while conversing with them, Wencai asked me if I would like to take some food with me. I thanked him but refused, otherwise I would feel like a beggar instead of their friend. We exchanged contact and I promised them to send them our photos together. I hit the road. I would walk out of Vientiane city. Vientiane was not super big but it was very long…… It took me about two hours to sort of get out of it and reach a cross in the shape of “Y”. The turning on the right was my way. Before I put out my sign I went to the yard of the local education administration authorities to use the toilet. There were many people there. Afterwards I asked them if I could fill my bottle there, they kindly agreed, so I went inside the big office. It’s a very simple office, desks and pens, no computers even. There were almost twenty people there. Nobody spoke much English, except a guy who seemed to be the highest official there. He was bald and I was asking him about the direction and distances. They were very friendly. Since they were having lunch, they invited me. “Papaya salad”, the bald guy said, “Try.” I tried it. It tasted delicious but just too spicy for me. Then there were some other dishes which were also spicy, like small dates wrapped in spicy sauce. My mouth was wide open and breathing greedily with tears and sweat to let the spicy taste out. They all laughed at the scene…… I said goodbye and went back to the road. I held up my sign — Paksan, a city about 200 km from Vientiane. Soon a minivan stopped. They were running transport business. I told them “I don’t have money!” The guy threw his arm and said:”Ok! No problem!” Yeah!! When I got in, I realized that I saw this van already several times on my way out of Vientiane. They surely noticed me also, with a big backpack. That made things easier. It’s how our minds work. Simply because you have seen someone before, not necessarily with any interaction or knowledge of him/her, you will feel safer to trust him/her. They went directly to Paksan. I got off at the noisy streets, with dust, pits of water among the vibrant local market. When I made my way to get out of this city again, I saw a old white guy. Good, finally there was somebody I could communicate with! “Merry Christmas!” I greeted him with cheering smiles. “How did you end up here?” “Well, I was on my way to Vientiane and I found this guesthouse on the riverside. A totally new one, with good price, so I decided to stay longer, basically doing nothing.” Ok…… I asked him to take some photos for me. It was not easy anymore to catch a ride. I passed an area where they were burning the grass and trees by the roadside to make more fields. The fire was WOWO! unbelievably big! In China we used to do that like 20 years ago, but then it was banned because of environment issues and danger of fire. I covered my nose with clothes and walked past the furious smoke. A guy going the opposite direction saw me and turned, “Hi! Where do you want to go?” “Pakse!” “Ah! That’s quite far!” He looked young and cheerful and he spoke some English. Just when we were conversing, a car which had seen my sign just seconds ago and passed turned back and a guy from the car, a pick-up truck exactly speaking, asked me if I wanted to go with them. They did not head for Pakse, but somewhere on the way, between here and Thakhek. Of course! He signed to me to climb in the trailer. Yeah!!! It was actually my first time to stay inside the trailer of a pick-up truck while htichhiking! There was a bag of fertilizer in the trailer. I placed my backpack against the rear window to lean on it make myself comfortable, then I knocked on the window and signed “OK”. Off we went! I was trying to read a book, a second-hand book I bought in Chengdu — Arabian Nights (in Chinese) on the bumping road. It was not easy, especially considering the rushing wind! It was so strong that I was sure if I stood up I would be blown out of the trailer, so I sat down all the time and held fast to my book and clothes. From time to time there would be some lovely views and I would risk everything to take some lovely photos. The ride seemed quite long, timewise I mean, not distancewise. We crossed the vast countryside, where for minutes no other vehicle would pass. The sun was strong, the trees were green, brightly green. There were some mountains flowing into my view from time to time and leaves of other colours, red, orange and so many other colours in between. It was pleasant. Before they had to turn, they let me go and I continued walking. The traffic was very low here…… It was about 4pm, although the sunshine give the illusion that it was only midday. I had the feeling of vast remoteness filling in my heart. That is a special feeling, a feeling most of us are not acquainted anymore. We are all the time surrounded by civilization, tall buildings, apartments, hotels and cars. Even if one runs to the Alps, one could still see the electricity cables and the church towers far away. More than that, one knows that another modern spot, maybe a camping site, maybe a skiing resort is just a few kilometers away. However, here, I felt something different. I was cut off from modern society. It was quiet and the next few kilometers would be the same! It was scary! However, was that not FREEDOM? The freedom to be without any modern trace, the freedom to face nothing but nature and oneself? The freedom we actually all crave for when feeling stuck in an office in front of a computer? I watched a movie with my flatmates when I was living in Krakow, a Danish movie named “Reconstruction”. I liked it and we had some discussion about it. I had the opinion that it showed how people would actually PANIC instead of BEING DELIGHTED if they actually got rid of the social net they disliked and acquired the absolute freedom. Freedom was not for everybody, at least not for those minds who were not ready yet to take both the risks and joys of freedom. I was surprised when an empty tuk-tuk stopped. The driver did not speak a word to me, neither English or Lao. To make sure that I was not taking a taxi, I told him that “I don’t have money”, then “Bu Mi E Reng”, the same thing but in Laos and then made a sign to him also. He simply nodded and we drove on. I was excited to get a ride when the sun started to set. On the way it got colder and I remained the only passenger in this fascinating vehicle. I put more and more clothes. I felt more and more uncertain if he understood me about the “no money” thing. I did not see any surprise in his eyes when I said that to him. I decided to take a piss call and talk to him again. I stopped him and signed him that I had to pee. After coming back from the jungle toilet, I told to him again in English, Lao and body language that I did not possess any money. He nodded again and signed me to get on as fast as possible. He was in a hurry obviously. It was dark now and he stopped in the bus station of Thakhek. There was bright lights there. I got off, thanked him and wanted to go. He signed me now to give money! …… I explained to him what I said before, then he came to realize that what I was telling him before was “I don’t have money”. He smiled in a confused way and just froze there while I walked away. I saw two foreigners who also just arrived. I would like to ask them if that was Thakhek and how far it was still to Pakse. They were two whites, a guy and a girl. I met the guy briefly and soon he went away to return the rented scooter. I asked the girl:”Hi! How far is it here to Pakse?” She seemed surprised and excited and asked me:”Are you hitchhiking?!!” with shining eyes. “Yes, I am hitchhiking.” “WOWO! I thought about htichhiking here but I did not see anyone doing that, so I thought perhaps it was not accepted here. I am so glad to see it’s possible!” I guessed from her accent that she was from Eastern Europe. Guess what?! She was from POLAND! 😀 We had stimulating conversation about hitchhiking and traveling. She was traveling with her boyfriend, a Bosnian guy and they were here doing rock climbing. I forgot where exactly she was from, but probably Gadynia as I can remember. I asked her if she heard of Kinga Freespirit. She was so pleasantly surprised that i heard of her. “I though only in Poland she is famous!” I actually heard of her from Polish friends. She was an INSPIRATION!! She hitchhiked before also. Soon her boyfriend came back and they had to wait for their bus to Pakse. I was glad to see some people of similar minds!! I said goodbye to them, “maybe see you in Pakse!” and headed out of the bus station — I would hitchhike at night to Pakse!

The Views Passing By
The Views Passing By
Big Budda in Vientiane
Reclining Budda in Vientiane
In the Trailer of A Pick-up Truck
Having Food in Wencai's Room
Having Food in Wencai’s Room

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