Sitting on my bed in our room in the Phoa Khoun guesthouse, 2 single beds, both damp and musty, a tv that doesn’t work, curtains falling off the hangers, which are in turn falling off the wall. There’s a small cupboard in the corner, one mirror door from which Sally’s riding pants hang, our gear is spread out across the floor, and our cookset is drying on a small orange plastic chair that’s in front of the mirror wardrobe.
Tonight we cooked pasta for dinner.
Phoa Khoun is a tiny town at the intersection of two main roads in the north of Laos, about a three hour ride from Vientiane. There’s one pharmacy, two shops that sell mobile phones and a small produce market with maybe 15 stalls manned by smiling old ladies and children, selling tomatoes, peppers, garlic, ginger, onions, carrots, shallots, chilli, asian eggplant and another dozen vegetables i don’t know the names of.
Unless it’s getting dark and you need to stop to fix your brakes, there isn’t much reason to spend a night here, but there you go, so here we are. This is the type of town that we usually refer to as ‘Shitsville’ – a random nondescript place that we almost certainly wont remember the name of.
There’s no ATM in town, so after spending most of our cash on petrol, and half of the rest of it on this filthy room with a heavily leaking tap in the bathroom, we didn’t really have enough left for dinner and breakfast in the morning, but fortunately we usually carry enough food for one meal on the bike.
Our dinner tonight… Initial provisions:
Half a pack of fettuccine (purchased in Labuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia about 9000km from here)
Olive oil (as above)
Salt (from home)
Dried chilli flakes (from home, grown with seeds we brought home from Myanmar in 2014)
While this would be enough for a basic pasta, we wanted more… so from one of the shops across from our room we acquired some garlic (5 tiny little cloves) and 3 small shallots. The shop lady refused to take any money for those.
Then from the market we bought 5 small tomatoes and 2 long green peppers for 25c.
If you’re reading this then you most likely know what to do with those ingredients, and can assume that it tasted reasonable. But to us it was heaven.
Sally is laying on her back on the bed next to mine, reading on her tablet, she’s wearing black pants she bought from Lu Lu Lemon, the black puffy jacket I bought her for Nepal and a headband she’s made out of a Helly Hansen neckwarmer by cutting it in half. Sally always looks stylish.
I’m wearing a pair of grey pants made from fast drying fabric, and a black puffy jacket that I bought for Nepal, and my woollen riding socks. I always look very practical.
The floor of our room is tiled with designs that look like parquetry, and the beds are dressed in white sheets, stained off white by time and no real effort to clean them. There are several pairs of old dirty thongs in the room with us, leading me to believe that someone usually occupies this room. I wonder where they’re sleeping tonight?
From outside I can hear a steady stream of traffic passing on the road, and from inside I can hear the leaking water in the bathroom, which reminds me of one of those indoor miniature bamboo fountains that were popular in the late 90’s.
Betsy is parked safely downstairs in the middle of the restaurant, which is also very dusty, and not surprisingly, very empty.
The walls are white, and you guessed it, stained. All the electrical wiring is exposed, the main circuit board is on the wall next to the TV. It has an urn plugged into it, which we were going to use to boil water to clean our cookset, but we ended up doing it in the shower instead. Sally held the shower head while I cleaned the pots using body wash, and a handful of paper towel as a scrubbing brush.
It was surprisingly affective.
As i mentioned earlier, i’m sitting on the bed writing this as there’s no desk. The wall i’m leaning on is for some reason really cold, so i’ve put the old brown bath towel that was in the room, over my shoulders – a bit like a superman cape, (but less stylish), which is insulating me from said cold. Sally tells me without telling me, that i look ridiculous
As i mentioned earlier, I always look very practical…
We passed the night by cooking then eating dinner on the small balcony, washing the cookset, and now reading/writing the blog.
You see this travel gig is not always historic towns or a cultural experience, sometimes it’s just a bowl of pasta on a dusty balcony in shitsville. Lovely.