After a long trek up and stops at a couple of the villages, we finally made it up to the Mon village where we were going to stay. Children half naked and barefoot, chicken, pigs, dogs and rats (as Cathy and I found out later) alike ran wild. Sita told us that there were about 40 families in the village. Unlike our last trek, where we spent the night in a separate area of the village, this time we spent all of our time IN the village. Just like we shamelessly watched and photographed the hilltribe people, so did they shamelessly observe our every move. During dinner, several of the village people literally stood around watching us, pointing at us, giggling and talking about us. Every time I looked around, the crowd got bigger. I asked Sita if they considered me a foreigner too since I’m Asian and all, and he said yes, because I have a big nose just like the white peeps. Ouch.
Now a bit about our sleeping quarters. Our guides brought us into one of the village’s wealthiest family’s home (they owned the village store). The downstairs was an open space that had some kitchen furniture, some chairs, a couch, and a TV. Yes, indeed, SATELLITE TV, my friend! We were supposed to sleep upstairs right next to the family’s “bedroom,” which was separated by four paper thin bamboo walls.
At night, Sita and Beit brought us some Lao Lao (homemade whisky) and the guys happily started taking shots. As the night wore out, more bottles were consumed, and from one minute to the next Steve got plastered. Just like that. Bjorn bought more bottles and passed shots around, and I didn’t realize how drunk he was too until much later. This is as brief account of the events of the night:
8:00pm – About 20 villagers pay $1 each to watch a Thai soap opera at the wealthy family’s house, the same house we were sleeping at
9:00pm – Cathy goes upstairs to lay down and do some reading
9:30pm – Steve joins Cathy upstairs, and I follow
Throughout the night several random people, including our guides, join the family in the upstairs bedroom, right next to us. By the loud talking and laughing I deduct that they are having a hell of time. In the meantime, the 20+ villagers continue to watch TV downstairs. They are having a hell of a time as well.
Cathy: Do you hear that?
Me: Yeah, somebody is sweeping.
The sweeping went on for about 20 min.
10:30pm – Steve and Bjorn somehow make it upstairs, both of them are drunk.
Steve (surprised): Who put my mosquito net down? I haven’t been here!
Me: The village lady did it before we got up here.
Steve: Oh, ok. (he collapses)
Bjorn: I’m gonna take my pants off! I’m gonna take my pants off! (I couldn’t quite figure out if it was an announcement, a threat or a warning)
Bjorn (a bit louder): Somebody tell me. Is it cold or is it warm? Should I take my pants off?
Now, I had grown quite fond of Bjorn and also very jealous of his stamina (he was about 60 and had pretty much lead the hike up with the guides), but I was not about to have him take his pants off right in front of me, even in the dark, so I had to stop him.
Me: Bjorn! Leave your pants on! It’s cold.
Bjorn: Ok. (he collapses)
Me: Hey, do you guys know where Tim is?
Bjorn and Steve: No. (they collapse)
I put my headlamp on and go looking for Tim. A bunch of people are out and about, though they were probably wondering what I was doing yelling “Tim” as I walked aimlessly. I then got this intense urge to pee, but everywhere I turned there was a hut. Now I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t like somebody peeing right by my front door, so I ended up going to a working hut (as opposed to a residential hut), pulled my pants down with no remorse (Diesel had yelled at me earlier because he said I had to use the bathroom) and just went for it. And as I turned my headlamp back on, I saw many a wet spots scattered all around the village. Not only that, but turds as well. Apparently I was not the only one squatting down wherever I pleased. I found out later that Diesel, in all his mightiness, had done the same.
After failing to find Diesel, I went upstairs to grab Cathy and we go looking for Diesel. No success. We go into the TV room and tried to get the TV viewers’ attention: “Tim! Where?” Everybody looks at us, confused. We then start asking for our guides: “Sita! Beit!” We repeat this over and over, but I think we were mispronouncing their names because the TV watchers looked even more confused. Or maybe they just wanted us to shut up so they could watch their show. Miraculously somebody understands what we’re trying to say and they go grab Sita and Beit.
Sita makes some sort of announcement in Lao. Because the TV show is over, we are able to gather up some of the locals in an improvised search party. Where could Diesel be? Drunk, passed out, kidnapped…dead??? I didn’t know. We start looking for Diesel. By this time Scott is up looking for him as well. Cathy suggests they turn on the only generator in the village, the generator whose use is restricted to very important occasions (such as powering the TV so people can watch their shows). The generator is turned on, and the only light bulb in town switches on so that we can look for Diesel, who is SURELY hurt, paralyzed, lost.
A few minutes after that Sita comes running to me and starts giggling.
Sita: Tim (he giggles). He is there (pointing at a fire about 20 feet away). With my friend. They are talking.
So I rush towards the fire, fury in my eyes and an uncontrollable desire to beat Tim’s ass. We sounded an alarm, woke up the whole village and there he was, sitting around a fire with some random family having some sort of “conversation” even though they don’t speak English and he doesn’t speak Lao.
As I approach him, I see him putting his hand out and tickling one of the kids, as he says “you.” The kid giggles. And thus, thewrath of the Kelly is unleashed for the whole village to see, as the little kids watched me in horror and confusion (and probably fear). I start going off about how nobody knew where he was, how I thought he was dead. How the WHOLE TOWN was looking for him. How the generator was on because of HIM. I turn around to go to bed; he follows me, quiet and embarrassed, but still convinced that he had done no wrong.
Diesel wakes up to go to the bathroom. When he comes back with his headlamp on, Bjorn wakes up:
Bjorn: Who? Who has the flashlight? Can I borrow it?
(Tim gets up and hands him the flashlight)
(10 min later, Bjorn returns)
Bjorn: Hello. Hellooooo. This is Bjorn (as if anybody would hear his voice and Dutch accent and confuse him with any of the other five people). Hello, this is Bjorn. Who did I borrow this flashlight from???
(I give Diesel a nudge and he retrieves the flashlight)
A cacophony of roosters, chickens, dogs, pigs and people wakes us up as we try to fall back asleep.
I wake up and so does Tim. I give him the evil eye.
Me: You better make a public apology to the whole town before you leave.
Cathy, Scott, Steve and Bjorn all wake up. Sita and Biet are preparing our breakfast. Scott has been sick all night. Steve is still slightly drunk. Bjorn gets a big cut on his hand when he slips and his hand catches a rusty nail. But we soldier on, and after a few stops and five hours we are finally back on the main road. Hooray!
That night we meet Cathy and Steve for WINE! Wine, we haven’t had wine in 3.5 weeks!