Neil’s Wheeling #19 Feb 20, 2014

Part 1 of 3
Update from Mr. Vong, at the Vilayvong Phimmasone, reservation desk:

Thursday, Feb 20.

OK I’ll reserve one with twin bed and one room with big bed shower in side.

Mr Vong

Tim [of Oregon] writes: [clarifications by Steve, of Long Beach]

Arrgh, lost even an internet post…oh well, try again, will keep it short and do a series maybe.

Very different type of trip now, especially after leaving Burma some 10 days ago.

Been moving pretty fast this last week, no time to search for an internet cafe, and sure didn’t stumble on any recently.

Our health continues to be good to excellent, and we can see the time running more quickly as we now have passed the 4 week mark.

Seems redundant to say sorta, but just a totally amazing experience. Extraordinary.

The dynamics since hitting Thailand and Laos are very different from Burma. In Myanmar, our extreme connections were truly with the ‘locals’ we met with and hung out with, essentially the Burmese. Visited some really awesome places, but it really was about the born-an- raised-there.

I might have mentioned, Myanmar is 2 and 1/2 times the size of Oregon. In 2012 they hit the 1 million visitor mark. [By comparison] Multnomah Falls [a famous waterfall in Oregon] has a million visitors a year.

Thailand, about the same size as Myanmar, [had] well over 16 million [visitors] a few years back. So the locals in Thailand and Laos are really used to European faces, don’t have a lot of energy to give us, etc., sorta look right through us and don’t react much when we try to interact.

Not a problem really, just what it is with this massive stream of people-not-like-them passing through.

gsn t.

Steve adds:

I know what you mean Tim. I have a lot of people-not-like-me in my family. They seem to pass through and want free lodging (with shower inside) every Christmas.

Steve: Suddenly, twice the fun, on the same day!

Neil’s Wheeling #19 Part 2 of 3 Feb 20, 2014
Tim writes:

Just when we thought we had it figured out, it all changed.

We have left all the competition (luxury tour buses full of Asians) behind and joined up with this remarkable 2-way-stream of Europeans flowing through a couple dozen cities and towns in the rest of S.E. Asia that have interest and attractions.

Neil and I both have been very surprised by how cool this new development is. These are all trekkers or less rugged “street level” travelers (as we consider ourselves). Local buses and mini-vans, pick-ups with seats in the bed, or ‘slow boats” etc. for overland travel.

Guest houses for $10-15 US, local food @ $2.50/meal, and local beer (Beerlao) at every opportunity to socialize, morning noon or night. About $1.50 for a 22 oz bottle. And it’s totally rude to refuse a local’s buying and offering up of a bottle. Rough sometimes, but I’m not gonna be rude. More on that later, unless I can delete Neil’s photos.

So this flow of Europeans does go two ways, we are either moving at different paces towards fairly common destinations, or intensely interacting with folks headed to where we just came from. Always you are paralleling other singles or couples for a day or two or three, and then it’s farewell, after sharing a lot of special life stories.

The majority are younger folk, teens to late 20’s. The rest are peers to Neil and I, though nobody has [anything] compared to Neil’s story.

A couple of days ago, we were surprised to hear that he has become a Facebook hero in this part of the world, amassing large numbers of ‘likes’ when his photo, (usually with a woman, but not always), or his story gets posted. Somehow, many of these folks have some common internet connections, and when he gets recognized, there is a rush to get the newest picture out there. Bizarre, really.

gsn. t

Steve asks:

Delete Neil’s photos? Neil doing what, exactly?

I can’t find anything on Facebook that is from Asia with Neil being “liked.” Of course, perhaps I’m searching in the wrong language. Or, the locals can’t spell Van Steenbergen. Or, Tim is starting a bogus internet rumor, hoping it will go viral.

There is a lot of bizarre out there in SE Asia.

Neil’s Wheeling #19 Part 3 of 3 Feb 20, 2014

Steve: Will this inbox ever shut up?

Tim writes:

OK, getting late and this place is turning off the lights.

First, Julie, [regarding Mr. Vong and his reservations] thanks so much for your incredible foot work on this itinerary. We got your latest update on Pakse, and not to worry. We aren’t worried at all now, we can make it work.

(Phil…this applies to you too. Many Thanks). [Phil = unindicted co-conspirator]

Tonight we arrived in the capital and checked in to this spectacular guest house (for $12.50 a night each), and went to find a bus for tomorrow at a travel service a few doors down the street. We are ten minutes into haggling and comparing prices, the Lao woman has no idea who we are, and suddenly she stops and utters “Mr. Neil??” She had connected the old codger with some of Julie’s confirmation emails. She even remembered that ‘Steff-hon” had told her to give Neil a hug. Hah!

So I’ll finish up the “Europeans” comments: This new ‘stream of people’ is exactly that. Of all of our several dozen new best friends, virtually all are from some part of Europe. In 4 weeks, we’ve connected with 3 Canadians and 2 Americans, all for literally, just moments. Everybody else, !? yup. Germans, Brits, Dutch, Auzzies, Irish, Scots, Spaniards, Italians, and of course, them damn French. This morning, a German we’ve been paralleling wrote a poem about us. That’s for later, though.

Man, we wish you all could see what we are seeing.

gsn timbo

Steve asks:

Quel est ce sur les Français? Barbares anglophones!

Also, Steff-hon did NOT send a hug. That was Julie.

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