Neil’s Wheeling #20 & #21

Neil’s Wheeling #20 Feb 21, 2014

Tim writes:

So, a poem from one of our new friends…a German we’ve paralleled for several days.

There was a big contest in Australia about who could make the best poem about the home of the town: Timbuktu.

The first one:

I was a priest all of my life,

Had no children, had no wife,

Read the bible through and through

On my way to Timbuktu.

Cheers and ovations were given!

The next contestant stood to recite:

When Tim and Neil to Brisbane went,

They met three ladies cheap for rent.

They were three and they were two,

So Neil booked one and Timbuktu.

Great and huge ovations!

Composed with lots of help from Beerlao after a long day jammed into a minivan bouncing across the Plain of Jars, northern Laos.

gsn t.

Steve declines to book into this one.

Factoid: If you want to go from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, Laos, the bus fare is $3.00 U.S. If you want an air-conditioned bus, it’s $6.00 U.S.

Late letter from Laos:


Safely into Pakse after overnight bus. Mr Vong very much focused on Neil’s

comfort and ease. Thanks again. Gsn. T.


Neil’s Wheeling #21 Feb 23, 2014

Tim Writes:

Neil is dictating.

“Tim refuses to arm wrestle me. And I think you should know the reason why. On our last night in Myanmar, we sat in Yangon at an outside restaurant for dinner. Small tables and small stools in the street in front of the BBQ restaurant. Several Burmese families and groups around us. We were, as often happened, the only westerners there. Five or six young women in their 20’s were at a close by table. Two of them on the end were arm-wrestling and getting cheers and laughter. One lost and I went over to take her place and arm wrestle the champion. More laughter and applause. Because I was a westerner? A man? An old man with a cane? The soon to be champion arm wrestler? Who knows? I sat down. My mind immediately played a tape: so she’s young and strong, she’s still a woman and I’m a guy and it will be a momentary stand-off and then I will rightfully win. Yes, I’ve done tons of work on my sexism and some of it is still there! So we started. a momentary standoff, and then she won. Great cheers and applause and laughter. It was wonderful fun. When that group left later, we high-fived each other.

The next day I offered to arm-wrestle Tim. ‘No way. You might accidentally win, and you were beaten by a girl. I would never hear the end of it.’ Now you know.

The night before we took a wonderfully jammed public bus to Inle Lake in Myanmar, we stayed in the 4200′ mountain town of Kalaw at a place called the Honeymoon Villa Hotel. Imagine, if you can, Tim and me alone in a Burmese mountain town in the Honeymoon Villa Hotel. It has clearly changed my life. When the guy in Mandalay booked it for us and told us the name, Tim and I burst out laughing. The guy looked at us, smiled and asked, ‘Are you…?’

And then there was two nights ago, Feb. 21. We took an overnight bus from Vientiane to Pakse as we worked our way south to Laos. Our previous bus (Inle Lake to Yangon) was sleepless disaster. So we listened carefully when Ms. Noy in Vientiane explained the benefits of a ‘sleeper bus’. It was huge. The ‘King Bus’ in big letters. Flashing lights and colorful paintings on the outside. Three levels. The first for the driver and some assistants, a toilet, massive luggage storage space and an intricate place that housed all rubber bands that made this monster go. The second level contained not really private sleeping compartments and the third level was a repeat of the second. We booked second level (less sway) and close to the front (fewer bumps). We boarded. The bunks on one side were separated from the other side by narrow aisle that could be negotiated only by going sideways.

(Uh oh, Tim thinks this needs to be sent, part 2 to follow).


“The compartments were clearly not designed for two grown men. our heads and toes simultaneously pushed against the partition to the next compartment and meant sleeping with knees up. It was about 3′ wide and not meant for muscular and brawny men like me and, to a lesser degree, Tim.

The two levels were packed. I suspect that the other occupants, mostly young men and women in their twenties, found a way to fit their two bodies into that space. No place to sit up, just lie down. My cane at the foot of the bed was a constant companion to our feet. Sleep was occasional and sporadic. I did manage to get up twice to pee (01:30 and 05:30), maneuvering through discarded shoes and clothing on the floor. Tim and I were joined at the hip in the morning. We were the only same-sex couple on the bus. I noticed one guy looking at us before the lights went out and thought about blowing him a kiss and decided against it. Eleven and a half hours later we arrived.

Tim is a superb traveling partner. And I’m so glad that he is on this trip, not as a ‘helper’ but as a friend and playmate. Our friendship, solid at the start, has deepened. When talking with others, he initially referred to me as his teacher. We had an important discussion about that one evening in Chiang Rai at an outdoor restaurant. He is clearly also my teacher. We are student and teacher to and for each other.

It has always been that way for me ever since I first met him, his ‘adversary’ (his word) across the table as he represented the police department and I represented the human rights program. And he has been a huge help physically for me on this trip with luggage and helping me into and out of tiny ‘tuk-tuks’ crammed with people. We do well together. Thank you, Tim.

When do we arm wrestle?

And I think that I’m laughing more on this trip than others. It’s that flirtatious dance with life. Delightful.

And just now, as what’s his name and I were walking home from a good chicken tandoori dinner, two of the boys working at the Sabaidy #2 guesthouse were washing the van on the street with a hose and soapy water, and what’s his name grabbed the hose and turned it on me. No respect for age, wisdom or beauty. The boys laughed. Me too. Just wait, what’s your name!”

Steve adds:

Announcing the Not-Very-Often International Traveling Poetry Contest.


1. Mention Neil or Tim or both.

2. Four lines (rhymed couplets) or five lines (limerick).

3. Must somehow involve a travel destination. (exclusion: Nantucket).

4. Write in the language of your choice.

(Note: Non-English entries will probably automatically win because

the judge is poorly educated and can’t tell if they are good or not.)

All entries will be published (with your name in large print) on the internet!

Prizes: To be announced. They might be good.

All decisions of the judges are final. You have two choices: 1. A good poem, or, 2. A bribe.

For comparison:

I was a priest all of my life,

Had no children, had no wife,

Read the bible through and through

On my way to Timbuktu.

When Tim and Neil to Brisbane went,

They met three ladies cheap for rent.

They were three and they were two,

So Neil booked one and Timbuktu.

Deadline: Not later than March 2, 2014.

Submit to: Poetry judge at:

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