So me and more sore butt did of course arrive eventually. My backpack, however, did not. Even now, three days after arrival, I wash my underwear and my two shirts every night. I was surprisingly chilled out about the incident (people help me out as well) until I remembered one thing. All my sports gear is in my main luggage – so no evening runs for now. NOOOOOOOOO! We are calling the airport every day, but don’t you think they would bring the backpack to me. I gotta pick it up myself. If it turns up, that is. So far, they have failed to track it… Keep your fingers crossed for me!
Khanthong, who’s one of my bosses here, picked me up and sorted out the visa with me. Easy-as. He then invited me for a coffee and I quickly started to like this guy. I am about two heads taller than he is, yet he has this air of authority. He speaks German, English, French, Lao and a bit of Thai which makes the communication easy enough. His boyish laugh couldn’t be more contagious and he already invited us to company bike trips. Most likely, I will do 50-200km tours at the weekends… Well, I guess I was planning on getting more into biking anyways. There are buses running in Vientiane, but there’s no timetable so you cannot rely on them at all and Tuktuks are too expensive for everyday use. Mopeds are an option but I’d rather buy myself some nice pushbike and resell it on departure.
Khanthong couldn’t have given a warmer welcome and I was already all smiles and anticipation when he dropped me off at the GLAD guest house (German-Lao Association for Development). Here, I met Ingrid.
Ingrid will retire next year and is one of those hearty and open-minded women who inspire you. She has been working in development aid all her life, often in Nepal and Lao. Raised four kids in Marburg and then decided she wanted to go back to Asia. I first thought she was the landlady but turns out she’s is just super welcoming and nice. It was her who showed me my room, borrowed me a towel, soap and lots of kitchen things. Whoever is officially in charge, is not here at the weekend. We’ll meet her some time next week (I think) and pay our first rent then. No deposit required, no rental contract either. I’d have a very dodgy feeling in my stomach if this was Germany – but here, it’s normal.
The GLAD guest house offers rooms for about 20people (a large group of weltwärts people will arrive in a couple of weeks, could be fun). Me and Bella share a spacious apartment for which we each pay about 150Euros a month. Lemme list: we have two bedrooms, but only one is air-conditioned so we will share the big bed there. There are THREE little bathrooms as well as a washing machine. However, one shower and one sink are not working. We have a large living room which is painfully empty 😀 The living room also has air-conditioning, but since many windows are simple nets, the efficiency is …. well … rather lousy. A sort of kitchen is also included but without a stove, so IF we want to cook (instead of enjoying the local, cheap street food) we will need to go to the common kitchen. Think of mould, think of dirt, think of grease and dirty plates and the characteristic stench of unwashed socks mingled with rotting flies – yes, that’s it. I am not keen to use it. But apart from the kitchen, our flat offers way more comfort than I had expected. The neighbourhood is nice and quiet, we live just opposite a temple and massive trees and other plants give shade. There are HUGE butterflies flapping around here. And whole packs of street dogs but most do not seem aggressive. Markets, ATM and grocery shops are in walking distance. The city centre is about 15min away. I really like it so far and will post some pictures soon 😉
Ingrid was just as welcoming as Khanthong and we sat on her idyllic balcony all afternoon before going for a quick tour around the neighbourhood. She showed me the markets and shops (ohhhh so much fruit I have never seen before!) and, most interestingly, a huge public place where everyone works out in the evenings. There are open fitness classes (you just join and pay about a euro) at every corner, lots of people jogging or skating or playing soccer. Local people, that is. I did not see a single tourist last night. Just next to the burning asphalt is a nice park where one can do his stretching afterwards. Quick stroll over the night markets to get dinner afterwards – yes, I think many a night will look like this for me. I am super grateful for Ingrid’s hospitality and very optimistic that I will settle in quickly.
Later, Khanthong picked me up again and we watched Thai boxing together until Bella’s flight arrived. Yippie, my tandem partner is here 🙂 I used that opportunity to go to the Lost and Found office again. Just to find it empty. But since I could hear music, I bent over to look behind the counter and there I found a man stretched out on the floor. Snoring and cuddling with a neck pillow and definitely wearing work clothes. Oh Lao. I let him be and just called in later again – such a jolly fellow. Maybe siestas and nap rooms should become a thing in Germany as well.
To sum it up: I had a fantastic first day in Vientiane. The city seems very laid-back and just the right size to get around on bike. People are always smiling, polite and helpful. Very few speak English. It is very, very hot and humid but I love the warm nights and how my hair gets all curly. What I do not like is how my skin is always sticky from the trio of Nobite, sunscreen and sweat. But I am aware that this is a true luxury problem…