I was having trouble deciding where I should enter Vietnam on the 18th. Finally, I decided to ride south. In central Laos I had a series of one-night stays in the towns Paksan, Thaekek, and Savannakhet.
Paksan is a small, quiet town by the Mekong. On the other side you can see Thailand. The first thing I noticed upon arriving is that I was the only foreigner in town. The bike has allowed me to stop at places not on the typical backpacker trail. Some people treated me like a movie star, or looked at me like I was an alien. I ended up that night at the 88 bar. When I first arrived. the only ones there were me and two local guitarists . They were practicing playing country songs (English and Lao). I had been riding alone on the road for a while. I happened to arrive at a place where they were playing the song Country Road, a song that hit home for me at that moment. I felt a tinge of nostalgia for my place of origin. For several weeks I was always surrounded by people I met (other backpackers mostly). Being alone, my mind got a chance to quiet down and to be more in tune with my emotions. The feeling vanished quickly, and I felt that it was a reminder that time alone is good, even if it’s unsettling at times. I went back to that bar later that evening and was treated like a star. I had drinks with some younger Lao and Thai guys, and later on they let me get up on stage and play a few songs on the guitar. I really enjoyed meeting them. Connections like that are what makes traveling so great.
The next day I headed to Thaekek. I found it to be another little sleepy town along the Mekong. The streets were lined with crumbling French buildings. I got a massage that evening and walked around the town a bit. There wasn’t much to see or do there but I enjoy places like that. It allows me to be my reflective, introverted self.
The following morning I got up bright and early and drove to Savannakhet. It was a larger version of Thaekek. It was filled with crumbling French colonial buildings. Not much to do there but shop at lots of local stores and eat at some good local restaurants. I ate at one place called Chai Dee located on the main drag. It was a Japanese fusion cafe and a pleasant break from Lao cuisine.
One of the highlights of my stay in Savannakhet was that I found a Catholic church. I love going to different places of worship such as temples and mosques. However, Catholic churches and cathedrals hit home for me. Finding this one in Savannakhet was great for me because I got to get in touch with my spiritual side a bit that day. I sat on one of the front row benches reflecting on the days to come. I said a prayer asking for a safe journey on the motorcycle to Pakse. And, the next morning, that’s exactly where I went.