Friday, December 13, 2013

Lao Road Trip-February 2013 Day 4

This is a reprint of a post I originally wrote for AbsoluteTrygve in 2013

Day 4

Southern Laos is just full of Vietnamese, and where there’s Vietnamese, there’s coffee. Vietnamese coffee is one of my favorites, but remembering the roasting plant of the night before, I happily settled on 3 in one nescafe and a cup of tea dregs at a roadside stall.

Laos is now covered with young backpackers and one of the things they do is ride their motorbikes in a tour of the south, around the Bolaven plateau, a major coffee and tea growing area.

We stopped at one of the local coffee shops, where they roast their own beans and serve a great and very serious cup of rich dark coffee. The entry was a small dirt turn off and little lane, which looked to me like a passage for livestock though some dry coffee plantings, but at the end of it was the most adorable little coffee shop I’ve ever seen. They also sell local textiles and have a home stay.

I couldn’t believe how many kids rode up on their motorbikes looking as cool as possible: Swiss, French, Japanese, me they looked barely out of infancy and I realized I used to look like that, and thought myself so cool and fierce and open, ambling around India or Guatemala. And the whole time I just looked like a kid! That explains a lot of reactions so long ago, why so many decent people took me home with them. I mean that in a nice way--I must have reminded them of their daughters at college, like some innocent child wandering way out of my depth, alone and unprotected in the far corners of the globe. They must have been worried! I stared at them, apple cheeked, braids, the beginnings of a beard.

Eventually we left and made our way to almost the end, Em’s coffee roasting shop in a hot, dusty, nameless town near a small waterfall, Tat Lo. The town has no name. It was full of European backpackers, many of whom looked like they lived there. No idea why. My room was nice as usual, balanced over a small stream, no screens but a mosquito net. The following morning I watched Em roast coffee and that was about that!

The next day we set off at the crack of noon, and arrived in Pakse early enough for me to claim a room at the relatively famous Pakxe Hotel.

It was a pretty fun and informative trip, all I can deal with every 5 years or so with Mr. Sompat. I don’t know if there will be another. In 5 years what will the Lao forest look like? A small park? A postcard? And what new entity will need to be thrown into the maw of the world’s appetite for timber? Previously untouched forest continues to be riddled with logging roads, and once the roads exist, it becomes easy to take all the timber out. New villages spring up along the road, more people come, they need land to live and grow food, smaller roads are cut from the big ones, further goes on and on. What is the answer? I have no idea. I wonder if there is one. At this point, I doubt it. The presence of agarwood is not enough to save the Lao forest.

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