The King of Vietnam and A Giant Gecko Chase

 ‘The king of Vietnam just invited us to his house. ‘
‘That man was the king of Vietnam. And he just invited us to his house.’
‘Really, ask him.’

The retired king of Vietnam was a fairly unassuming chap, in a sunhat.  We found him at the border.  His compadres cheerfully boasted about who he was before he had a chance to get a word in edgeways.  He invited us to his house, but we were too shocked to ask him for his address.  Afterwards I was a bit upset about that. If we can find his address we will go and see him when we get there. 

(Thinking about it, maybe its polite to courtesy-call the king before a visit.  Especially as pretty much the only thing I could say at the time was “Is it nice being the king?’.)

We’d just been in to customs to get our papers sorted for the border. It was a nice relaxed border.  The guy behind the desk had told us in a laissez-faire sort of way that the carnet stamp was locked in the desk drawer, and would we mind just giving him a quick call on his mobile when we left the country so he could explain this to the border officials.  Let’s hope the people at the other end care for bureaucracy about as much as he did.


Laos seemed pretty relaxed all round.  On the way in to Vientiane there was music blaring from the roadsides, where everyone gathered around big barbecues.   The whole place had such a non-capital vibe that we were on the main road through before we even knew it.  Everyone seemed to have vanished.

this place is important.

We were happily settling into our hotel room, when Adam opened a window and an enormous gecko clambered in. He barely fit through the window.  He was blue with brown spots. He was about eight inches long.  I was chuffed.  He didn’t look too pleased though, and leapt from wall to wall in incredible gymnastic exploits that I am still not entirely convinced weren’t for our benefit.  I named him Joseph. 

joseph in full technicolour coat

He had a good voice on him.  We gesticulated wildly at the open door, but he didn’t seem too keen.  Adam tried a little harder, and poked at him with a rolled up map (only use the bloody things been put to so far).  Joseph opened his mouth enormously, thought very thoroughly about biting Adam, and let out a loud GACK. 

yes thats the skirting board...he's that big.

We gave in and fetched the hotel guys.  They were very impressed with him, and flailed about the room trying to catch him with big sticks.  Finally they grabbed him by the neck, and a very exhausted lizard gave up the fight, and got deposited in the nearest tree. 

The next day someone had stolen just one of my flip-flops.  I looked out for a one-legged thief with excellent taste in Havaianas footwear, but didn’t have much luck.

We went off anyway, and found a big Buddha sculpture park.

exactly what is he brandishing?  

Opposite was a shack where a bored-looking young woman kept a little monkey on a horribly tight chain around its belly, tied to a tree.  It was walking round in tiny circles, looking totally demented.  There wasn’t a lot we could do apart from look at her disgusted.  She didn’t speak English.  My Lao really isn’t up to explaining animal cruelty.  It extends so far to Hello and Thank you.  Neither seemed appropriate.

We went for a ride around town to find the Pha That Leung, the most famous sight in Laos. We found it.

a spirit house.  all houses have these to make their spirits homely in the right place

We also found the whole population of Vientiane at an enormous festival/ night market.

we didn't visit the 'odd animal', though did feel a bit sorry for it.

The market festival thing was packed, and everything was sold there. 

 she is selling rolled up bamboo with goo in.

this is what you look like if you spend your life eating these...

There were fried worms, grilled grubs and giant crickets.


There were lots of women selling egg kebabs, which seemed odd.

Then we saw a kid eat one.

He picked away at the shell, and fished around for something inside.  It was horrendous.  The something he was picking out was a greying chick foetus, still in the egg.  Possibly a Lao delicacy, everyone seemed to love them, and they were being gnawed at all round.

A little freaked, we went home.

Today we spent the day visiting the Pha That Leung properly.

We watched the festival unfold.  It was odd. 

There was a giant hockey match where the ball was followed around by some men with a loud banging of  tambourines and gongs.  

There was a big procession with traditionally dressed Lao tribalists holding some sort of drum on a palanquin, dancing in line. 

Monks sat behind microphones hollering for more donations for their monasteries, while laymen filled 80 or so donation bowls that sat in front of them. 

We sat in the shade and ate packets of  Asian Oddness from a little shop, while kids pushed each other into us to freak themselves out. 

We wandered around the oldest temple in Laos.  It was all very beautiful and peaceful.


Most memorable however was a miniscule cat trying to drown itself in a bucket in the corner.

We rescued it and it looked a bit fed up, as if now it was going to have to start all over again. 

When I got back someone had returned my flip-flop to reception, complaining that it wasn’t orange. 

Tomorrow we leave for Vang Vieng.  Maybe it will be normal.

this is graffiti on a street corner.  as i was taking this picture, a ladyboy prostitute was making eyes at Adam.

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