“Falang? Are you there?”
Kindred peers in through the screen door before letting himself into your room.
“We have to get out of here. Police are onto us.”
“It’s illegal for foreigners to sleep over at a Laotian’s house. They’re coming at two.”
You look at your watch. It’s 11:30am: you can shower and pack within an hour, find some lunch, and then go hunting for a hostel.
Up until that moment you had been sleeping in a room above the kitchen of a swimming pool and bar in Luang Prabang (La Pistoche if you’re interested- entry is only 30,000 kip, but drinks are a bit overpriced). For four hours a day you would hand out leaflets and then have dinner with the staff, and your daily rounds took you through the most interesting parts of this touristy but charming city of 50,000 people. However, someone had tipped off the police to your presence and now you had to leave.
On the long walk to the city centre you stop for pho at a little shop run by an impeccably made-up woman and her daughter. You pile your bowl with various leafy green things, unwrap your chopsticks, and two mouthfuls later look up to see the woman leaning over you. She asks for permission to fix your noodles by gesturing at the bowl.
“Sorry,” she says, as she plucks the spoon and the chopsticks from your hands and gives your noodles a vigorous stir. Your delicate arrangement of mystery vegetables, meat and noodles was ruined with a few expert tosses. Then she folds one of the leftover leaves into a scoop and plops a generous amount of the lumpy red sauce onto it.
Lumpy red sauces in Thailand are generally spicy enough to set tinder alight on contact, but you are all about embracing adventure and put the whole thing in your mouth. To your relief (and surprise), it’s a very mild peanut dip.
“Saep lai lai!” You give the woman a thumbs up to signal your approval, to which you receive a volley of giggles from the woman, her daughter, and one of the other Laotian customers.
You managed to find a hostel after about forty minutes of walking and asking around. Currently you’re sitting in the common area of a very cheap hostel watching the sunset over the Mekong river. The dying light has cast a soft yellow haze over the slow-moving motorbikes outside, and you’re finding it very pleasant sitting there while you wonder what to do with the heap of flyers you accidentally took with you from the swimming pool.