Two weeks passed before Chaning and Rocio from the Cyclown Circus showed up in Luang Prabang, Laos. It followed that soon after having crossed the Chinese-Laos border they had met a local circus that traveled in a truck. This local circus consisted of 25 artists, all of which were crammed in in truck, which also carried all the equipment, stages, instruments, etc. In every location they would stop, the circus would proudly annonunce the performance of two “falangs”, as foreigners are known. As this was a very particular opportunity for them, we agreed that we would meet up again in Chiang Mai, where by the way the rest of the Cyclown Circus had already been working for a month. They would tour Laos with the circus on board of a hino truck and then come down.
January 2007. My God…two calendars are gone and I am still traveling. I left Lao for Thailand through an unusual border crossing, where until a few months ago tourists were not allowed to show up. Route 4 had more traffic than expected, and I was soon in Sayanbuli. The truck that had given me a lift crossed the Mekong river on board of a ferry decorated with communist flags. We are after all, in Lao Democratic Republic!
In Sayanbuli I tried to find free accomodation at a monastery. The young monks and novices said there was no problem to sleeo there, but then their English teacher came to ruin my plans. The man went by the book, and was afraid that the police would come to check or something like that. He was the “Foreigners should go to a hotel” type of person. Enough to demonstrate how ineffective religious institutions can be confronted with reality. As the novices were more than happy to test their English with me, their tutor had to let me stay for a while. The orange-clad razor shaved boys came up with some English books that seemed extremely complicated for their level, and I was supposed to read the sentences. Besides the meaning, they were really interested in learning phonetics, since unlike their pairs in Luang Prabang they rarely have the chance to listen to native speakers. Some of the sentences of the book seemed alltogether inadecuate for future monks, for example “The beautiful girl is wanted by a youngman” Take it easy little Buddha, avoiding attachments was your choice, not mine….
On the way to Pak Lay, the last big town before the Thai border, elephants march on the roadside with their carers. Elephants are still used in th forest industry for carrying loads. In Pak Lay, by the Mekong river, a few old French colonial buildings stand with faded splendor. Unlike Luang Prabang, there are no tourists here to witness them. In the Bureau de Finance (all official signs are in French) the folks play voleybal. I wish that people would play voleyball in all the bureau de finance of the world… One of the men asks me if I speak German. “I lived three years in DDR” –he comments proudly. Next to the Mekong river, not really far from a communist red flag, a man from Lao is speaking to me in German about the DDR. Evidently, the universe is about to collapse and I am witnessing the first twists of the last metamorphosis. At a restaurant wher I have had lunch, the old landlady waves to me: “Merci monsieur!” I am still surprised at how universal history has allowed communism and French language to sneak into a tucked away realm of jungle and elephants. The one thing missing was a 1935 Citroen Avant Traction speeding through the dusty main street…