Sunday, April 01, 2007


Pablo eventually took his train to Shanghai. He was transported in the front luggage carrier of Channing’s tall bike. Suddenly afterwards I realized that it was the first time that I had had a travel companion for more than a month in this trip. Channing, Rocio, and I, started together our trip to Laos. As they were on their bikes and I was hitch-hiking, we agreed on intermediate points where to meet. At last, I was on the road with the circus!

The first of these meeting points was a town just 20 km south of Kunming. We couldn’t be ambitious, since we had hit the road at 4 pm. Meeting up there was not a problem, I arrived first, leaned over my backpack by the roadside, and waited for Channing’s bike to stand from the rest of the traffic. Together we looked for a place to camp, and were happy enough to do it in the new motorway which still being built. It was funny to set up the tent in the middle of the pavement! On the following day we made a fruitless attempt to get a ride for the whole pack, which counts not only us three but the 2 giant bikes loaded with accordions, clavs, etc It was impossible, so we split. As usually happens with the circus, separations are parenthesis that opens indefinitely, and the circus was going to have its own adventure before meeting up with me again.


Without difficulties I reached Jinghong, not really far from the Lao border, in a region called Xishuanbanna, famous for the density and diversity of the ethnic minorities that inhabit its hills. These groups have more in common with Lao and Thai people that with the rest of China. I spent five days in town, selling “Harmony of Chaos” (my old book) to other travellers in the Mei Mei Café, owned by a Belgian ex-pat. In that venue Ihad the chance to speak with a group of Norwegian anthropologists who told me that the central government had sent coreograophers to make the native’s dances more stylish and therefor more marketable for tourism. Trekking with an official company in Southern China? Now you know what you are up to!I didn’t dare to go look for these hill tribes. As the readers may have already noticed, there has been a change of priorities since I entered South East Asia. I am exploring only those things that come across my eyes. All my efforts have deviated towards the completion of my next book “Vagabonding in the Axis of Evil” whose street version should be readay in a couple of months. I will continue to work in an extended version of it to be presented to some publishers in the UK and Spain, but that will take another year. The sooner I get the book done, the sooner I will join the Bike Circus in body and soul. Until now, I am travelling with them, but I haven’t done any move towards articulating with their show.

I crossed the Chinese-Lao border at Mengla. The ride consisted mainly of Chinese trucks “:Dongfeng”, those blue square moving structures that bump around the whole country. Even if the road was at moments really bad you could see the new motorway being built at the side of our road full of ditches. Outside the Chinese customs I changed my remaining yuans for kips, the currency of Laos. On handing out the equivalent of 50 euros the woman started to take out bricks of money from a large plastic bag. I received, in total, 633,000 kip, and considering tthat the largest denomination consisted of 5000 notes, I received enough notes as to full my front backpack to a point the zippers needed to be forced in order to close it. I felt as if I had just robbed a bank! I got my Chinese exit stamp and walked towards Lao, a new country in this trip.


I camped for two days next to the road, sheltered by a group of trucks that were posted there for the week waiting some merchandises from China. I was hoping to see Chaning’s bike appear on the horizon at any moment, since this time we had arranged that we would simply meet after the border. I wouls cross the border and sit in some visible spot on the right hand side to wait for the circus. However, three days passed and the circus didn’t show up. As a border is a really boring place to be waiting, I decided to head on to Luang Prabang. I soon got a ride in a Mitsubishi Pajero 4WD of a Chinese businessman going all the way to Vientianne, the capital. We stopped overnight in Udumxoi, and in the following morning we were entering the sleepy town of Luang Prabang. In the meanwhile, nevertheless, I had the chance to get a picture of the countryside that this time I didn’t intend to explore. Most of the houses along the road were straw huts built on stilts to separate them from the ground which gets really floaded in the rain season. Its inhabitants can be seen most of the day chatting around fires next to their dwellings, smoking, and drinking a rice wine known as lao-lao. Only in larger towns houses are made of wood or bricks....

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