Why did the chicken cross the road? To get away from the American Imperialist and his puppet soldiers! HAHA! Ok, so it's not actually a funny joke, barely even passable as a joke if it weren't for the time honoured 'why did the chicken cross the road'. But then communism isn't known for producing the comedy greats. Although Stalin's moustache was quite funny. Then again, if you met him and laughed at it he would probably have you killed on site.
We went to the Laos National Museum yesterday, in Vientiane. It was, until a few years ago, known as the Laos Revolutionary Museum, a source of pride for the Laos people, illustrating their heroic struggle against the tyrannical west and highlighting all that is great about communism. Well, they may have changed the name, but the inside retains it's revolutionary 'charm'. Many pictures depict the many heroic battles fought by the people, first against the French about 100 years ago and then the "puppet forces" of "the American Imperialist". By the time you come out of there you are calling each other comrade and have a strange craving for vodka.
One thing to be said for Communism though, it does make you get a ridiculously good score if you go bowling. I managed 180 on our first game, aided by a lane that would give you odd extra pin here, maybe a spare there. Perhaps it is good for the morale of the people to score well and be happy. Having said that my score did drop to a more realistic level with each game we played.
Before reaching the capital we spent a few days in a town called Veng Viang. Known mainly for it's river tubing, this is exactly the reason we went there. River tubing involves sitting in a large inner tube (of say, a tractor tyre) and floating down a long section of a river. But with bars dotted all the way down. And each bar has a giant rope swing or zip wire for the progressively more hammered backpacker to throw himself into the water from. It's a winning combination! Needless to say, it's probably the most fun you can have with an inner tube and a river as long as you don't do what one guy did and launch yourself into water less than 6ft deep, whilst trying to somersault and end up biting through your own lip. Then you need to find the nearest hospital in a country not exactly world renowned for it's top notch health care. No injuries here though, if it's not an aborigine curse I'm just not interested these days.
After Veng Viang we made a detour to the Plain of Jars, an area of Phonsavan covered in three separate sites of large stone jars that date back thousands of years. Nobody is exactly sure why they're there either. One theory is that they were used to distill rice wine and whisky in. If that were the case then ancient Laos was party town.
Sad news for anyone that knows how much time me and Dan wasted at university with a quick game of Pro Evo (a football game for the playstation) every now and then: Slightly lost the other day after a trip to the Cambodian embassy, we stumbled across a shop full of kids playing Pro Evo and all kinds of other games. The lure of playing a cheeky game of Pro Evo in the middle of Laos was too much for mere mortals to handle and so we scuttled sheepishly in there and had a couple of games. We shouldn't have been proud of this but we were. It should have remained a dirty secret but hey, we're all adults here.
P.S. We have been reliably informed that in Laos the word Tom means 'gay'. You can imagine our joy at being told this and the subsequent crap jokes. Maybe we're not all adults here...