lights out in vang vieng

the electricity is out here this morning in the l.ittle town of vang vieng – though “town” may be too grandiose a term. vang vieng is really just a glorified dirt road with a few guesthouses thrown up around it. but that dirt road just happens to be situated next to some spectacular scenery and a placid little river, so the main attraction here is outdoorsy-type stuff like kayaking/caving/tubing (which we did yesterday). i know i’ve mentioned how poor laos is, but until you realise how fickle something as basic as electricity is, and how little difference it actually makes in the day-to-day quality of life, it doesn’t really hit home.

for all intents and purposes this morning, nothing has changed. we woke up drenched in sweat because the fans were off, but otherwise, probably wouldn’t have noticed. all transactions are still cash and paper only – there’s no electronic banking in these parts. refrigeration is pretty much limited to beer and yohgurt anyway – meat, eggs, butter are stored at room temp under a cloth. most activity is limited to daylight hours – there’s not a whole lot to do in vang vieng after dark, and most backpackers just get stoned on opium shakes and watch the incessant “friend’s” repeats shown in the cafes. (aside: given the number of times we’ve been offered opium and cocaine here, i think it’s safe to say that the “golden triangle” is still doing a brisk business.)

it is, however, entirely conceivable that the town somehow blew a transformer somewhere while the whole population was simultaneously watching the opening match of the world cup last night. i’m still astounded that the biggest sporting event in the world goes nearly unnoticed in the u.s. meanwhile, the rest of the planet is in the grip of football fever, and little laos is no exception – the entirety of vang vieng was huddled around their tellies until 1am watching germany v. costa rica. being in such a rural area which is so passionate about their footie really makes me appreciate what an incredible phenomenon this globally unifying sport is. and makes it all the more unbelievable that almost no one in america either knows or cares. still, i will be watching and cheering on a strong u.s team, from wherever we are.

so while we’re laying here praying for the fans to come back on, the rest of vang vieng is just desperate to get the juice back in time for tonight’s match. and that speaks volumes about both the country and the sport.

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