After my seemingly never ending hours aboard buses from Vietnam I finally arrived in Muang Kuah, with no idea what was going on. I was all but thrown off the bus onto a dirt road, in the rain, with nothing but a simple “Goodbye” from my friendly driver. My admirer from the bus was supposed to be departing here as well but he must have made a break for it because he was nowhere in sight. I sought cover under a nearby overhang which also housed three men playing cards, I was somewhat surprised as they paid little to no attention to me, except for a brief “Hello”. I dug out my umbrella from my travel pack and started on my way, destination: guesthouse. Originally I was planning to ‘shop around’ but considered the rain and my zombie state settled for the first one I inquired at. The owners were a lovely old couple and the price of 60,000 ($7.50) didn’t seem too bad.
Shortly after settling into my room the power went out; what I thought was a problem of the guesthouse turned out to be a citywide issue. I took a much-needed shower and promptly fell asleep, trying to catch up on some of the missed hours of sleep. When I awoke somewhere around 4pm I figured food would be a good idea so I ventured out to see the town. The two ATMs were located directly across from my hostel but much to my dismay were not working at the time. I started to worry as I only had 40,000kip ($5) to my name and didn’t know when the machines would be up and running again.
Not knowing what else to do I decided to explore the town, first crossing a small bridge to the other side of the river, circling around to where I was dropped off earlier that day and eventually landing at the boat dock. As I stood there watching a few fisherman and many children play in the water I realized a group of boys beside me struggling with a motorbike. As I looked over I realized it was none other than my bus friend, Si and his buddy. I stood there a while waiting to see if he’d look up and after a few minutes he did, with a grin spread across his face. It seemed he was having problems of his own, hoping to get a boat North to Phisovile but with no luck in doing so. It’s kind of amazing how much you can communicate even when you can’t speak the same language as someone else.
As I sat there with the two boys, each of our minds pondering our own problems, a boat driver approached and asked where I was going. I was relieved with his English ability and instruction that I could get a boat the next morning. I presented my problem of no money and the broken ATM’s but he assured me they would be working by the next day, or possibly that evening. Si and his friend eventually gave up their boat quest and instead lugged their baggage back up to town, I wandered with them for a while before we decided it was time to eat and they led me to where they were staying. There was a small group already gathered drinking beer and eating meat on a stick. When Si and his friend went t shower the others called me over and cracked open a beer for me, universal sign of “Welcome to our group of friends”. They all turned out to be from Vietnam and were actually some of the friendliest Vietnamese I had encountered thus far, funny, I just had to leave the country to meet them.
I spent a few hours here, trying to talk to this friendly bunch, eating dinner with Si and his friend, but eventually calling it an early night. The power came back on around 7pm but unfortunately was back off by 8. I knew I should have made a break for the ATM when the power was on but figured it would last a bit longer. On the way back to my hostel (accompanied by Si and Dai) the power came back again, but unfortunately the ATM’s were still out of order, I started to believe I might be stuck in this city. Before going to sleep I decided to make one last attempt at it and thankfully the ATM across the street was back in working order and spit out all the money I desired, I wouldn’t be trapped after all, although getting out wouldn’t’ be as painless as expected…
Often overlooked on the backpacker trail, this is a destination to not be missed. Without the influence of 7/11, Mc Donalds or Starbucks this is a country that offers a raw, rich experience.