As my 12-hour journey by boat was coming to an end for the day, I could see the outline of your fine city on the horizon. Pulling in to the docks, the sounds of a bustling 3 square mile metropolis rang out as small children lined the docks with hopes of offering some tired, weary traveler a hand with his bags…for a small fee of course. The ascent up the silty nearly vertical hill was just what I needed after hours on a boat and after having just come from visiting a hilltribe with a similar, but much more muddy ascent. Awesome.
Smoke from barbeques filled the air and the sight of more than slightly overcooked meat was just perfect for whetting my appetite for dinner.
As I entered my hotel, with its open air lobby and blasting Lao kaoroke, I could not help but be astonished at how thoughtful you were to set the mood for me, dearest PakBeng. As if the candlelit lobby was not enough, being escorted to my pitch black room, down a pitch black hallway by candlelight was a nice touch. In fact, it was so seamless and natural, one would have thought there was no electricity.
Left with a candle and a key, I checked out the room corner by corner seeing as much at a time that my tea light would allow. I took it all in. The quaint, questionanbly clean room accompanied by the sounds of children wailing in the streets and the karoake getting more and more interesting really got me amped about the night I was in for in your not-so-sleepy town.
I decided to go out for a stroll and discovered your ambiance to be ubiquitous. Such a romantic place you are, PakBeng. Candlelight shopping? Drinks at the bar by flashlight? Who needs Italy when you can have a place so cool and full of character that it needs not be concerned with superfulous things like…lights?
Lured by the smell of burning flesh, I found myslef at one of the barbeques I’d passed on the way in. After affirming that the sausage was fresh and was pork, I think, I took a deep breath and opted in. While it wasnt the best sausage I had ever had, I am ever grateful for the woman who offered me her last loaf a stale baguette as an added bonus….a 5,000kip bonus. The chocolate muffin though, that was divine.
Wanting to turn in early, I examined the bed and was thrilled to see the sheets were gently used and very recently loved; I hoped for the best. I blew out my candle and headed for peaceful slumber. The bed craddled me and was a smooth as an 18-wheeler on an escalator. Pure Bliss.
As the chickens and children ushered in the morning, I awoke with posture resembling a board, my back as straight as it had ever been. Preparing for another long day on the boat during what had become quite an unfortunate cold front, I longed for a hot shower to get me going. Turning the hot water all the way up, it spewed forth and the holy spirit grabbed hold of me. The shivering and shaking was a religious experience in itself. I stood in awe of the unintentional moment of clarity, baptized by the arctic waters of a PakBeng guesthouse.
The bakery across the street, where I was greeted by a flock of very excited roosters, provided a delightful breakfast of muffins and beers as I prepared to head out, leaving your lovely locale behind. The sadness began to set in. Taking one last look over my shoulder before sliding down the silty boatslip, I vowed never to forget the night I spent with thee. Oh, PakBeng. How I will miss thee. You offered me so much, in such a short time. I will forever cherish the moments and hold them close to my heart. Truly an experience I would not trade!