|T-shirt in the market. He'd be so proud...|
The next morning, we loaded up and headed for Pakse after stopping one last time at Mama Paps for a strong cuppa and some breakfast. It was only a short distance, so we had a rather leisurely morning, and even though we didn't get on the road until about 10:30, we made it to Pakse by 1:00 pm. We again found a place to stay, unpacked the bikes, and sat down with a couple of big bottles of cold water and the free internet service to catch up on the news and emails and to relax.
All the riding on rough roads has taken its toll. Many days, my back hurts so much that I can't bend over to lace my boots. My wrists ache, and my hips cramp. Colin had suggested that I might want to get a massage sometime, and one of the little luxuries available in Pakse is inexpensive and legitimate traditional Lao massage. On the wall of our guesthouse was a sign advertising 35,000 kip (about $4.50) for an hour-long massage, which sounded great to me. So we walked in to town and found the advertised one amongst several other massage parlors. I opened the door and was greeted by an older Lao woman who spoke very clear English. She told me what the rate would be, asked if I had any injuries or other problem spots which shouldn't be massaged, and did I want it gentle, medium, or hard. I said no problem spots, and I like it hard. So with the wafting scent of lemongrass around me, I followed a young lady into the back to first have my feet washed (I was glad she did. I wouldn't want to touch my feet without washing them first either), and then upstairs, where I changed into loose cotton pants and top, and laid on a mat on the floor. Then she went to work. After an hour of kneading, rubbing, twisting, and stretching, I felt like butter. When she was finished, I changed back into my own clothes and followed her downstairs for a cup of tea. I thanked her very much and drifted outside, smiling like an idiot, to find Colin.
That evening, we found a small Vietnamese cafe for dinner. We hoped to find fried spring rolls, some rice vermicelli dishes, or banh xeo (Vietnamese crepes) on the menu, but no such luck. From the menu options, we selected some crispy pork, fried water spinach, and fried potatoes with tomatoes. It was all wonderful!
We decided to stay in Pakse for a full day in order to catch up on some writing and to do a bit of shopping. There is a fairly sizable market in Pakse, and we needed to pick up a few sundries, so we spent some time picking our way through the stalls in search of things we needed and things we didn't know we needed until we saw them! Since shopping (and virtually everything else) makes us hungry, Colin found the lunch stalls in the market and we sat down for plates of chicken with holy basil and fried eggs on rice. It was pretty darned tasty. While we were in the food section of the market, I purchased a lovely, large watermelon, which we took back to our room and ate as a snack later. We spent the rest of the afternoon writing, and found yet another Vietnamese spot for a dinner of more pork (this time, braised with bamboo), fried mixed vegetables, and rice. It was again, delicious, and our bodies seemed pleased with the interesting assortment of baby corn, chayote, pumpkin, and green beans. But since we didn't have any crap today, and we didn't want to shock our systems by only putting in healthy foodstuffs, we treated ourselves a Cornetto (it was our first ice cream in Laos) and a beer.