Roadside Books and Border Towns

Welcome to Burma! No, not really – this house is actually in a village called Singh Kok on the Laos side of the Laos-Burma border. We drove three hours to get to it.

The border, that is.

that’s Burma on the other side of the river

Unlike the Laos-China border we’d passed a few days earlier, this one didn’t have armed guards hassling me about my camera or making me delete photos. In fact, we didn’t see any guards at all.

Lots of blue roofs, though.

Our second Chinese border town (there are a few) was a different story. There weren’t any people living there, just a handful of concrete warehouses dropped into a clearing and filled with imported Chinese and Thai goods – knock-off designer clothing and shoes, cell phones, pharmaceuticals, dildos and bongs.

dildos

bongs

It felt like a concrete mirage – bizarre and out-of-place with no trees, greenery or shade; a whole lot of dust; and horrible, toxic-smelling exhaust pouring out of a factory on one end of town.

“outsiders” on the outskirts

what happens in Laos, stays in Laos

There was, however, a big fancy casino/hotel near the factory (nice!) where Chinese tourists go to gamble and maybe use dildos and bongs. It looked like they were crossing the border just to hang out there.

I took a picture of it at the bottom of the circular driveway, but when we got close to the entrance, the armed Chinese guards (with rifles, no less) told me to cease and desist. No pictures!! We were so grungy we didn’t attempt to mix and mingle with the nicely dressed people going inside. So we left.

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On the way to our next destination, we passed a group of kids walking by the side of the road. Mel and I had bought some children’s books in Luang Prabang from an organization called Big Brother Mouse (they write, publish and distribute books to Lao village children, who generally do not own any of their own), so we stopped the van and gave some books to them.

notice the boy’s slingshot – he’d been catching birds

They seemed pretty happy to have them.

Then we walked on the road for a bit (because you can!), passing a young, maybe 13-year-old girl who was pounding rice. She didn’t seem particularly happy to be doing it. (Or maybe she was just annoyed that a dumb-ass tourist was taking her picture while she was working. Duh.)

And then, further on, we passed some more kids, playing on an unfinished bamboo rest house.

They were having a great time.

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