chapter  10
6 Pages

Hintang Travel Ironies

There is a woman wandering the streets of Vientiane. I have seen her there since 1995, and I have always wondered what her story is. One afternoon in October 2007, 12 years after I talked to her the first time and having been approached by her 20 times or so, I see her from the air-conditioned café I have made into my afternoon office as she crosses the street. She has spotted a traveller, resting alone in the shade at an odd stone table by the street. She is in her thirties, beautiful, although perhaps slightly too thin to look healthy. She has a curious set of clothes for a Lao woman: a bright purple silk blouse over a long-sleeved black t-shirt, slim-cut designer knock-off jeans, and a pair of blue Wellingtons, cut off at her ankles. Her hair is in a bun fixed by a golden hairpin, and she is carrying a rucksack, a plastic bucket, and a handbag of the kind Paris Hilton wore last year. She speaks very good English. She approaches the traveller, who has taken his shoes off and has just lit a cigarette. He smiles and listens politely and attentively to her. She seems nice. Laos: the land of beer and smiles, right? She takes off her rucksack, puts it on the bucket

Stones Standing: Archaeology, Colonialism, and Ecotourism in Northern Laos, by Anna Källén, 167-172. © 2015 Left Coast Press, Inc. All rights reserved.