Yesterday, when swimming, I could see Cambodia on the other side of the Mekong, so I decided to swing by Angkor on my way to Bangkok. A boat brought me to Ban Nakasang, and to a 14-hour bus to Siem Reap in Cambodia. The bus passed within 1km of Vietnam, and within 70km of Phnom Penh, but I resisted these temptations; I have been to both places before. We crossed the Mekong one last time before Kampung Cham and switched to a “private car”, which turned out to be a Honda packed with six people, driving in total darkness for three hours on a road with animals, unlit bicycles and overloaded motorcycles, parked trucks, and people sitting in the middle of the street chatting. That last one got a rise out of our otherwise imperturbable driver, “suicidal” he said.

I liked Laos; life is still simple there compared to its neighbors, even though some places sold out to tourism to get some of those euros and dollars no matter what it does to their cities. And I did not see any US chain store in Laos at all; no KFC, no McDonalds, no 7-Eleven, and no Starbucks. What a relief.