The reason for this was because, although we all left at approximately the same time, my songthaew stood at the bus station for 2 hours before going anywhere. It then proceeded to make several long stops on route to pick up locals and their huge bags of rice/potatoes/fruit, or whatever else happened to be in those non-descript white hessian sacks they all use. As if this wasn’t enough of a burden to the journey, it also waited at the boat pier whilst the passengers ate lunch (supplied by a swarm of food vendors in conical hats and with baskets suspended from each end of a long pole across their shoulders) before we were ferried across to Champasak on the opposite side of the Mekong.
After checking in to Souchitra Guesthouse (quite a pleasant little spot with a veranda and attached restaurant overlooking the river) I joined the 6 of them for lunch. It was good fun : the American guy stole the show and was making us all laugh about Public Enemy, ‘slitz’and getting shafted (won’t mean anything to you guys reading it but it will make me giggle when i do!) and fighting with his fiery papaya salad.
After they left in their private songthaew and headed back to Pakse, I wandered over to Wat Thong (the only temple worthy of a mention in the town itself) as it was now too late to visit Wat Phu today. One of the monks at the temple asked if i could help him with his English, and as i had 2 hours to kill in a town where there’s not much to do apart from admiring the views across the Mekong from my guesthouse veranda or one of restaurants situated along the river, I happily agreed.
There were 3 other monks on the balcony of the small wooden hut opposite the temple, where i was invited to sit down and was given a glass of ice cold water. However, the other 3 monks didn’t speak any English and as i do not speak enough Lao to hold a conversation much beyond asking someone what their name is or how much something costs and understanding the reply, they soon departed. This left Monk Somnuk and I alone. Now i didn’t think monks were allowed to be alone in the company of women, which arose my suspicions. However, i continued to write a selection of questions and answers in English, in the monk’s book, believing i was being a very helpful ‘falang’. Very naieve as well it seems, as Monk Somnuk only tried to seduce me!!! I was shocked : of all the people who inhabit this earth, I was under the impression a monk was someone you could trust not to have wandering hands!
I left the monastry rather quickly, still not quite believing what had just happened, and bumped into Tina (a Belgium girl also travelling alone) out on the verandawhen i arrived back at the guesthouse. We chatted for a while and i relayed my story about the perverse Buddhist monk, which made us both laugh. We later had dinner together down at the guesthouse restaurant, got eaten alive by mosquitoes and chuckled at the crazy Thai woman at the adjacent table, embarrassing her western boyfriend and trying to take photographs of the Mekong in the pitch darkness, enthusing about how beautiful she thought it was!