Simon. A Cautionary Tale.

Location:  A slow boat sailing down the Mekong River from Thailand to Laos.  May 4th - 5th

Ahoy, mates!  Sorry for the delay.  Internet in Laos is... rusty.  But get ready for some double headers as we catch up.  So exciting.  Let's get it poppin'.  Note, lots of pictures in this one...

So, starting on Monday, for two days I sailed via a slow boat from the Thai border at Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, Laos.  We sailed down the Mekong River and it was filled with rapids, water buffalo sightings, stops at remote hill tribe villages and a solid helping of straight up rage.  

And this, this is the Mekong.

Water buffalo

Water buffalo

Waving kiddos.  With and without clothes.  Which is normal.

Hill Tribe village.  Here, many people are weavers, so they sell scarves.  What they don't sell goes into "town" which is Luang Prabang, where I'm headed.

Wait, what was that?  Rage you say?  Rage on your river cruise down a brown but significant body of water?  Oh yes.  Allow me to introduce you to Simon.

This is Simon.  Let his red face remain a mystery.  As Em Royal said, his shorts are too short and it looks like he is really ruining the view.  Yes.  And, yes.

Simon was a fellow guest and a Canadian man on a ten month world tour, accompanied by his wife.  But most recognizably, Simon was an ass. 

He was hairy, wore his shorts just an inch too short, spoke too loudly, ate with his hands and liked to rush situations along for his own benefit.  Exhibit A:  We are heading into the Pak Ou caves that are incredibly old and have been a sacred Buddhist space for ages, where people come to leave buddhas of different sizes and styles.  We are getting a history lesson from our guide, standing on the stairs not yet entering the cave.  Simon says “What!  Are we not going in?” and pushes past everyone so that he can make it there first.  Lots of eye rolling by the group.  Then as the guide calls to him, Simon just keeps on moving, taking pictures, pretending not to hear.  

Pak Ou Caves

As you can see, Simon is awesome and someone you definitely want to know and be caught on a narrow boat with for 48 hours.  Let's invite him to our next dinner party, yeah?

Behold, the "slow boat."  Apparently sized like this to handle the people, of course, but also to remain steady and solid while crossing the rapids and currents that pop up on this river.  See that front bench?  That is, with a beer, where you would find me aboard this ride.

In the words of Sheila, inside inside inside, of the slow boat.


Simon, to his credit, did at the beginning, try to get to know everyone.  When he spoke with me he promptly inquired if I was traveling alone.  Clearly, I am.  I am sitting alone and there are no other people even from the USA on the boat.  So, I confirm his suspicions.   Then, Simon responds with “you shouldn’t travel alone.  You really should be here with someone.  You should (implying that this person should be male) really be making memories WITH someone.

I just stared at him.

“I don’t mean to pry” he said.

I stared some more, hiding behind my shades and looking deadpan at his comment. 

You see, if you didn’t like my shoes, whatever, that’s fine, you don’t need to.  But, this comment wasn't the same as hating on my ballet flats.  It was about me.  And sure, I should have just moved on but - traveling alone is a sensitive thing sometimes.  You are afraid of being lonely, you try to avoid being sad and at all costs you work to avoid falling into a funk because only you will have the luxury of getting yourself out of it.  Of course I would love people to be with me, who wouldn't?  But that is not how this particular cookie crumbled.  So, as you can imagine, Simon's comments didn't go over all that well.  

Yet, I only had the guts to tell him that "I don’t let my friends and their availability dictate my travel plans".  That was it!  God, so lame.  So lame!  Where was all that gunky New York gusto I thought I had last week?  Maybe I’ve sweat it out, since being here.  That really is the most likely explanation. 

For all my boasting, when truly shocked I don't have much of an immediate response reflex that packs any kind of punch.  But, what I should have said and the speech I should have provided him with  -- but only later mumbled to myself in the bathroom mirror (face it, don’t we all do that?) -- was very compelling -- trust.  I did once have like words on this blog but have since removed them.  Because really, who cares.  He was projecting, he is small, he just doesn't matter. 

Beyond Simon, the boat was a totally amazing highlight.  I had a ball as a party of one.  And, a delightful group of Dutch women let me join their party at dinner.  I also met Suzie who was traveling from Mexico and had similar life stories as me (she got laid off from Heineken and then moved to the beaches of Mexico for three months).  The most impressive stories however came from a Columbian family that for the past 17 years has lived somewhere new for one month every year.  They just were ending a 15 month journey in New Zealand.  Seriously, the high school aged kids went to school in New Zealand for a year.  And the doctor dad and silversmith mom moved everything from the US and simply, went.  #lifegoals

We stayed at an amazing hillside hotel above the Mekong (sans AC but with a heavy mosquito net) and with the utmost sincerity the only way to describe the stay and the overall experience was so special.  Everyone should do it if they can.

Your hallway to your cabin....

And if you do go and encounter your own Simon, I do hope you deal with it more boldly and poignantly than I.