At dusk, the bugs come out. Maybe you thought they were out before. You were wrong.
In the headlight of the motorbike each bug glows an urgent, vibrant yellow. Then whap, hits you in the face.
You try not to laugh even though it all seems pretty absurd to you. Here, in these mountains, tuk-tuks of locals and water buffalo speeding past, machete wielding tots walking home, and you, an out-of-place falang on a motorbike up north.
It’s a common road for travelers in their VIP minibuses. But like this, you stick out.
You keep trying not to laugh. Your partner, whose driving face first into this insect assault, won’t be pleased. You begged him to come up here, to Nong Khiew for a spontaneous night in the mountains, on the river, in a hammock.
And now it’s getting dark. The insects are pelting and you’re afraid to say that you’re not too sure where you are. You could have sworn it was closer than this.
He sighs and shakes his helmet back and forth, probably at your less than thought out plan of a evening roadtrip.
But then, down another hill and around a corner into the valley, from the front of the bike comes, ‘Damn I feel hard-core.’
A sign for Mong Ngoi district; almost there.
And a couple of nice teenage boys who laugh sweetly at your Lao and say, yes, Nong Khiew is just up there. You pull onto a dirt road, swerving and bumping the whole way down.
Over the bridge and across the Nam Ou river, flowing fiercely even as the dry season sets in.
A room with two pushed together twin mats, bamboo walls. A clean squatter.
And a cold beer Lao.
Dham thak. Cheers to roadtrippin with my favorite ally.