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Laos Laxatives

We boarded the 2045 to Nong Kai - the last station before the Laos border, and settled into another night of Thai railway hospitality. After a long, peaceful sleep, I woke to one of the train staff beating me on the back trying to waken me and looked up to see everyone leaving the train at Nong Kai station. We staggered off the train half-asleep into the bright heat of another day and were instantly surrounded by hungry tuk-tuk drivers itching for a kill.

Ill-prepared and still asleep we got into a tuk-tuk with a pleasant Japanese couple and an American woman so huge that the suspension lurched to one side as she boarded.She was one of those people who could never stop talking - and told the driver she needed to get a Laos visa. This, he was delighted to hear, and immediately took us to the "visa office." Unable to remember this from my last visit to Laos, and looking strangely like a Thai travel agents, it was suspiciously situated in the centre of town rather than at the border. Assuring us that this was the 'Visa on Arrival' we'd been planning to get, Carita and I filled in the forms, handed over our cash, and they considerately gave us each a glass of water, which we would soon regret drinking.

Realising we were being stung but too late to do anything about it, we were now taken to the proper border where everyone else from the train was now collecting their visas for a few dollars less. As we stood in line, queueing to get through, I suddenly began to feel very bad. The water I'd drank in the travel agents was starting to have it's effect, fermenting inside of me, and unsure of which end it was going to erupt from, I tried to hold everything in and hoped the queue would move quickly.

The fat American, who by now was sweating profusely in the tropical heat, joined us, the smell almost making me vomit in the never-moving queue as she continued attempting to have a conversation. I began to expect the worst, and realised that if I did throw up, the only way I could avoid hitting anyone with it was to run out of the queue and across the border, which would probably result in being shot. With this in mind I managed to keep control of my bodily functions just long enough to get my passport stamped and rush across the border into the nearby toilets. My first experience back in Laos was that of a filthy squat toilet which looked as if it hadn't been cleaned since the French had run the country.

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