I’m writing this under the influence of narcotics. Don’t worry, it’s all quite legal. I had a minor medical thing done and honestly, I’m looking forward to being able to lay in bed and watch Orange Is The New Black all day. I’ve resisted thus far because I’m addicted to being productive, even though I loosely define this to include things like spending 4 hours creating a 90s playlist or half a day perfecting my New Zealander accent.
Quick disclaimer—I work in mental health, so obviously I am very anti-substance abuse. That being said, if I say anything weird on facebook or twitter today, it’s because I’m on drugs. But I have a prescription, so don’t judge me.
To mentally prepare myself for the experience of being under the influence, I’ve consulted memory for the last time I was on drugs. It just so happens I did not have a prescription– though I’m not sure this was illegal, because it was in Laos, a landlocked country in SE Asia. I’d already been there once and decided to take Sars back with me when we needed to do a visa run while living in China. My first journey to Laos required a 2-day boat trip down the Mekong river but this time we were traveling by land. Specifically, by 24-hour bus.
24 hours is a long time to spend on a top-heavy bus that constantly rocks back and forth. This is why they created the infamous “sleeper bus” so you can just sleep the whole time– because that makes sense. Why wouldn’t you want to spend a full day lying prone on your back whilst partially dressed men stare at you without breaking eye contact?
For the trip there, Sars and I were stuck with top bunks which were less like beds and more like a stretcher you would be strapped to whilst being transported in an ambulance. Actually, straps would have been merciful, because we spent the entire time feeling like we were going to fall out of them.
To survive, we brought our own water and snacks. Thankfully, the bus made a toilet stop every six hours or so. There were no actual toilets though, of course.
We couldn’t complain too much– an entire world passed by our windows as we drove, and drove, and drove.
I don’t remember how long we were in Laos– it has a sneaky way of erasing all time from your experiences, but I do know it was lovely. We climbed a mountain and found a hidden waterfall about a mile past a sign that said “Danger Do Not Pass.” We also rode an elephant through the jungle and traveled down a river in tiny little boats shaped like pickle spears. I may have gotten us kicked out of a temple, I can’t recall which city that was– but more importantly, we bought drugs.
On the streets of Luang Prabang, you can buy cake that is “special cake,” if you know what I mean. We refrained from that, and walked directly into a chemist a.k.a. pharmacy and asked for Valium and Xanex. I’d heard this was possible, but had never tried it– mostly because I’ve seen Brokedown Palace and if I’m going to prison, I want it to be in America where I can get a prison wife and make flip flops out of Maxi pads just like OITNB.
Looking back, I realize that buying medication in an area of the world known for manufacturing knockoff products is probably not a good decision. But I was 24 years old and not in the market for good decision making. I worried that perhaps they were expired or poorly made, which is why I took 4 of them as soon as we got on the bus for our journey back to China.
I have to be honest– I don’t remember a lot about that return trip. I know that the border crossing back into China involved soldiers with guns and an actual building, whereas the customs process into Laos was just a tiny little shack where I reached over the heads of all the Asian men who’d shoved their way to the front of the line. I know it briefly crossed my mind that it may not have been the wisest move for two young American females to travel hundreds of miles through the jungle on a bus full of men– but this was only a brief thought in between my cravings for KFC and Nutella.
Apparently I decided to capture 2 minutes of those 24 hours with video. I present this to you as a purely educational item– here is what I hope you will learn about taking a bus journey in Asia:
1. After taking drugs of questionable legitimacy, it makes perfect sense to make sound effects as though the camera is an airplane.
2. I don’t speak Chinese, but I do mimic the sounds I hear around me.
3. Asian buses play incredibly loud 80s club music.
4. If you’ve just eaten your 7th orange, can’t open your eyes all the way and are “hoping the Xanex kickity kicks in,” it’s a safe bet it already has.
Do you look forward to the justifiable laziness of an illness or medical procedure? Have you done anything ridiculous whilst under the influence of substances? What treacherous journeys have you survived?
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