Monday, April 23, 2007

Mr Felix April 07 Update - Laos

Luang Prabang, Northern Laos.

Last week I ran into Brad from Melbourne, my home town. He was sitting alone with his bike at a table on a street cafe 100 km south of Luang Prabang, and had that cyclist's 'raw prawn' look - flushed red skin, shoulders hunched, head bowed (as though the floor, or maybe your shoes, are of pounding importance, even more than the sweet Lao girl in a yellow and blue sarong who is serving you your second coffee, which is something.)

Brad had just cycled up from Laung Prabang town, mainly uphill, and I'd just come up by bus from Vientiane, so of course, after introductions, he asked, "What's it like from here, Felix?" He was heading to Vang Vieng, some 200 or so km south.

"More pain and suffering, I'm afraid, Brad!" I said. "There's a hill some 50 klicks away that's a beast, an unrelenting beast.... maybe 50 km up, up, and then more up. It looks like a real bitch."

"Thanks, mate," he said. (We're both Aussies.)

Brad emailed me the other day from Melbourne, and pointed me to the Lonely Planet Thorntree site, where it seems someone was asking after me, wondering where I was, having made no posts, nor Mr Pumpy updates for 2 years etc.

So this prompted me to write.

I'm in Luang Prabang, sans bike, but will head back to Kalimantan, Indonesia, soon, to pick it up - and then onto the next big thing, riding from Alexandria to Kashmir. There's reasons for doing this particular trip, and the end-goal is to write a book.

I've been living and working in Central Kalimantan, near Palangkaraya. I taught English and Film at an English medium school through 06, and managed a few rides.

As you can imagine, making films with a bunch of 12, 13 and 14 year olds was a lot of fun, and inbetween the heat, rain, power cuts, scorpions and fire-breathing centipedes, we managed to get quite a few made. End of year school night was a riot indeed - "Hey, look mum, I'm up on the big screen!" Mum was duely impressed.

Strange place Kalimantan; the end of the earth, the centre of the earth. I love it, and it reminds of Cambodia in many ways; an 'out-of-the-way' feel and a dodgey social infrastructure in which nothing is ever quite going to work, no matter what you do. There are times, standing by the road, a line of ramshackle wooden huts and restaurants to your right, a flat expanse of dry, stringy Eucalyptus trees to your left, heat pounding onto your head, that you'd swear you were in Cambo.

But it's the people, as always, that make it. It's basic, and we have nothing much else but each other, which is fine by me. The human scale is a good one - the flicker in the eye that says 'I see you', like starlight across the fathomless black void that separates us all, on a bike or off.

Well, maybe I'll start posting again, I don't know... I'll need to think about it. It's been an interesting last 3 years.

Best wishes from Lao.
Mr Felix


Andrew Jennings said...

For some reason out of nowhere I skipped to your site, and you are posting again. Excellent!

Why do we like to read about you? Because you had the courage to make a new track, to actually take off and make something of the rest of your life.

It's inspiring. Truly. Keep posting.

Anonymous said...

I was just reading a trip report from Vietnam, and it had a link to Mr. Pumpy. I read a bit there and then clicked the Asian Blog, and you're back, great news.

I read that link from the thorntree back when it came out.

You have a way with words, even off the bike the story from LP is just so interesting and well crafted. I hope you keep on posting and good luck on future trips.

snowmouse said...

well, @#$%!!, Mr. Felix is alive! I had done a few web searches after The Disappearance, but only found all these old links to dead sites. Not sure why, but the link stayed in my bookmarks, and just now, on waking, a new post - only four months old! I'll keep checking back every 12 months or so. Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other posts about the quality of the writing. It's the insight into the human condition that I like the most. I can relate to Felix's attitude to life and other people he meets and that I enjoy.

I've been reading the MrPumpy website since about 2002.

I'm heading off on my own SE Asia adventure by bike at the end of this year and perhaps I will have the good fortune of meeting Mr Felix on the road.

rollingbicycletours said...

Good to hear that you will be cycling again!

wonder if you have any suggestions for a route from northern Laos Vientiane to Hanoi preferable paved, riding touring bikes?

happy cycling,