It was always going to be when and not if.

Coughing etiquette is just dreadful here. I don't know about other parts of SE Asia but geez kids, would it kill you to cover your mouth.

So it hit me a bit on Wednesday and I was feeling grouchy and surly but they may have been sleep issues. Thursday afternoon saw a fever hit me like a truck and the aches and pains start. No respiratory symptoms was a surprise but it meant my weekend plans were in tatters.

My work colleagues are great. One guy had his wife wander down to refresh my paracetamol supplies and they kept checking in with me. I think Liz may have been a bit dramatic in her worry it might be Dengue Fever. I haven't been bitten by anything since I got here so highly unlikely I picked up anything mosquito borne.

So I slept feverishly. I watched Olympic coverage that had no commentary. It was mostly badminton and table tennis, neither of which lost anything by not having some barking idiot try and tell me what was happening before my eyes. I actually drank more water than gets delivered to my room over the course of the next few days. I watched the mighty Cats break Hawthorn's pea -sized hearts . AGAIN! that had me jumping around the hotel room I can tell you.

Sunday night came around and I was feeling so much better and was able to honour a plan I made earlier in the week to meet up with . He's one of the technocenti here in Vientiane and has been here for a couple of years. It turns out he runs an orientation session for MMG people when they turn up here. Something that I have now organised for myself and by accident, rather than through the company. Something else to add to the list of things to fix, I guess.

It was a pretty romantic first date of sorts. He took me to this restaurant that overlooks the Mekong River and we could watch the sunset; The Lao locals wandering down the banks to the night market; The Lao teens waiting for things to get dark so they could sit closer and hold hands a bit. (PDAs are very much against the Lao way of doing things.) A band started up and played sappy love songs. That's all anyone plays here. Minor chords and longing. I had to fire up The Black Keys when I got back to the room to restore some musical equilibrium. This nation is crying our for some power chords and a back beat.

Anyway, The Mekong Sunshine Hotel is worth seeking out. We had a delicious Mekong river fish in some sort of lemon sauce and some Lam Bao which is like a red curry, the ever popular Khao Neow (sticky rice) which you get in a basket and just grab out with your hands, roll into a ball and dip into the sauces, and a couple of beers. $120000kips was good value for the quality of the food and the ambience was near priceless.

He also gave me some insight into the challenges of running a business in a communist country, Lao relationships (like the concept of mia noy or "little wife") and what to seek out and what to avoid in street foods. I learned that those care packages I saw at the market last week were offerings for the Buddhist Lent where the monks stop wandering between Wats for the rainy season, which happened on Thursday and Friday.  It really picked me up after 3 days of hiding in my hotel room feeling like shit.

AuthorBruce Hardie