DAY 300: WHY I NEED TO BE CAREFUL ABOUT CLIVE
I’ve extended my stay in Laos by 3 days with fairly catastrophic effects to my UK diary.
We have had a tip-off that a load of pangolins are coming across the Mekong from Thailand at 6am tomorrow. They will be at a fairly small port on the edge of the jungle, carried over before dawn by groups in long boats and then loaded up into trucks heading to Vietnam. I’m determined to actually SEE some criminal activity.
But I’m concerned for my guide. I’m going to call him Clive because that is obviously not a Laotian name, and I mustn’t reveal his identity.
It will be almost impossible for me to show my face without giving the game away so I will likely stay in the car listening to Celine Dion. But its also not wise for my guide to get involved with a group who will likely be involved in other criminal behviours, like human death. I have already dumped a tortoise in a fast flowing river, I don’t want to see my guide drifting upside down along the mekong. At the risk of damaging dramatic reading for you, my dear friend, I have asked him to stay at a safe distance and wave my iphone in the air as if looking for wifi whilst playing a video recording over his shoulder. I won’t let him get close. If we get caught I’ll say he was dacing to Celine Dion – a very dubious event in any case.
Clive likes jungle deer
Clive is a truly excellent character. He’s been taking me wherever I want to go, is very tolerant to my random pangolin urges and only occasionally asks me for more money (every few hours his rate seems to go up). On the whole we get on great but occasionally I am reminded of the chasms between our cultures. Laos is becoming westernized at a rapid rate, but not THAT quickly
The other day I found him buying a huge amount of illegal bush meat at the very same market where I rescued the tortoises from. Wild deer face and jungle rat stunk out the boot.
He supports what I do but I suspect he thinks I am stupid.
Which of course I may be.
When I asked why he bought so much illegal meat whilst also wanting to support conservation efforts and wild animals he said ‘because it is dead already’. This was always my argument for eating steak when I felt guilt as a teenager so I stayed silent.
Sex and money
‘Did you have a first love, before your wife?’ Clive asked as we drove a winding track through the jungle.
‘I did have some girls that I felt strongly about’
‘Did they leave you for other men’
‘Yes, one did. She probably chose a man who was more talented and funnier than me’
‘I am sure that is true’ (Listen Buddy, Laos humour is different from English humour) ‘But he was also much richer than you I think. You are poor, Martin?’
‘Oh, I don’t think it works like that’ I said a little defensively.
‘But money makes you more attractive. When a very fat old German woman came here she had sex with a young Laos boy. She was very rich and he was very small.’
‘Well, in England if you have a very very fast car every one thinks you are an idiot. Most people do.’
‘England is so strange.’
‘Also, I don’t really like the way of gay people very much but once a very rich gay person paid me something and it was OK.’
I didn’t ask further about that one. He was a happily married man, although he was quite open about all this.
Later that evening, when he asked me to a party in a small town full of lots of rich gay people I decided to decline. I had a video to edit after all. Tomorrow the sting at the river crossing. Or maybe not.
God, I don’t feel I am saving many pangolins. Sorry dear reader. I’m really trying.