After meeting Allison and Andrew in front of their hotel, I was introduced to a group of students from California who were all traveling together and were going to be joining us for dinner. At first this seemed like a great idea as most of them were twenty year old girls but as we began walking around looking for a place to eat, I quickly remembered the biggest advantage of traveling alone, only one person has to make a decision. After passing plenty of spots that looked great to me, everyone seemed to be torn in different directions. I had suggested a place that had a great local menu and the cheapest price on beers. It was pretty obvious it didn't look “Western” enough nor did it have any other backpackers at it so the majority of the group thought it looked dirty or something. Allison and Andrew hadn't commented much as they were chatting amongst themselves at the time so I was left to converse with the California girls on my own.
We kept walking and one couple from the California students began to talk about an Indian restaurant that they had seen in town. Now that we had walked past fifteen restaurants over the last twenty minutes, I was frustrated and just when I was about to walk off and go eat at the place I had chosen with whoever wanted to join me, one girl from California took the words right out of my mouth and said that was where she was headed if anyone wanted to join. Hurray! I was impressed with this girl for being so bold. It sounded like me around my friends when I am in the same situation. The only reason I hadn't already done it this night was that I was trying to make some new friends and didn't want to seem like a jerk or something. Everyone followed along except the couple searching for the Indian restaurant and it looked like it was going to be quite the pleasant meal.
After ordering dinner and drinks, myself, Andrew and Allison having beer Lao and the five California girls ordering magic mushroom whiskey, the conversations gradually began to go downhill. Andrew and Allison kept to themselves as they had not seen each other in a while which left me with the five California students. Ordinarily this would be a good thing but I quickly realized that these girls were not a group that I had much in common with. We first discussed the potency of the magic mushroom whiskey that they were consuming at a pretty astounding pace. At twenty years old being the average, they refused to believe that you could turn the magic mushrooms into whiskey. Having seen many a party throughout the world where mushroom tea was served, I assured them it was possible and that it did have the same effects. As intelligent as they thought they were, they then asked why it was possible to sell it at a restaurant in a country where drugs were illegal. While I have no good answer for that, I assured them that I had been to almost every country in Southeast Asia and mushroom shakes, whiskey and tea were a common item on the menus here. As well as magic mushrooms in your food, you can also get a variety of brownies, pizzas and various other things with pot thrown into the mix. Add the fact that every motor bike driver and guest house employee, no, change that, everyone that is breathing over here tries to sell you drugs and you would never really know that drugs were illegal unless somehow one of the cops who didn't use drugs, if that exists, decided to bust you with some.
After a short debate about the mushrooms, the conversation turned to the culture of Thailand where I quickly realized that these girls were not only poorly educated but also not very well traveled. They distorted a few of my statements and changed them into arguments. All five girls were quickly angry with me and fortunately Allison tried to help us end the conversation with the whole, “let's just agree to disagree” theory. I too thought it was a good idea and looking at her I could tell she actually said it for her own benefit as she looked like she was ready to jump into my corner of the argument and put these girls in their place. Apparently she has much more tack than I do and just decided to keep to herself instead and let me look like the fool.
Now, the conversation gets even better. One girl during the heat of the argument decided to walk outside to have a cigarette. Now that she had rejoined us, she sat back down and made a comment about her head spinning. The other girls asked if it was the three glasses of mushroom whiskey but she wasn't sure since she had just met a tuk tuk driver on the streets and had smoked a joint with him along with a bunch of opium. To the other four girls this was perfectly normal to do just before dinner and they didn't even seem surprised. They were actually more interested if the guy could sell them some more pot and opium and thinking ahead, the girl had already sent him out to get some.
With drugs the main topic, I sat back and watched these five girls go into their personal drug histories with miserable stories of “The first time I tried this and the fist time I tried that . . . “ Followed with “Oh, this one night I was so messed up on this that and the other that I thought I was going to die!” Very intellectually stimulating for me to say the least. With Andrew and Allison at the other end of the table I found myself in the middle of one of the worst conversations I had ever heard in my life. After remaining quiet for a bit, one of the girls finally looked at me and said, “You don't do drugs do you?” I responded with a simple no and she quickly followed with “I can see you don't, you don't look like you do.” It took everything in me not to tell her that unfortunately she did look like she did drugs, and plenty of them at that. You could see it in every bit of her skin and looks. Maybe it wasn't the drugs that had given her that look so young, but the non stop chain of cigarettes that moved between her hand and her mouth ever since we had met probably hadn't helped anything.
After dinner we stood outside the restaurant with a couple of the girls talking to a tuk tuk driver discussing possibilities of anyone going out for another drink. Allison and Andrew decided to head to bed and that was all I needed to hear. I wanted to be as far away from these five girls, whom I found to be a perfectly good waste of oxygen, as I could be! Smiling for this miserable dinner to be over and heading home for a good nights rest, I waved goodbye to the girls talking to the tuk tuk driver and overheard them arguing about the cost of Opium. I really hope everyone in Laos is not this pathetic!