Shot #8 : Vientianne, Laos

 December 20-21, 2008

 (Hares: Silverfox, Jimmy Leggett, Heartbreaker)


This run in Vientiane, Laos, completes the final piece of the SHOT Indochinese jigsaw. Except for Brunei, which is not considered a possible hashing destination, we have now visited all of the countries that Air Asia currently flies to from its KL base, with the possible exception of Trichy in India. Then again, that is a brand new add-on, and surely will be a future target of our marauding horde.

Air Asia’s thrice-weekly service to Vientiane proved to be a bane to some would-be SHOTers who are ticket-price conscious. This resulted in a smaller-than-otherwise number of participants, totaling around ninety, excluding Vientiane-based hashers. SHOTers hailed mostly from around Malaysia, but others came from as far afield as the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and Australia.

Half of the SHOTers chose to fly in days earlier and joined the leisurely journey to Luang Prabang, overnighting in Vang Vieng en route. The free-flowing golden nectar on board made the trip seemed pedestrian, despite the agonizing pace dictated by poor road conditions and the winding and precipitous mountain road. The vista along the way was absolutely spectacular, with craggy and pinnacled limestone outcrops jutting all around, as picture-perfect as it gets! One also sees idyllic Hmong tribal villages, seemingly encapsulated in a time warp, captivating in their archaic and rustic ways. The intended destination, Luang Prabang, lived up to its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with quaint buildings harking back a century in French colonial fashion. We spent a few carefree days there, basking in the unusually wintry, foggy condition which, to us equatorial souls, feels so surreal. The ladies, in particular, were thrilled to bits with the night market that hawks handicrafts and hand-woven fabrics at fantastic bargains.

The planning for the SHOT weekend was superb, with the hares – Jimmy ‘African Mule’ Leggett, Robin ‘Silverfox’ Cox, and Dave ‘Heartbreaker’ Wilson - taking full advantage of the Air Asia sponsored tickets by making 2 reconnoitering forays to Vientiane to get things set up. Local hashers Sir Tapeworm, Kondom, Dayak, and others, were exemplary in true hashing element, lending assistance in any which way to ensure that the main and ancillary events went off without a glitch. These resulted in the just concluded SHOT # 8 being unanimously considered the best SHOT ever!

For the first time, the registration party was held on the Saturday, instead of the usual Friday, allowing some to fly in on the day and still make it for the event. Registrations done, run fees paid, and freebies collected, we were whisked off on 3 buses to the run site, an hour outside of Vientiane, in the countryside on the fringe of a jungle with a tantalizing glimpse of some serious hashing terrain looming in the higher elevations. The visiting SHOTers were joined by some 50 Vientiane Bush Hashers. There was a choice between a long and short run. The long run that took the FROPs approximately 1 ½ hr to complete traversed mainly through secondary growth, with lots of undulation, much like hashing country back in Malaysia. That was a surprise of sorts given that most of the countryside looked barren when viewed from afar. Towards the end of the run, an isolated temple set in surrounds of unique granite formations, took our breath away with statues of the Buddha chiseled onto niches underneath overhanging slabs. An unexpected bonus, indeed!

After the run and the usual hash circle, we adjourned to the On On venue, Mekong Deck, a trendy Malaysian-owned ‘happening place’ by the river. To our astonished delight, the Malaysian Tourism Board was concurrently holding a Malaysian food and cultural promotion, to the accompaniment of the dancing troupe from the Kuala Lumpur City Hall. What a boon it turned out to be, for the SHOTers, ensnared by the occasion, were suddenly turned into supporting casts to the cultural shows, joining in the fray as the dancers and tehtarik man were coercing the crowd into participating. It is amazing how something so mundane from home could evoke an abrupt outpouring of patriotic fervor among us, even from among the expatriate Malaysian-based hashers!

The fun/hangover run late Sunday morning around the streets fringing the Mekong was akin to a mini-city tour in disguise. The re-hydration stops were quite obviously regular watering holes of the local hashers. Participants were rewarded with an Indochinese-style long-sleeve shirt, loudly emblazoned with the SHOT logo that proved to be immensely popular. Hares-in-waiting were announced for the winter Solstice, and the official SHOT weekend culminated with the singing of the de facto hash anthem, Swing Low.

The following day, eve of departure, saw about half the group descending on the Thai border town of Nong Khai for sightseeing and shopping. Others lazed around and joined the evening’s Vientiane Hash run that eventually finished right next door to the Mekong Deck, savoring another evening of the cultural show all over again. The more inclined ones started crooning hash favorites, which went on late into the night, with the stragglers staying on way past the closing hours of the entertainment establishments in the vicinity. Vientiane, at least to these SHOTers, never sleeps.