Initially, I wasn’t supposed to be a Solo Female Traveler. I was essentially babysat in Mongolia by a volunteer organization, and then in South East Asia I was supposed to be accompanied by a friend from home. But life is full of surprises and it turned out that from northern Cambodia on, it would be a solo trip. And that was honestly for the best. But with solo (particularly female) travel, there are increased safety concerns.
I was ultimately lucky. I had only two close calls with regards to my safety. One was a almost pickpocket in Ulaanbaatar. Nothing to be concerned about, it was sloppy but unsettling. The second happen in Pakse, Laos. I was initially supposed to spend five days in Don Det, relaxing and enjoying a slower pace after hectic Cambodia. But unfortunately, the urge for constant movement was too much. And I found myself leaving the 4000 Islands for Pakse, the Bolaven Plateau and, ultimately, Vientiane for a Burmese Visa. But Pakse ended up being short lived. It was there, that I had an unsettling experience my first night and promptly booked a bus out the next day.
It was initially an unspectacular day. A wander around the town followed by a meal at the local Indian joint. But things went south when I went back to my hotel. The Lao woman and her family running the place were friendly and well organized. It was by no stretch stunning accommodation, but it sufficed. The problems I had were with the two Indian fellows who ran the restaurant at the hotel. They were a little creepy and leery throughout the day but I thought nothing of it (I hate to say it but you do become a little used to leering when you travel alone). When I went back to the hotel that night, I hung out, watched some movies and that was about it.
Around midnight (I was in bed but not asleep), I hear knocking on my door. I ask who it is. And the reply I get is “Please open the door”. I ask again. I get the same response. This happens multiple times. I finally decide to get up and answer the door because there has yet to be a resolution. I open it, see the two Indian fellows. One drunkenly attempts to push on the door, but I’m faster. I lock it and yell at them to go away. I climb back into bed a little uneasy but sleep comes quickly. But not before I hear them trying to enter the room of the only other female travel at the guesthouse, a Frenchwoman a handful of years older than me.
I left southern Laos the next day. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. The Bolaven Plateau suddenly became unappealing. So I booked the bus ticket to Vientiane, and I went that evening.
But here’s the funny thing about travel: even in the bad, there is a lot of good. It was in Pakse that I met the people who would become my ‘travel family’. We traveled together throughout Laos and parts of Thailand, and had random meetups months later. So, as much as I hated Pakse, it isn’t completely full of bad memories. It would also lead to some of the best.