My roommate Amy asked if I wanted to go trail running with a group that runs then goes out for beers. Sure, I thought, why not, sounds a lot like the Bike and Brew group I started in Chicago. My inaugural hash with the Vientiane Bush Hash House Harriers was in some ways quite like Bike and Brew and in others entirely different.
The Object of the Game:
One member goes out earlier in the day and plots a course using piles of shredded paper to mark the way. Additionally big Xs mean turn around and big Os mean keep going. They’re placed just far enough apart that the players have to scatter about and look for them. The course is a 3-4 mile loop and ends when everyone makes it back.
Click on the image to see more pictures in the slideshow
-The Virgins (Amy and I)
-A tall Chinese man “Little John” in his late 20s/early 30s who works for a bridge building company in Laos
-A German man, something “Toilet” from Cologne who’s oldest daughter was born in 1983 and whose 2nd daughter was born in 1987 who works in aviation
-The German man’s Lao girlfriend
-A French man who first came to Laos in 1980 to do development work with the UN
-“Numb Nuts,” an Aussie who drove Amy and I out to the bush, age 57, married to a Lao woman and has a 6 year old daughter
-A Canadian man, Derek, who lived in Australia for 20 years who was in town visiting for a few days
-A retiree from New Hampshire, “81” who looked like Santa Claus, walked with a cane and carried a green beer holder around his neck
-A man who’s been to 1,081 of the 1,083 Bush Hashes that have been held in Vientiane. He skipped for his engagement party, his mother in law’s funeral, and a trip to the hospital when he had blood clots, nicknamed “Sir something or other”
-That man’s lao wife
-The man who set the course who promised we wouldn’t get our feet too wet. He was wearing gaiters. I was not. Icame home with wet socks.
-Another Lao woman who I think was a girlfriend of one of the men, but I couldn’t tell for sure who she was with, she certainly knew the other Lao women, all of whom stopped to buy and eat bananas en route.
The Rules of the Game:
Some people run ahead to scout for the shredded paper piles, other people hold back and wait for a leader to shout “On Paper” to follow them or alert the group to turn around if they find an X. It’s a lot of starting and stopping and looking around.
We drove out of Vientiane (Numb Nuts, Amy, myself and the Canadian) and met 3 other cars a local family’s store/restaurant/house. The countryside comes up quickly once you leave the city. It’s rainy season. The puddles are plentiful, so is the mud. We ran through people’s back yards, around rice paddies, in the jungle, on gravel roads, dirt roads, through grass.
At one point we had to run between a very large buffalo who had positioned himself between a fence and a house. Sometimes the local kids move the piles of shredded paper throwing us off the course. Some locals where a little too helpful in pointing us in the right direction taking away a bit of the fun in searching for the next pile. The mud, oh the mud, also a pointy stick that cut my right calf, and several hungry mosquitos.
After the Hash:
We drank water and BearLao back at the restaurant. The lao women made papaya salads, of which even the “mild” of the two burned my tongue. We made tomato, lettuce and hard boiled egg sandwiches and shot the shit sitting on the steps and in plastic chairs while a very sweet and well behaved dog circulated waiting for scraps to fall. Amy and I changed out of our wet, sweaty clothes in the outhouse with a squatty potty and lamented forgetting to pack flip flops.
The Wrap Up Circle:
Each Hash ends with a circle that includes singing many rounds of lewd songs, interviewing the virgins and visitors, celebrating anniversary hashes for long standing members, giving a review of the race and doing many, many shots of beer, in this case out of green plastic cups. The sun went down and the songs and beer kept flowing. People kept being called to the front of the circle, interviewed, sang to, and made to drink.
We had arrived at the fountain in the center of the town (the official Hash House Harrier’s meeting point) at 3:45. We retrieved our bikes from the man we paid to mind them after 8 pm. I never would have guessed I’d be spending time in Laos with 50 and 60-something year old ex-pats. The crew invited us to a birthday party, to a Bike Hash in the coming weeks, a city run Hash on Monday nights and said that if we made it to 5 Hashes we would get our own nick names. I guess they’re planning on keep us on for the long haul. Virgins no more! Amy and I will be back.