Attack of the Huntsman
Nong Khiaw, Laos
Our private minibus was speeding through the dark on windy back-roads of Laos on our way to Nong Khiaw. For some reason, we hadn’t booked rooms in advance before getting to Nong Khiaw so in severely broken to non-existent English, our driver somehow got us to agree to staying at his family’s bungalows for $6 a night. We pulled up to a dark, normal-looking Lao house where the owner took us back to three bungalows right along the Ou River. They were real basic, but good enough – big porches, private bathrooms, and two twin beds with bug netting. It’s really all we needed.
I have always had a major fear of spiders. A python could crawl across my foot and I’d be fine, but the second I see a spider the bigger than a quarter, I freak out. Naturally, the bigger the spider, the more I’ll freak out. And I’m not naive (or stupid) – big ones live in jungles and we were in a jungle. They’re out there, but I’m pretty good at the out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality. They can do their spider-things as long as I can’t see it.
As we were settling in, we started to hear a small commotion next door where we found Rob and Brian nervously giggling on their porch while glaring inside their bungalow. They know about my girlish spider fear and know Sara and Courtney aren’t exactly fans either so they were trying not to just blatantly blurt out something’s wrong, but it’s pretty obvious. Again, I’m not dumb. They call Garrett “the farmboy” over, who looks inside and just bursts out, “whoa!” and takes a step back from the door. More nervous giggling ensued and the question of, “Do we roundhouse kick it into the wall?” was brought up. Garrett eventually took his flip-flop off, put it on his hand, and as he took two steps into the bungalow, all three of them jumped back and started nervously laughing hysterically as “it” has just darted from the wall above the bed to under the bed.
I decided I had to just remove myself from this situation and try to get this out of my mind. I walked up the bath between the bungalows, but something on the side of theirs just caught the corner of my eye. I knew what I saw, but continued walking up the path staring at the ground and trying to pretend I wasn’t about to freak out. I just stared at the ground and called Rob over who looked up and nervously laughed once again and called Garrett over.
“Is that the same one?”
“Uh, no. That one’s much bigger.”
And that was that – I put my pack back on and led the charge out of there at 9:00 p.m. in search of more spider-proof accommodations. As we were leaving, I made a giant circle with my hands and said, “big spider” to the owner, who let us know that she can send her 12 year-old son down to kill it for us – unless he was standing guard over me all night, killing the one was not going to work for me.
Totally emasculated, we ended up at Nong Khiaw Riverside – just more-expensive bungalows. It was a really nice place, but in the end, no different – it was a bungalow with unsealed walls. But it at least gave us the ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ mentality. There was no giant spider on the wall so at that point, they didn’t exist. Just the change in scenery put us more at ease. After 6 beers and some pain killers, I tucked in every single inch of the bug netting into the bed, and was actually able to get some sleep.
*Garrett looked it up and apparently they were Huntsman Spiders. I tried to just Google them, but can’t stand the pictures coming up…