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[personal profile] lolamatopoeia
I'm now sitting in a place called, and resembling a kind of, "Utopia" in Luang Prabang, Laos, overlooking the Mekong River. I'm listening to Lionel Richie singing "You are my destiny" and "All Night Long" being played through their speakers. I am happy. I am satisfied. I am on a lounge chair overlooking nothing but green, and straw hats, red brown rivers, green blue mountains in the distance lined by clouds, and I'm listening to gloriously cheesy 80s music being pumped through the speakers. They've just put on Sade.

Today is our fourth day in Luang Prabang. I suppose that I should catch up on my writing.



We left Vang Vieng early on our third day there. We had come there specifically for "tubing", the town's main attraction - where bars are set up along the river for the kids wading along in inner tubes to make their way around to get free shots of alcohol and swing ropes and go down slides while drunk and generally have an extremely sloppy time - but we ended up deciding against it. STUPID decision, I know. We had spent our first day in Vang Vieng recovering from our trip to get there, spent our second day kayaking (awesome fun good time) and caving (awesome fun good time - almost drowned, so glad I did it), and we just couldn't justify spending a third day in a town that was just supposed to be a stop over. We knew that we may have regrets in not doing it, simply because it's just what you do there, but I don't know. I still have a LOT of regret in not doing it, especially because I know that it would have been SO MUCH FUN if we had been in a group of friends that could have a great time together. I mean, SO much fun. Shit. I'm a moron. Maybe next time? ?

Damn it.

Damn it.

In any case, we had another beautiful drive through the Laos countryside to get from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang. Our VIP bus got two flat tires on the way there. It was an excellent ride. No, seriously.

When we arrived in Luang Prabang, we looked around for a good while for some of the guesthouses listed in our Lonely Planet book but couldn't find them. We've decided not to rely on that book for too much anymore. Our guesthouse is nice and comfortable and within our budget, but a lot of the people we've met are paying about half of what we're paying, mind you it's for what they describe as "shitholes" so I think we're OK. Maybe we've just become spoiled by places like the one we stayed in while in Vang Vieng. In any case, it's fine and they take credit cards (finally) which is a great thing because the ATM's have not been working for the entire time that we've been here, and I've been told for about a week before we came. People are taking cash advances on their credit cards and having to leave town early. It's madness. Madness!

The town of Luang Prabang is great. Really great. Well, odd, but great. I mean, there's a curfew of about 10:30-11PM for all of the restaurants and shops and a curfew of midnight for our guesthouse, and the power goes out across the whole town from 6AM-6PM on Sundays, and the ATM's haven't been working, but this town is great. It's this nice mix of Asian and French architecture and culture and it's great to just walk around and explore and take it easy for a while. It's been a pretty relaxing and interesting town for us. It is more expensive than some of the other cities we've been to, and it seems to be catered more toward the older tourists with big wallet set, but we've just been enjoying figuring it all out as we go.


DAY ONE

I got up early and went for a walk on my own to explore the town while Bianca slept. I strolled around the market that we had seen only briefly the night before, after having dinner with a couple from Ireland. It was a good quiet morning. I wandered through the winding cobblestone streets and climbed the stairways and alleyways along the river, surveying the vendors and enjoying the morning's calm. I was making my way through a nice little street lined with flowering garden gates, filled with guesthouses, residences and shops and charm when I heard a sort of kiss kiss sound in my left ear. I turned and PENIS. I was instantly shown, conveniently displayed directly at my eye line, a very large and glistening and very erect penis being fondled by a man whose top half was obscured by a beautiful garden hedge overhanging the gate separating the two of us by maybe two or three feet. I will now call this town "Wang Prabang".

Once Bianca was awake and ready we did some more walking together. Thankfully there were no further incidences of penis. We stepped into a great little gallery of photographs at one point displaying various pictures of Laos, and in there we met a very nice man from Pennsylvania named Steve. Steve treated us to dinner that night where we got to hear the monks in a nearby temple singing at dusk. He's an interesting guy and was fascinating to talk with. He's now in his 50s and works in Education at a large oil company in Saudi Arabia. He has lived an incredibly full, adventurous, and interesting life and had a wealth of insight to offer us. He's kind and generous and smart and just such a great man. He's currently in Laos taking a wood carving course at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Wood carving is his passion. He's a pretty inspiring man.


DAY TWO

On our second day in Luang Prabang, we took a textile weaving course at OkTokPop (?) weaving centre. They have several shops and galleries here and a cafe and courses at the centre. We spent a day at their weaving centre where we learned how silk is made and were shown the plants they use to make their dyes, and then got to create our own dyes and dye our own silks. The majority of the day though, was taken up with weaving our own textile. It was a lot more difficult, but also a lot more fun and relaxing, than I expected. I had a great time, and my teacher was very patient. She would just laugh at me and shout "Bor, Bor!!" or "Urnghhh!" at me when I screwed up - which I did, and I love it. The mistakes I made in the pattern are just proof that I actually made the thing myself.

Later that day we met up for pizza with Eran, an Israeli traveller I met on the street when he stopped to ask me where to find a cheap guest house. Eran's friend, Lucas (from Germany) joined us as well and these guys are great, great, just hilarious dinner companions. We laughed about German fetish films and tactless Quebecois until it hurt.

As we all headed into the market to get some street meat from the vendors I turned to find Bianca had run into Tim - the Australian we met in Chiang Mai - on the street and I got giddy. It was great to see a familiar face again and he'd been great to hang around with in Thailand. We all caught up over Indian food, beer Lao and Bollywood movies.


DAY THREE

Waterfalls. We went to two of'em on our third day in Luang Prabang. We were told that the tuk tuk would be less expensive the more people we could cram into it so we tried to collect as many people as possible - it was Bianca and me, Eran, Tim, two girls from Denmark whose names I've forgotten, and Sophie and Alex from Austria. We had a pretty great day. Well, at least I know that I did.

It was day of facing fears for me. On this day it was my childhood fear of drowning. I'm not the strongest swimmer and after several incidents of near drowning as a child I've developed certain fears that I've unfortunately failed to remedy by doing something constructive like take swimming lessons. I just kind of stay scared.

So, the waterfalls. We went to a large waterfall first - it was a very big and majestic and there were lots of people taking pictures and la dee da. Our group decided to climb as far as we could on the path up the hill carved out beside the waterfall. The climb was pretty steep - similar in steepness to the heights that Tudor and I climbed in the Appalachians in New York state, except that it was about 30-35 degrees with over 90 percent humidity this time. I was drenched by the time we got to the top. It was excellent.

We got to the top of the waterfall and climbed around some of the makeshift barriers to get as close to the edge of the waterfall as possible. We even hung from a branch overlooking the falls, legs dangling in the mist and all. There are pictures of this somewhere. At this point, a few of the group had already gone back down the hill. I stuck with the boys though since they were proving a bit more adventurous and I felt up to giving myself a bit more of a challenge. We explored the slippery rocks and muddy banks and pockets of murky water for a while in search of swimming spots together before heading back down the hill. Still feeling the need to get our 20,000 kip worth out of the falls, and encouraged by a consistent lack of signage, barriers, warnings, security or other deterrents, the three of us decided to also scale the crap out of the face of the big waterfall as well. I was scared out of my mind the whole time, but it was a hell of a lot of fun and I'm glad I did it. Thankful as well that I had a good pair of encouraging friends with an adventurous spirit to keep my fears in check.

By the time we got back down from exploring caves and waterfalls, it took us a while to find our tired and slightly leech-eaten group before we all went off to the second waterfall of the day. The second waterfall was more of a swimming hole that was lined with several levels of smooth rocky and low waterfalls. The water was nice and cool and the force of some of the falls offered some great back-pummeling massage. After a quick dip many of the girls went to go sit down again, but after that big waterfall I wanted to see what I could do here as well. There were little kids cannonballing off of one of the heights, which terrified me, but I realized it couldn't be too bad. The boys were off somewhere with Sophie, the cute little Austrian, so I went to explore a bit on my own. There were steps to a certain section on top of the falls by they ended quickly and I soon found myself struggling for balance on shaky rocks before I was beckoned over by Sophie and the boys nearby. I felt like a bit of a tag-along, latching onto that group once again (especially with me being the weakest of the group), but it was better than sitting on the sidelines and shrugging my shoulders. I had fun exploring with them again, but was somehow even more terrified this time (and even more embarrassed for being so terrified). Everything felt like a life or death, or serious injury, moment. I could not stop shaking. Maybe it was just me being dramatic, maybe it was just the dangerous feeling of breaking through invisible barriers - barriers that would be guarded and obeyed carefully back in Canada. This was stuff that I've always been told that I'm not allowed to do, so it automatically felt extremely unsafe and dangerous (no matter how safe and small it actually was). I was absolutely terrified, and I was crying inside my head. I was so scared and shaking when I had to jump off the last waterfall at the end. It was the only way down. I felt pretty ridiculous afterwards though when I saw just how small the waterfall and how simple and un-scary the task actually was that made me shake so much. I felt pretty damn stupid.

After the waterfalls we all got to know eachother better over dinner and drinks, and later a few games of cards. We stayed up pretty late, me even later after Bianca went off to bed. I didn't want to leave these people because I knew they were all going off to Vang Vieng tomorrow. On the other hand, I heard it was a good thing I left the boys when I did because the story they told of the angry tuk tuk driver and a bowling alley after 2AM doesn't like one I would have liked to have been involved in.

The group of them: Eran, Tim, Sophie and Alex had all planned to go to Vang Vieng the next day and so we saw them off the next morning as they took an early bus together. I'm extremely jealous. Throughout this trip I've been eager to join up with a group of people, change our plans and just see what we can all find together, and I can't help but think about what I'm missing out on by staying here. They're a lucky group because they all happen to be going in the same direction at the same time and I know that they're going to have a fantastic time together. I kept thinking, while we were in Vang Vieng, that what could have made the experience so much better is if we were with a great group of people we could just have fun with and laugh at eachother. We considered tagging along and going back to Vang Vieng with them, but for our trip being so short as it is going back to a town we've already been to just would not have made any sense. Or, maybe it would. I don't know. Just writing that out makes me want to pound my fists like a child. In any case, I'm sure we'll many more fantastic people along the way and we'll be lucky enough to spend more time with them.

I had a hard time saying goodbye that morning. I almost didn't show up. I'm terrible with goodbyes - I get a bit sappy, as you can probably tell. I begged them all to keep in touch, probably a bit too desperately because I know there's not much hope that they will and that's just how it happens. I've got to get better at this, or maybe I'll just have to accept that I'll always get so attached to people along the way and I need to learn how to manage it better. I have to accept that in meeting some of the greatest people in the world, they're going to just keep coming and going and I have to take it as it is. I really just can't handle this constant feeling that my heart is being broken each and every time more great people go along on their way. They're gone now, as they should be, creating their own adventures. I've got to do my very best to create my own adventures too. And I will.

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