lolamatopoeia: (sideview)
I was sitting in our tuk tuk tonight, facing forward and letting the wind blow on my face as we puttered through the hot smoggy streets, and I closed my eyes and smiled when I realized that, for the first time that I can recall in a long time, I am happy. I felt it distinctly. Right through me. I am where I should be. I am becoming more aware of myself every day and the world and the people around me, and I am happy. I am happy.
lolamatopoeia: (mozflash)
We finally moved on from Luang Prabang and are now in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Luang Prabang was much easier to get stuck in than we expected and I had to force myself to leave. We had been getting too spoiled there. We took an 8-10 hour bus ride through the mountains yesterday to get here. It was pretty spectular and I'm growing quite fond of long bus rides. It's nearly impossible for me to sleep or read for more than a few minute spurts at a time, so I tend to just gaze out the window at the scenery and listen to music. It's fantastic down time and alright for meeting new people as well. Yesterday I talked with a young Brit who told me stories about his slow boat journey from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang and bed bugs and mayonaisse in tea in between reading his Agatha Christie mystery. I think an Ode to Bus Rides in South East Asia is in order soon.

Vientiane is alright so far. We stayed in a ridiculously overpriced hotel last night (200,000 kip for the two of us) because all of the guesthouses within a walkable perimeter to our drop off point from the tuk tuk were either full or putrid. We switched to a much cheaper room across the street this morning and are just crossing our fingers now that our bags are still there and intact. We're finding this city quite a bit pricier than others we've visited, but I suppose that should be expected from the Capital.

We have been impressed so far with the amount of fellow travellers we've been able to reconnect with along the way; we just keep bumping into eachother. Last night we had burgers with Lucas, the German student fluent in Indonesian and fetish films, after meeting with him again on a street near our hotel. This morning we also bumped into Gavin, one of the Australians in the tour group I rode an elephant with at the Elephant Village. It's a small world after all.

We went to the National Museum today and it was fascinating and extremely painful for me. I've worked in so many museums for many years and walking around rooms that are not temperature controlled, and seeing precious artifacts not enclosed in any way (just signs that beg 'Don't Touch' nearby), and gazing at photographs with undated and out of order labels stuck directly onto the print just made me cringe. It makes me want to get some official training in Museum Studies and Historic Preservation of Artifacts and just come back here and help them to know how to take care of this delicate history.

We plan to leave here tomorrow. We'll be heading South, to Paxse and the 4000 Islands for a while to do some exploring. We've decided to cut out the Malaysia and Indonesia portion from this trip since it would just be too rushed otherwise. We love Laos and we want to be able to spend more time here, and we'd also like to have more time in Vietnam and Cambodia. Trying to squeeze in two more countries there would have just been too much. This will also just give me further incentive to go there on my own next year. I must learn to dive! Alright, off to see about a bus ticket and to take some more Imodium.
lolamatopoeia: (sideview)
Another catch up day in Luang Prabang, at Utopia again, oddly enough. I'm spending as much time as possible alone today. I desperately need it. I need time to decompress and process. As well as you can get along with your travel partner, it is tougher that I thought spending 24 hrs a day, every single day, with a person (no matter how awesome there are) and it's wearing on me. I'm just not used to not getting enough alone time. I think everyone needs it. I may need more than others, I've discovered. I'm feeling overstimulated and overstretched and I need time to catch up on my journals, catch up on the world, watch television, read trash novels and magazines, fart, eat junk food and hang around naked in my air conditioned guesthouse room and not feel the need to be 'on' all the time or even talk anymore. I know that sounds harsh, I know, and nothing's wrong I just need alone time so, so, so desperately. This will need to be a more regular occurrence through this trip for me, I think.

Catch Up )
lolamatopoeia: (sideview)
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.

Days One to Four in Luang Prabang )
lolamatopoeia: (mozflash)
Today was an excellent day. We took a kayaking and caving tour with an ecotourism company and it was great. Our guides were excellent and the whole tour was um, great.

I need more adjectives for these entries.

Kayaking was heaps of fun and heaps of challenging. I was in the back and steering because I had kayaked before and am a bit stronger, but Bianca's aggressiveness in the front kept counteracting my efforts and between the two of us stubborn girls we had to be rescued from the reeds twice.

We ate lunch with some baby pigs, a co-guide for the day from Germany (he and his wife are doing an around the world tour for their honeymoon), and a nice girl named Gen from Australia. Despite my claustrophobia I went in the caves with the rest of the group after the man from Pennsylvania said to me "Oh, me too - I actually hate caves, but I'm not coming all the way here just to say I didn't do it". Damn right, I thought. Damn right. I went in, and then I almost drowned. It was sooooo much fun!
lolamatopoeia: (sideview)
Today was just an in between, kind of recovery day. The aim was to go tubing - the big attraction in this town - but we got up late (definitely needed it though after a long time in transit) in our almost too luxuriously comfortable guesthouse. We had to get a bunch of things sorted around town today and just didn't end up with enough time. We did, however, have enough time to book our eco tour for tomorrow - a day of kayaking and caving - and become extremely uncomfortable and conflicted about being tourists in this town. As I wrote earlier, this town is peculiar in that it is the most beautiful setting that I have ever been in but the tourists outnumber the locals and some of the people visiting here are kind of just assholes. It seems this town is set up entirely to cater to the foreigners - and unfortunately mainly to the drunken and disrespectful, party time kind. I stood on a corner for a good twenty minutes waiting for Bianca to come back from the bank and there were 4 separate bar televisions blasting episodes of "Friends", and two showing "Family Guy" to the tourists nursing their hangovers. I saw so many young shirtless and barefooted groups of men yelling curse words, swinging beer bottles, and stumbling down the street and several girls strolling around in just their bikinis. It makes me extremely uncomfortable to be here and a little ashamed to be a tourist. This place is so goddamn beautiful, it's just awful that it has become so exploited. We really wanted to go out and socialize and meet people today and this evening, but I don't know. I'm conflicted. I can't write it enough that this is such a beautiful place, it's just a shame about what it has become for the sake of what seems like babysitting drunk tourists. I don't know, maybe I'd feel better about it if I were with my friends here right now. We would be having a blast. This town makes me miss them. Or, maybe I should just have a fucking drink.
lolamatopoeia: (inconceivable!)
After hearing a few stories about the slow boat ride from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang (Laos), Bianca and I decided to take the overnight bus to Laos instead ... only to find out that we should have gone on the slow boat instead because it could be a heck of a lot of fun and a great opportunity for meeting people. Maybe next time ..? In any case, we made our decision and the overnight bus wasn't too bad. The tuk tuk driver who took us to the bus station was very sweet and when he found out that we were headed to Laos and we asked if he had ever been to his neighbouring country, he sighed and said 'no', but that maybe some day he would be able to go to Laos. It really hit home for me then: the privilege that I have in travelling like this.

Our bus took 12 hours, overnight to Udon Thani near the border to Laos. I didn't sleep a wink. I had my headphones on and my eyes were burning but I could not sleep the entire time. Other than paranoia I can't even full explain why I couldn't sleep. Once we got to Udon Thani, a tuk tuk overcharged us in a trip to the bus station to Vientiane where we were swarmed by taxi drivers who tried to overcharge us for our trip. We found out that we could not go directly to Vientiane but instead had to got to Nom Kai to get visas at the Friendship Bridge. The border was quite a bit of chaos, waiting outside in crowded line ups, all of us huddled on the ground with our belongings as they kept our passports behind a sliding window for hours. We got our visas though and everything was fine. I was just panicked for a good while there for what turned out to be no reason (as usual).

The bonus of the day though was that we got to meet a girl from France who had been living and teaching French in Vientiane for four months. She's just signed a contract to teach in Luang Prabang for a year. We also met Lisa, who has been in Thailand now for seven years. She has started her own organization to help and educate Burmese refugees in Thailand. This woman amazed me. She doesn't make any money doing what she is doing, relying entirely on donations from around the world and cash advances on her credit card. She does amazing work and workshops with kids that have been through such horrible things, things I can't even imagine. She has done all of this on her own. She came to Thailand after helping refugees in India for a few years. She came to Thailand and saw a problem and decided that she needed to do something about it. She didn't just hope that someone else who do it, like so many of us would (including myself). She is doing it herself. She is truly inspirational. The organization she runs is called the Thai Freedom House. Check it out if you can.

Our final bus ride up to Vang Vieng, a town we were told that we had to visit, was pretty much the best bus ride ever. An old man, originally from Vietnam, spoke to us in French and offered to share his food with us. Another man delayed the bus for nearly an hour loading it full of boxes of roofing tiles. The tiles filled the storage under the bus, filled the back of the bus, lined the isles, and was tucked under our seats. It was hilarious. Everyone on the bus was friendly and kind and we had a great time. The best part was the absolutely unforgettable views we were treated to along the way. I was hypnotized by the sights I saw and could not believe my eyes - misty mountains completely green with clouds lining their tops, winding red dirt roads through jungle, cows and water buffalo on the road stopping traffic, bamboo huts on stilts and palm trees and french inspired architecture and barenaked children, and ... I just gasped and smiled the whole time. I closed my eyes to soak it all in but would quickly open them in case I missed something.

We got to Vang Vieng in the dark and found a great guesthouse. After such a magical bus ride through the mountains, we were disappointed though to find that the town we're staying in is full of more tourists - mainly very young boorish and belligerent brits drinking and smashing bottles in the streets - than locals. This place is indescribably beautiful. It's such a shame. I will try to take as many pictures as I can, but I am telling you that this is so far the most beautiful place that I have ever seen and no pictures or description I can give here will do it justice. It's just a shame about the silly tourists.

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July 2009

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