**Hello in Lao!
[Before I begin, I'd like to clarify something I wrote in the previous post... the campsite where we ate included the puppy, lunch did not. I still have not [knowingly] eaten dog.]
I have successfully crossed into Laos! My trip from Sa Pa, Vietnam to Odoumxay, Laos went something like this:
7:00 pm - 3:30am: on the road to Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam in a mini-bus with a sleeping Vietnamese man on my shoulder and Vietnam's Greatest Hits playing on repeat at ear-bleeding volume
3:30am - 5:30am: at the bus stop, people watching until the ticket booth opened
5:30am - 7:00am: Got my ticket for the 5:30am bus to Muong Khua, Laos which promptly left at 7.
7:00am - 8:30am: Attempted sleep on the benches in the bus (which should have been retired 20 years ago), but an impromptu karaoke session kept me awake and amused
8:30am: Reached the Vietnam border. Handed my passport to the bored guard playing Galaga (and whose finger never stopped clicking the mouse, even when checking my papers). Over to Laos, an out-door border crossing, where I got an H1N1 test (a gun shaped thermometer pointed at my head and which cost me 3,000 kip), a visa, and some iced coffee.
9:30am - 4:00 pm: bouncin and bustlin through the mountain roads, watching dubbed versions of American movies (new American movies, I presume. The movies were all dubbed, so I couldn't follow along, but I watched one with James Franco and some chimps that was really really weird).
4:00pm: Tired, in pain from sprinting down a mountain and then sitting for a million hours, checked into a hotel where I promptly passed out in front of the fan.
THEN I WOKE UP AND GOT ON A BUS FOR ANOTHER 8 HOURS. And you know what? I kind of enjoyed it. Call me what you will (INSANE), but I have learned to love the bus ride. In fact, the more crowded with people who don't speak my language, the more I seem to like it. I like being with the people, travelling the way they all travel, hearing the roosters calling from the top of the bus, resting my legs on one of the 25 flour bags filled with fruit. I've found I have less to complain about on these rides simply because no one else is complaining. On an air plane I feel entitled. This seat doesn't recline, give me a new one. I'm sorry, this ice cube is not regulation size, take this drink back! But cramped in a bus, with my knees to my chin, my head halfway out the window, I sit there peacefully and think it could be worse. I could be that guy in aisle straddling the chicken between his legs. And if he's not complaining, why should I? Also, as I keep finding myself to be the only foreigner on theses buses, people tend to give me snacks and drinks and often make me hold their babies, much to the babies' horror. So, despite the other options of travel available to me, I will probably continue to subject myself to the craziness that is bus travelling BECAUSE I LIKE IT OK?
Well, after those 8 hours, I arrived in Luang Prabang, a charming town with more temples than houses sitting at the convergence of the Mekong and ... some other river. And it came with 3 of my fellow RPCVs from Mongolia! For some strange reason, I didn't feel inclined to photodocument any of this, but I swear it happened. We hung out, got drunk, went swimming, drank some more, karaoked (as peace corps volunteers are apt to do), and then got our shit together and went on a TREK.
I hate the work trek. Especially travellers who are "trekking" through Southeast Asia. Shut up, you're just carrying a big backpack onto many different forms of transportation.
He he, sorry. Most travelers are awesome awesome people, but some you just want to sock in the face.
The Trek! It was 2 days, we hiked around the mountains the first day, stopping in H'mong or Zau villages, where I wanted to take many pictures of too cute children, but the other folks we were with were snap snap snapping away right in these poor children's faces, so I backed off. Please read this.
[that blog is written by one of the RPCVs with me in Luang Prabang. She's delightfully sassy and really effin funny.]
|I did get a picture! Here is Ryan with his parasol hiking through a rice field.|
|The only picture I took in the village.|
|Some more trekkin|
So we arrived in one of the villages in the early evening, where we put our bags down, cleaned up a bit, and attempted to entertain little H'mong children while we waited for dinner. We failed, by the way. The kids had a indiscernible hopscotch-esque game, which they would not tear themselves away from. I say indiscernable because from what we could tell, the biggest girl, the one with the stick, seemed to change the rules with each passing turn. She'll make a great leader someday.
At dinner, we hung with out guide, BK (he loves shortening words to JUST their first letter. For example: How was your B? [meaning breakfast] or Today we will W, E and K [meaning waterfall, elephant ride, and kayak]) who shared many a different story. To give you an idea of how different, one story included his life as a monk and the next included a story of a boy in a tree pooping on the head of a dog. Then we drank some Lao Lao (homemade alcohol) and slept soundly in our little bungalows.
Then next day we prepped for some W, E and K.
After all that fun, the 4 of us from Mongolia met up for drinks and dinner and in the morn, we all parted ways.
And that was my time in Luang Prabang! Swimming pools, elephants, and good friends, oh my!