Musings from the Mekong

This is gonna be a mish-mash post, because my ‘List of Things to Write About’ is not getting a bit shorter; and at this rate, I’ll never catch up! I want capture as best I can, the essence of these experiences before I am filled with other ones!

Internet here on Don Khong is ridiculously expensive; I’ve found one place that’s for free, but I guess you get what you pay for because try as I might, although I was able to get on yesterday, today nothing’s working. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal except I really wish I could catch up with the world right now. Why? One word: Egypt!

WOW! What an incredible day it was for Egypt and for the world – I am so eager to hear and see more, but all I know is when I read a headline on my I-phone, I began weeping in solidarity with these people, touched as I was, as all people who so value freedom everywhere in the world were, when I/we saw what they had accomplished. What courage and determination! And what a reminder to us all of what is possible and how important it is to never, never, never give up! Before this trip, I was mapping out some ideas for travel next year (ever the itinerant gypsy, I am!) and Egypt was on my list for Fall 2012 – and now it’s pretty much cemented there – how exciting it will be to  be there after all this! But now, I’m here and I will follow dear Ram Dass’ sage wisdom and yes … Be Here Now!

A Sample of Indelible Impressions

I love the familiarity of the flora here – orchids everywhere, just like the kine we have at home. Palms and bananas and even ulu, I especially got a kick out of seeing ulu, although I’m sure the Lao people have come up with another word for it (for you folks reading not from Hawaii, it’s breadfruit). Oh, and this is sweet – the national flower of Lao is … guess what … our dear plumeria. Of course, they don’t call it that – I’ve forgotten the Lao word (what a surprise!), but if any non-Lao word is used to describe it, it’s frangipani.

There’s something very comforting seeing nature that    I feel like I know … and of course, loving the new and unusual, too – it’s that combo that does it for me!

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No shoes inside – anywhere … even little stores and shops … something I like about that, too, of course, with how common that is in my Hawaii home.

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I’ve overheard and shared some conversations with French and British travelers and was struck by their take on their country’s colonial past in these parts. Some of the French spoke of how, well, yes, colonialism is bad, but hey, look at all the good the colonialists did. Huh? Well, look at all the infrastructure they left behind. Huh? Ohyes, streets and roads and beautiful French architecture. And then the British pipe in with, ‘you sure can tell where the French were and where the Brits were – the French left nothing behind – at least the Brits created transportation systems (look at that fancy Indian railway system, will you?!) and schools and decent buildings and hospitals and all that – what did the French do? Nothing.’ Double huh? Far be it for me to make such comparisons – all I know I’ve said already – it seems the most important thing the French left behind was baguette. And maybe French Fries – ha!

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Remember when I was talking about all the smiling Lao – well, it’s still true – the Sabaidy” still rings out everywhere with a big, beaming smile. Children come running when they see me walk or bicycle by, waving and repeating the magic word over and over – it’s very sweet! I’ve noticed, though, that tourists are not nearly so friendly. I’ve found it’s often hard to even catch their eye, try as I might to make eye contact with them. And here they are on holiday or traveling, but many of them don’t look so open or so happy – it’s a generalization, but it’s true. They’re often buried in their guide books and their plans for how to get to the next place on their list.

True story – I was in a restaurant overlooking the Mekong the other day in Champasak where there was another tourist (man) sitting alone at another table. A Lao man joined him and began talking in his limited English about the island across the river. I kid you not, the tourist said, “oh, really” and opened his guide book, paying not a bit more attention to the Lao man, and proceeded, I guess, to read about the island across the river. The Lao man stayed for a while, but when it was clear that the tourist was not gonna say another word to him, he shrugged his shoulders and moved on. Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, it’s none of my damn business and he can do as he pleases … but … but … but … I would be glued to that man! I may have no business saying it, but I’m gonna anyway – put the damn guide book away and seize the moment!

In the meantime, I’m still just gonna keep on smiling and at everyone, no matter whether they’re glued to their guide books or not!

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Lao people are famous, it’s said, for eating anything that walks, flies, crawls, swims or slithers. Really, they are. And really, they do. I simultaneously dread and can’t wait for the day that I am invited into a local person’s home. The dread is all about what I may be served. When I was at the local market in the Bolaven Plateau, I saw the delicacies there and I’ve seen them on the restaurant menus – ant eggs and deep-friend big-ass beetles (the latter not called that exactly, but you get the idea), wayyyyy bigger, like 5 times the size, of those disgusting flying roaches in Hawaii that give me the willies more than just about anything else. Yes, they eat these suckers – cook them up in a nice sauce, I understand! – curse the day that I am called upon to be respectful of that tradition! I passed at the market when the ant eggs were offered and got out of it easily enough when another tourist said yes and swallowed one proudly and without hesitation. As for me, I’d really like to stick to my fruit and vegetables please, although I make a point not to look too closely to what might possibly be mixed in with them!

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I’m getting a lot of advice and warnings about where I’m headed from other travelers. And partly I don’t really want to hear it. Except I do. While of course I want to know about where to avoid and how to stay safe, and balance that with having and making my own experience and not be frightened by other people’s opinions, it’s quite a challenging balancing act. Several tourists have spoken of how hard and how dangerous Cambodia is – I keep hearing it, “be careful in Cambodia – watch your stuff – there are scams and thieves who want to rip you off everywhere you go.” Ugh, I know it’s gonna be very different than here and I l know I have to rally up that inner New Yorker to help guide me through the maze of some of it. I’m just so damn relaxed here. No one wants to sell me anything. There’s pretty much nothing even being sold besides the basic life stuff. And so unlike my travels in Guatemala and longer ago, in Mexico and other places, there are no men on the streets with loaded, cocked semi-automatic weapons (I actually got used to seeing them and after awhile, they just weren’t any big deal anymore.). I’ve never even seen a police officer here. I’m sure there’s crime, but I’ve heard and seen nothing of it. I took off my money belt many days ago; and while it’s never far away from me, I’m certainly not shackled with it around my waist all the time. That’s gonna change and soon. For now, I will enjoy the ease of this lovely place and leave not a minute before I am ready. Because leave I know I will – but I still want to have my own experience in Cambodia and Vietnam (the latter doesn’t get much better reviews and in some cases, even worse) and keep this calm and grounded way about me.

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The Yoga of Squatting.

And I’m not talking about squat toilets. Not necessarily, that is, although they certainly come into play here, too. It’s the squatting position in general I’m referring to.

People around the world, in no matter the culture, love to hang out. From sitting around on the steamily-humid summer ‘stoops’ of New York city to the sultry souks of Morocco to the balmy-breezed evenings of Italian summer nights – it’s an art form, really, and one I love not only to witness, but certainly take part in. We humans love to congregate: around a table, a beach bonfire, the village square, the port or the bus station. It’s what we do and we do it well. And most times, we’re either standing, walking (the lovely Italian passageiata comes to mind and heart!), and of course, sitting. But not here. And not in the 3rd world in general. These people come from some ancient lineage that has some other kind of structure in their thigh, leg and ankle muscles. They squat, you see. And they squat and they squat. It’s not a nice, gentle yin yoga stretch held for several minutes. Ohno, these people assume the position for the duration and without the least bit of noticeable strain or discomfort. I’m no yogi by any means, but my body is fairly flexible and while it’s challenging for me to have both heels on the floor in a squat, I can still keep the position for a little while. And I’ve tried it since I’ve been here and used it way more than once as I’ve used the many squat toilets I’ve come upon. They’re familiar to me, even the infamous Indian Pig Toilets, one in particular that I’ve written and spoken of so glowingly! But I’m not talking about that here either (and am happy to report there’ve been no Pig Toilets in sight just yet).

When I was on the Bolaven Plateau tour a week ago (or a year ago, I’m not sure which), we met some of the local Ethnic villagers and there they were squatting – one of them was a 93 year-old man who weighed maybe 80 pounds. Strong as an ox, they said, his clothes more like filthy rags and barefoot, of course. We sat with them all for maybe a half hour. Ohyes, we sat for sure. We tried to squat, but none of us Westerners could hold it for the entire time. And there that old man sat, errr, squatted, I mean, with no effort, no discomfort … just sat there squatting. And I bet he’s got no hemorrhoids to show for all that squatting either, not like us Americans who spend way too much time sitting on our asses. Like now, these many hours I’ve been writing, you can bet for sure I haven’t been squatting! Okay, enough on the squatting, but I think you get my point!

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What to do about these languages? It’s clear that in all my preparations, I didn’t quite get around to studying Thai, Lao, Cambodian and Vietnamese. Too bad, maybe another time! Yeah right. But really, I had no intentions of doing so although I notice how much I miss being able to speak to the people here. I notice it in thinking about my last trip out, to Guatemala, when I spoke in broken Spanish almost exclusively. And how I loved that! And a few times I mistakenly tried to speak to some people here in Spanish, silly me!

Well, there’s not much hope that I’ll be able to say much in the local languages here. But a few words can make all the difference, I’ve learned.

So, in the wise words of Meister Eckert, who tells us “If the only prayer you ever speak is thank you, that is enough,” I’ve decided that those are the most important words for me to learn. And really I haven’t learned many more. But I have learned those and I use them every chance I get – I figure I can’t really go wrong with saying ‘thank you’ over and over!

Here’s my collection so far, some written phonetically for obvious reasons:

Thai – Kap Koon Ka

Lao – Kab Jai or Kab Jai La Lai (the latter is ‘thank you very much’)

And just for good measure, here’s a few I’ve collected from other travelers.

Chinese – Shi Shi

Dutch – Dankjewel

Hungarian – Ke se num

That’s all for now – stay tuned for more!

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Oh, the animals here. I’ve certainly seen what we Westerners regard as pets in worse shape in the 3rd world – way worse. Although I did see a kitten yesterday who I just had to take my eyes away from, riddled as the dear thing was with starvation and ear and skin disease and a lethargy of energy that said she may not live out the day. Oh, I couldn’t stand it! Then I looked at pictures of Makana and Pono and realized I should probably send an email to Kristin right away and have her give them one less scoop a day!

But in general, I’ve seen animals that are not so sickly – thin maybe, no, definitely, but not in such bad shape, considering. They actually look pretty happy and not in the awful shape that can be so true in countries of such poverty – and friendly as all get out – not a growling dog anywhere (and there’s tons of them – neutering and spaying is an unheard-of luxury, I’m sure) – they’re mostly just lazing around in the afternoon heat, napping and taking some petting wherever they can find it.

A distant cousin of Makana’s showed up on the lanai today as I was writing – a quarter of her size maybe, but with the black spot on her nose and all. Made me pine for those sweet creatures back home (said in my pouty-head voice).

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Oh, by the way, speaking of head-voice. Listen up, voice teachers in my life – you know who you are!! And especially you, Jon, although I’m sure the rest of you use the same coaxing, I just haven’t heard it from you – you know that thing you’ve got for getting us to sing higher, yes?! And how you want us to exercise that head voice? Well, no worries here. Just like Aco said in our Singing with Courage workshop, in Japan lots of people talk in their head voice. Well, it’s the same here. They need no such encouragement to get on up there – the head voice is everywhere – it sounds odd to my Western-trained ear, of course, and maybe I’m even talking higher myself, who knows? But I just thought you should know about this – so now you do!

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Some observations about the world of travelers:  I’ve noticed how coupled the world of travelers can be – people everywhere hand-in-hand (although it’s mostly all straight couples, as far as my gaydar gauges), with eyes only for one another. Maybe I’m a tad envious, although I don’t think so and if I am, it’s not terribly so, because I am really quite satisfied not only with my own company, but with the freedom and ease of creating and finding my own way. Ohsure, I’d like and imagine I will find an occasional companion or two along the way (and already have to a limited and delightful degree). But the couples appear quite insular with their focus primarily on each other. And they’re also young, so very young – late teens, early 20’s, many of them, and looking to party-party-party. And they can, so they do.

And it’s all Europeans. Mostly French – I don’t really know why there’s so many of them – perhaps visiting former French colonies gives them some of the vestiges of the language and  culture that were left behind. A few Brits, Italians, Germans (always plenty of Germans) and Chinese, but I’ve heard only one or two American accents so far. We Americans are not a traveling bunch, not to this part of the world, that’s for sure.

But at the same time that I’ve seen so many couples and so many young people, I’ve also seen more older tourists traveling in this off-beat 3rd world than I ever seen before. Older, like as old as me and even older – 50’s, 60’s, even 70’s. Still mostly all Europeans – I’m delighted to see so many of them, vibrant and alive and taking trips way off the comfort tourist tracks. They inspire me to keep on getting out here, for sure!

I did see the first gay male couple of travelers the other day. They were sitting at the table next to me at dinner and they had a very cute young Lao boy in tow – I wrote my story about what was going on there and probably wasn’t too far off. When they began to quibble in their mother tongue (German), the Lao boy looked like he wanted to melt under the table. Even I got a littlenuncomfortable for him. But soon enough, all was well; and their flirtations, along with plenty of alcohol consumption, continued.

It got me thinking about the sex tourism in these parts – it’s really quite a phenomenon, particularly in Thailand; and it’s big business. I’ve read a few articles about the Lao government wanting very much not to turn into Thailand in those ways. And the book I read recently, Mango Rains, was all about Thai women in the sex industry there and it was definitely not a pretty picture. I do think the prostitution here is much more victimized-based, where these women from lives of abject poverty are sold or forced into it to support themselves and their families. While that may sometimes be true in the West, I think it’s predominantly the case here. So it’s something that can’t be ignored in South East Asia and of course there are plenty of opinions about it.

What it invariably gets me to think about, though, is the part about men paying for sex. That without that piece, without that demand, there’s no industry. And no matter the orientation, if it’s to have sex with other men or women, the entire industry depends on men paying for it and not the other way around. And that fascinates me. The world of prostitution would be gone, I think, if it were up to women paying for sex. I simply can’t imagine, no matter how lonely, horny or desperate I may be, to pay someone to have sex with me. And I hardly live within conventional ideas of sexuality. But still, it just confounds me. Especially here, where the big thing Western men seem to love, is the GFE, or, the Girlfriend Experience. They hire women not just for the sex, but for the whole fantasy that they are their girlfriends. They travel together, share meals and spend time together doing an assortment of activities, not just the horizontal variety. And it continues to bring Western men to these parts in droves. Really, in droves. Fascinating to me – but still, there’s something about it I just don’t quite grok.

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The challenges for the ‘Green Traveler’:

I don’t remember the specific line, but it’s a famous one from “The Graduate” about how the future is in plastics. Well, that very future just may destroy us – or the 3rd world, at least.

Litter in these parts is often quite the assault on the senses to those of us from the prosperous West who prefer to put our garbage in places where most of us can’t see it – that way we don’t really have to see all that we’re creating. But it’s everywhere here. And the most of it is plastic. Everywhere you look, it’s plastic bags, strewn in the gullies, in the river, along the roadside and tangled in the trees. The fact that we’re still debating the use of them in the States is ridiculous – Europe is so far advanced in that way – we really do need to get a clue about this. No such advancements here, for sure. Using the bags here is a non-issue for me – I simply don’t need or use them and make a point to tell the shopkeeper so, who otherwise automatically reaches for one whenever I buy something.

And I feel good about the part I do in living simply out here – I generate very little garbage, certainly much less than I do at home. I use public transportation systems and never have I or have I wanted to rent a car when I’ve traveled in these parts. And I stay as long as I can (!!) so that I amortize all the energy those airplanes use over the longest possible time. Yep, my carbon footprint is much lighter out here than even in my simple life at home. And that all feels fine.

The problem for me is the plastic water bottles. And I don’t have a solution – even carrying my Clean Canteen doesn’t do a thing for this challenge. My body simply doesn’t have the immunity to all the critters in the tap water here – I can’t possibly drink it and I notice that most local people don’t either. And while I’m grateful that I have access to clean drinking water, I’m left with only one choice – to buy all the water I need for drinking and brushing my teeth. And drink it I do, like crazy. Not only is it a habit I’ve started long ago, to drink at least a gallon a day; it’s also the intensity of the heat here and how it demands that I stay hydrated. So I do. The price is a pittance, that’s not the point. But it’s all these damn bottles I’m going through.

I’ve mostly stopped drinking bottled water at home long ago, primarily because I don’t want to add to the heaps of plastic bottles, even when they’re going to be recycled. The fact that so many people in the 1st world, who have complete access to totally fine drinking water, are buying bottled water, is insanity. It’s an entitlement of the ‘rich’ that the earth really can’t afford anymore and we’ve got to get a grip on it. But there’s no alternative here. I heard about water filling stations that were popping up in Bangkok, and I came across one when I was there (when my bottle was full, of course!) – but they’re certainly nowhere to be found in the rural parts of Asia. So, I keep drinking my water, buying another bottle and yet another, and wishing I could find an alternative.

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It’s not new to me, but still, I notice it. Local women and men, in public anyway, are pretty much completely segregated. Not only in public – when I pass by their homes, they’re often hanging out outside, in the cool areas underneath their houses, which because of the monsoon rains, are all on stilts. And still, they are separate. The women gather – I see them talking, giggling – washing clothes, preparing food and looking after the children, often swinging them in large bamboo swings, strung like hammocks. And the men are nowhere nearby. I see them fishing at the shoreline or out in their small dugout-esque canoes. Or they’re doing some kind of manual labor around the grounds. And this seems to start at an early age, although both girls and boys go to school, which I’m surprised and happy to see. But young boys are hanging out either with the men or with other young boys. Same with the girls, with the women or on their own.

Not much more to say about it, but it’s striking – I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve traveled outside the West and still, it is so. Who knows – maybe they’re onto something!

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This is definitely the land of Buddha! Everywhere I go, everywhere I look, there’s a temple and tons of Buddhas. Sometimes they’re deep in the forest or right out there in the middle of an open field – but one thing’s for sure – Buddhism is alive and well here in southern Lao. Even in the midst of all the poverty, which is rife here, the ornate temples are filled with gold and extravagance. Hhmmm – I wonder what the difference is, in seeing so much in this tradition, from all the ones I’m used to seeing in the West from the Christian traditions.

The particular ‘brand’ of Buddhism most practiced here in Lao is Theravada, although it took over from what was a predominantly pagan-based, animistic tradition throughout the country. Because Lao remains a communist country, Buddhism must adhere to the Marxist principles that the government decides are important – the monks, for example, must read Marx & Engel’s texts while they are in the monastery. The basic foundation of this particular Buddhism is all about making ‘merits,’ whether that’s making an offering of incense or flowers at a temple or giving alms to monks – it’s all about building up one’s account of ‘credits’ to be taken into the next life.

All men are required to join the monastery for some period of time – from the young to the old – no one is excused. Except of course, the women. While I love seeing the saffron-colored robed bodies seemingly float down the street, most often in the very early mornings – I’ve been most aware of all of them being men. Where are the women? Supposedly there are women nuns, but I haven’t seen a one. And why can’t women be monks? Get a load of this, not only aren’t they monks – they’re not allowed to touch a monk or to touch their robes. Considered unclean, perhaps? Where have I heard this before??!! Harrumph!

Buddhism and its philosophies enjoy an exalted position in much of the West – but I wonder – with all the riches in the midst of the poverty, with what looks like obvious sexism, with the dogma of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – is it really so different? I guess me and organized religions of most any kind are just not good bedfellows! I’ll take a principle from here and an idea from there, but I won’t be joining up in the Theravada tradition … just in case you were wondering!

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The Remnants of the War

I’ve done a bit of reading about Lao in the Vietnam / Indochina War and it’s not a pretty story. Even the fact that the US was here was a secret from most Americans – for years. But the remnants remain here in all sorts of ways:

Here’s a startling statistic – per capita, Lao is the most-bombed country of any country on the planet, in the history of warfare. And yes, you got it – those were US bombs – from 1964 to 1973, we dropped over 2 million tons of bombs here – equivalent to a planeload of bombs dropped every 8 minutes around the clock for 9 years – yes, we did that and primarily without Congress and voters knowing about it. YIKES!

The fallout has been tremendous of course and continues to this day. It is estimated that 37% of Lao still has UXO – unexploded ordnance that hasn’t been deactivated. I found an English newspaper the other day with a headline about a 9-year old girl that was recently killed by one. Why is it even still here? What are we doing to clean it up? The fact that it is and that we haven’t cleaned up our mess, committed to doing whatever is necessary, is another horrific crime perpetuated by our government.

Maybe you don’t want to hear this stuff – and you can skip this part if that’s so. Because no doubt, I’m gonna keep on talking about it throughout my time here. Unlike the German woman I had dinner with the other night. Her name is Petra, she comes from Bavaria and she’s a psychoanalyst. We got to talking, as travelers do, about our itineraries. She spoke of ‘hating’ Cambodia and went on to describe those strong feelings. “The people there, they’re still dealing with the effects of a war that had them killing each other. It’s a dark place, with all that hatred. No, I didn’t want to go to the Killing Fields – I don’t want to see the atrocities of what they did to their own people.” The irony of this conversation with a German woman, a psychoanalyst no less, was not lost on me. I resisted the temptation to speak of the darkness I experienced in her own country, how I felt that everyone there was still suffering the effects of PTSD and Nazism and struggling with their own or their family’s culpability in it. No, I didn’t push the point, but struck by it, I certainly was. As for me, just like I went to Auschwitz and Birkenau, indeed I will go to the Killing Fields. And you can count on a full report when I do.

And here’s something else I’m struck with – there are no old people here. And yes, you can imagine why. We killed them. I am so used to seeing the older and elderly folks – sitting outside in the evenings, congregating in the ways I’ve already spoken about. There just aren’t any here and when I realized that, it made sense, in some bizarre way. There are kids, all right – loads of them. A baby boom is going on here, for sure. But I can tell you that I’ve seen less than a handful of Lao people that look over 60 or so. What does a country do without its older generation, I wonder?

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Here on Don Khong, I’ve rented a bicycle, twice, and a motorbike. Funny, the process that’s involved. It’s no process at all and I guess is only funny because of what it would entail back at home. Here’s how it went. I showed up – pointed to a bicycle, paid the $1.25 and rode off. That was it – no paperwork of any kind. No discussion of when to return the bike. No bike lock or helmet. No nothing. Pretty much the same with the motorbike – I walked up to it, the man came around, pulled the bike out, showed me the gears, where to put the gas and in this case, gave me a helmet. That was it. No papers, no nothing. There’s something so simple that I love about it, coming from that most litigious culture of mine – imagine such a thing happening there!

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Hair Update: Well, the biggest part of the update is that I still have hair – I took my special razor-tool to it about as much as I could – until most all my hair is less than a ¼ inch long! With there being not much else to cut (I’ve left a tail in the back for some unknown reason – I don’t even have a mirror to see what it looks like!), the tool is packed away – and now I’ve just got a head of cowlicks galore – sure is easy in the morning – and even with naps and wearing a helmet – there’s no change! My hair gel is put away, too – not enough hair to even spike it! This is the shortest my hair has ever been – except maybe when I was a kid with ringworm (yuck!) and I hardly remember that. Can’t say it’s a cut worth keeping, but it’s what is so right now and really, it’s just fine!

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Health Report: I feel GREAT! A few aches and pains that come with the increased exercise – so much walking and bicycle riding, but besides that, I’m feeling fabulous and so grateful that it’s so! Had a tiny bit of diarrhea after leaving Bangkok (a bit too much eating from the street stalls maybe) but it didn’t last long – I would welcome that now as my bowels are a bit lazy, even with all the water, veggies and fruit I’m taking in – but I trust it will get better soon.

Psychologically, I’m also in a great place – I feel strong and solid, grounded and relaxed and totally at ease, with myself and with the culture around me. Sometimes that takes a while for me to create, but it’s been almost effortless so far. There was that first day that I was alone in Bangkok after Bear left that some darkness descended and it scared me a bit – ohno, I thought, so early in the trip and I’ve already got the blues. But it lifted as quickly as it took me to recognize it and decide to leave Bangkok – such a good reminder of paying attention to knowing what I need and giving it to myself! Although I know there will be ‘down’ times – it will hardly be all sweetness and light out here and that’s totally okay with me. But for now, I’m enjoying the peace and pleasure that are accompanying me and continue to love the pace I am creating.

On that front – never, ever, ever leave a place until I’m ready to go! When I think of past trips, if there are any regrets (of which there are few, if any), they’re not ever about staying in a place too long, but leaving before I really wanted to. That is simply not happening here! I’m still on Don Khong – tonight is my 5th night – I thought to leave today, but I could feel that it just wasn’t right to go yet. And it wasn’t – I took another bicycle ride for a few hours this morning and now I’m sitting writing again for the afternoon – it’s a rhythm and pace that feels like just what I want it to be. When I woke up this morning, I also knew that today would be my last day here – I’m not sure how, I just know that I’m paying attention to my energy and to my connection with the place and now I’m ready to move on. So tomorrow I will – to the very small island of Don Khon – where there’s not even 24-hour electricity!

I’m making my way south and am aware that my days in southern Laos are coming to an end as I find my way into Cambodia – first stop there will be Siem Reap and the ancient and incredible Khmer Ruins of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom and a kazillion others. My original plan, before I arrived here, was to return to Pakse and fly from there – but overland is really the way to go and it makes no sense to back track – so overland it will be and probably sometime this week or early next.

Siem Reap is the closest village to the ruins and quite the tourist-filled place, I understand. I’m gearing myself up for that and looking forward to some of that tourist infrastructure (like internet access) that will make staying in touch a little bit easier. I’m still so delighted in having chosen Lao and southern Lao especially for my first stop on this trip – it’s the perfect place to go slow, ease into this journey and take it easy after all the busy-ness of what was involved prior to leaving.

Soon it will be about getting out of low gear and getting a little more energy going to be in a busier area and a new country. It’ll happen, but for now … I’m still cruisin’ southern Lao style and loving it!

 

 

 

 

 

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