I’m taking my leave of this sweet city today and it’s taken some doing to pull me from its clutches. It’s been the 2nd longest stop of my trip after Siem Reap and I couldn’t have picked a finer place to rest. While I could stay even longer, it feels time to go; so I’m listening to that inner voice that tells me to pack my bags and get going again!
Tonight I take a 10-hour overnight bus to Lao’s capitol city of Vientiane. While it’s a bigger city than LP, I’ve heard it’s still quite a sleepy one; and I imagine it will be especially so with the low season upon us.
Low season indeed – I understand now the earlier warnings I heard about traveling in these parts in May and June. The heat is completely suffocating and debilitating – there is no breeze of any kind, which makes for being able to be out and about only in the very early morning hours or in the evenings, when it cools down at least a little bit. The rains come most frequently at night, but sometimes it’s wet throughout the day, too. Last night brought the biggest rainstorm of my stay – the road along the Mekong was ankle deep with water and the neighborhood children were enjoying playing in the rivers of water streaming down the street. This morning I made the mistake of walking around for my final stroll around town and now I’m paying for it – I’m exhausted and I hardly even have the energy to sit here at the computer. I may need to make my way to the hammock for an afternoon nap and return to this later.
Indeed, I did just that – a dreamy snooze and then a short, but still too hot walk to my final Luang Prabang massage (of which there’ve been many – the spas are plentiful and inexpensive!) and yet another fruit shake of banana, papaya and pineapple – yummmm on all accounts! Now I’m back at the Manichan, bags packed nearby and ready to go! I hope I can find some sleep along the way and wake up in Vientiane at least a tad refreshed!
The heat has gotten me to change my plans for onward travel from here. After Vientiane, I will cross the border into Thailand and hang out for my last time on the Mekong in the small village of Nong Khai – it sounds like another great place to rest and relax (there seems to be a trend here!) and the guest house I’ll stay at comes with rave reviews.
From there I had planned to head to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Ayuthaya and Sukothai – great places in Northern Thailand to see and explore – but they’re all about touring around seeing this temple/ruin or that one; and frankly, I think I’ll collapse from heat exhaustion if I take any of that on at this point.
Rather than risk such a fate, I’ll do what I always I do when I’m not quite sure where to do – I’m going to the beach!!
This took some figuring since many of the southern Thai islands are a far away trip from the north, deep in the rainy season at the moment and too over-touristed and expensive for my taste – but prevail I did, of course, and picked an island I had wanted to visit when I was in Cambodia. While it’s a Thai island, it’s close to both Cambodia and Thailand, has easy access from the north and it’s relatively pristine compared to the southern ones. Koh Chang is where I’m headed and I’ve even got my bamboo hut on the beach all picked out! Spending the last few weeks of my time in Southeast Asia lounging on the beach and swimming in a warm sea sounds as perfect as it could be!
Which also brings me to what today’s calendar tells me – one month from today, I will be flying out of Bangkok headed to my beloved Bay Area. I’m excited to land amongst the familiar and comfortable – my sister, dear friends and the land there – all of whom I love so much – looking forward to that reconnection!
It’s almost four months since I flew the coop of life in Hawaii and have been wandering around this part of the world – there’s so much to reflect on, give gratitude for and learn from. And it’s far from over!
Another highlight of my stay here is a lovely woman I met in Nong Khiaw – Simone is her name and I met her as I was walking the village there. She approached me to ask if I wanted to take a boat to LP – there’s not so many boats coming here as most tourists choose to take the shorter and less expensive bus. But I had heard about the beauty of the boat ride and was glad to hear there were enough travelers to make a go of it. The boat trip delivered – it was a gorgeous journey and when we arrived here, Simone said she had a hotel room recommended by a friend and was glad to share it with me. While it was disappointing to both of us in its low standard, it would do for the night. I made my way to the Manichan the next day and was thrilled to find its comfort and beauty. Simone and I got together for dinner before she left and shared a lovely meal and evening. Our conversation flowed easily and comfortably and we found our way to a level of intimacy that delighted me – relationships, sexuality, life goals and dreams – I was so appreciative to have this kind of connection.
Simone is a German woman who’s been living in Ireland for some years working with a clothing designer. From here, she’s headed back to Germany and eager to go home after this lengthy Southeast Asian trip. The final leg of her trip sounds very exciting – she’s going overland from here to China and then taking the Trans-Siberian Railway from China to Moscow and then home to Germany from there. It’s a trip I’d love to take some time and I’m eager to hear how it is for her.
I had a funny experience the other day – one of those funny-after-the-fact stories. I went to spend the day at the nearby pool – it was refreshing and relaxing; and it had been way too long that I had been immersed in water! When I went to leave, I looked around for my shoes which were nowhere near where I had left them. They looked a little disheveled and when I picked them up; I noticed that one of them had been eat almost to bits! That very cute ball-of-fur puppy who greeted me when I had arrived was the culprit! I was a bit freaked out since they were my Keens and irreplaceable here for their comfort and support. A woman sitting at the bar immediately called the owner who arrived within minutes. She was very apologetic and offered to pay the cost of my shoes – I told her they cost $75, but still she said she would. Then her cook said she knew a shoemaker who could fix them. I was skeptical since they were literally in tatters – it took about an hour for her to return; but when she did, I was reminded of the resourcefulness of these Lao people! I don’t know how they did it, but the shoe looked perfect! Even so, the owner gave me half their cost, bought me cocktails and paid for my tuk-tuk back to the Manichan. It ended up being a pretty profitable day for me! Since it was ‘found money,’ I decided to go on a shopping spree at the Night Market – that was great fun as I wandered through the clothes and crafts and found just the perfect gifts to bring home!
Now I sit at the Manichan for my final few hours until the tuk-tuk comes to whisk me away to the bus station. There’s more to say, as always, but that will have to wait until my next stop in Vientiane!
Many Mahalos Luang Prabang – you’ve been so very, very good to me and I leave here refreshed and ready for the next adventure!