THE TAO OF LAOS
On the craziest night bus of all time, we met two French Canadians guys on our way to the Laos (pronounced La-oh) border. We arrived early at the border and almost didn’t have enough money for the visa fees! Actually, we didn’t have enough money, Xavier and Emile had to bail us out. (Strange sidenote: Countries impose fees at the border to get a visa on arrival, usually give a discount to countries they like while charging more for certain nationalities. At the Laos border it was pretty standard, with most countries at 40 USD or below. Canada tops the charts however at 42 USD, meaning Canadian-Laos relations are at a low point. Not sure what they did to earn that 2 USD increase.)
This border crossing is out of the way… not many people take it, so it just happened to be Maria and I, Xavier, Emile, and this Korean man named Moon. We get dropped off in the first village in northern Laos (Muang Khua), and there ain’t much going on. If it was possible we wanted to take the slow boat to the next village. Luckily all five of us wanted to head the same direction, so we combined and hitched a ride on the slow boat down the Nam Ou river to Nong Khiaw, the next village. It was a five hour boat ride, dropping off some monks and locals on the way. NOW THIS WAS TRAVELING. We were scooting through the northern Laos wilderness with the local family who owned the boat.
We arrived in Nong Khiaw and got a bungalow overlooking the Nam Ou river. Nong Khiaw was a pleasant, quiet village on both sides of the river with a few great restaurants and local bars. Actually we had to walk about 15 minutes out of town through the night to get to the bar. We chilled there for two days before heading to the main northern city of Luang Prabang [Loo-ahng Prah-bahng]. Our travel to Luang Prabang started at the bus station, but there weren’t many buses at the bus station. We all jumped into the back of a pick-up truck for the 4 hour drive to Luang Prabang.
We settled into Luang Prabang, and our main goal for our five days there was to chill. And chill we did. We walked by the river side, hung out at cafes, and strolled the night market. They have a great night market everynight on the main drag in the city. It was time to start acquiring souvenirs for our friends and family back home. This stuff was cheap and we would be leaving SE Asia in a weeks time. The rest of our souvenirs would be bought back at the HUGE Chatuchak market in Bangkok, but this was a start.
Our main trip out of LP was to the main waterfall (we be chasing waterfalls), the Kuang Si falls. It was ridiculously blue and beautiful with tons of great swimming holes and trees to dive from. One of the best ones in SE Asia, methinks.
Erik (our friend from Bangkok) also happened to be in Luang Prabang at the same time as us so we met up with him. We randomly saw Xavier and Emile at the falls, and all chilled that night at the main hangout place in LP, the Utopia bar.
After five nights, it was time to move on the the capital of Laos, and the place where we would catch the night train back to Bangkok. Vientiane is by far the most cosmopolitan city in Laos, but still is nowhere near the development or mainstream-ness of other SE Asian capitals. It’s quite chill.
In Vientiane, we met up with some ultimate friends we met in Phnom Penh who play for and organize the Laos team. We were only there for two nights, but because we knew people in town, it really felt more homey. A good walk around the city was had, but there isn’t too much to see. We played pick-up ultimate with the team there, then hitched a ride with them to a great Tex-Mex restaurant. This was the best Mexican food we had on our trip (still true to this date!). These amazingly nice people even dropped us off at our hostel so we didn’t have to take a tuk-tuk back. The day once again proved that ultimate people are some of the best people.
As I mentioned earlier, after Vientiane we left Laos on the night train to Bangkok. It was a sad experience, as it meant that this part of the trip was ending. In two days, Maria and I would be saying goodbye to each other. Wow.
The time in Bangkok flew by as we were rushing around getting souvenirs, food, and drinks. In the early morning of June 22nd, we arrived at the airport. Our flights were about the same time, and boy was it fucking tough. We were those people you hate to see at the airport. Not wanting to let go, not wanting to walk away. I’ll say what I said to myself when I finally sat down at my gate on the other side of the airport, “That was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life.” I still vividly remember what it was like to travel up that escalator away from her.
That’s the nature of traveling. It’s a transient life, you have to say goodbye to people just as you are saying hi to others. We were off to different places. Maria to Ohio and myself onward to Sri Lanka.