The brief hiatus in my blog postings may be contributed to several factors: a three-week loss of internet at my house (according to our Thai technician, the server “die”), a busy school schedule of site visits with my field director, a visitor from the States, and a plain lack of discipline on my part.
Kaela, one of my best friends and travel companions arrived last month and spent two weeks living the rural life in Pla Pak, attending my classes during the day, playing volleyball after school with the students (I am officially the new volleyball coach at Wang Yang), and exploring the night markets in town. By the beginning of July she had enough “cultural emersion” and we were both ready to leave behind the squat toilets and fan-only sleeping accommodations for hot showers and air-con. Destination: Northern Laos. We spent two nights in Nong Khai, which is one of the only cities on the backpacker trail in Northeastern Thailand due to its location on the Mekong, directly across from Vientiene. For those of you who remembered my last journey to Nong Khai with Amber, this second attempt proved to be much less anxiety-producing! After two nights in this border town, one in Vientiene, another two in Luang Prabang (not to mention two overnight bus rides thrown into the mix) we are now wearily but happily wrapping up our weeklong trip back in Nong Khai.
I will be posting some pictures in the near future, but in the meantime I thought I would share my top five experiences from our trip to Laos:
#5: Eating at Joma Bakery Café in both Vientiene and Luang Prabang, providing an air-conditioned refuge for over-heated backpackers such as ourselves and serving some of my most-missed Western favorites like reubens, croissants, and apple-cinnamon muffins
#4: Finding a Lao cookbook tucked away in a Vientiene bookstore that includes just about every Isan dish I’ve eaten in Thailand, as well as a thorough explanation of the cooking utensils and region-specific ingredients used, in both English and phonetic Lao/Isan
#3: Perusing the Hmong handicraft night market in Luang Prabang and their endless stalls of embroidered quilts, pillow cases, silver jewelry, and of course, pouches of every shape, size and color
#2: Having an understandable, fluid conversation with a tuk tuk driver at the Vientiene bus station, completely in Lao
#1: Surviving the 10+ hour overnight trip on mountainous Route 13 between Vientiene and Luang Prabang twice, which felt more like riding a roller coaster in the dark without a safety bar than a bus ride, and during which our bus even started on fire once and had to be evacuated while it was extinguished and the smoke cleared
Pictures to come soon!