Monthly Archives: February 2013

Luang Probang

We are leaving Laos today and taking a quick flight to Hanoi, Vietnam.  We have had a much needed chill weekend in Luang Probang, Laos.  We took a two-day boat ride down the legendary Mekong River to get there.  I have read so much about all of the history and folklore that originated from the Mekong, so I was pretty awestruck for the first few hours imagining what had taken place on the shores we were passing.  Apparently, it was the most highly bombed country in history in terms of bombs dropped per person during the Vietnam war.  It’s so hard to believe after experiencing a few weeks in this seemingly quiet, peaceful land.  Along the river, the views were spectacular with mountains shooting up from the deep river, and hardly any inhabitants for hours at a time.

 
Upon arriving in Luang Probang, none of us knew what to expect, as in reaching any new destination. I feel like it’s Christmas everyday on this trip with an unknown adventure around every corner.  I get excited just to wake up every morning to see what’s to happen next, and cannot seem to look further than 3 days ahead in the itinerary because the activities we have planned are all so dreamy and overwhelming to take in all at once. I have gotten a lot better since being here of taking in literally one day…morning, afternoon, and night at a time.  
 
Back to Luang Probang, this city was when of the most exquisite we have been to yet, and is definitely one of my favorites.  It used to be colonized by the French, and their influence is still extremely evident still with the numerous cafes, baked goods, and architecture.  Honestly, it almost felt like I was in Europe more than Laos many a times.  I think the highlight of my visit was our trip to an outstanding waterfall right outside the village, probably the most beautiful place i have ever been. The waterfall consisted of nearly a dozen layers of aqua blue pools with jumping cliffs, little swimming holes, and a rope swing to play on.  The entire place looked like it was taken straight out of one of those paradise postcards.  I will try to upload pictures ASAP…absolutely breathtaking… I could have spent a week straight exploring those waters.
 
Other than that, we spent our time gorging in some amazing food, hung out along the river at night engaging in some awesome conversation with people from all over the world, haggling at the elaborate night market, and climbing to the hill temple to watch the sunset over the entire city.  It was one fantastic weekend.  And I have yet another  dream of a week ahead of me..one day at a time.  Amazed every hour that I’m even here, and get to experience these mysterious and exciting places!

 

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Hi ho hi ho, it’s off to trek we go!

I’m sitting in a hole-in-the-wall breakfast place with the best banana chocolate pancake I have ever tasted and an ice cold coffee drink, and, the best part of it all, the entire meal cost barely over a dollar.  What a strange world it is where a minimum wage “poor” Western college student can have the ability to take out loans and work odd end jobs to afford a trip across the world.  I can’t ever forget how fricken fortunate I am to be able to do such a thing.  It continues to blow my mind.  

 
Anyhow, I am enjoying this breakfast on a beautiful Valentines Day morning that just happens to be our first day off in a while.  As much as I love all of the amazing activities we get to do, it is so so nice to be able to take a deep breath and reflect peacefully on the last three action-packed weeks. 
 
Just yesterday night, we arrived back from a three day trek and kayaking trip through the Lao jungle.   We split up into two smaller groups to create a closer group dynamic which was a great change of things, and our group started out with two solid days of trekking up and down the rolling Lao hills.  The first hour was all uphill and I do not think I realized how difficult real backpacking can be.  I’m not used to carrying so much wait on my back for so long.  But as we rolled into the swing of things, you just kind of forget about the pain and become lost in the enchanting scenery, and comfortable conversation.  We stopped for lunch near the top of the mountain and ate traditional Thai/Lao style with a banana leaf as our plates and our hands as our utensils.  I quite enjoyed the simplicity and messiness; I almost feels like that is the way things are meant to be.
 
After a full day of beautiful trekking, we reached our destination towards nightfall.   We were having a home stay in a tiny mountain village with no more than 150 people.  They were Animists and believed in many spirits.  Before dinner, we got to play with the kids for a while, showing them typical American games such as duck duck goose and tag, which they picked up on surprisingly fast.  From there, we attempted a tricky river bath, where the women must be fully covered with a wrap-around sheet; let’s just say this makes it pretty difficult to get entirely clean after trekking all day.  The night finished up with a brilliant candle- lit dinner with some of the best-tasting fresh tomato dish and greens that I have ever experienced.  A snapshot moment for sure.  
 
After dinner, we chatted over a quaint bonfire and gazed up at the dazzling stars until one-by-one we strolled into our one-roomed hut to crash for a well-deserved rest. I think we were all out by the crazy late-night hour of 8pm. 
 
The following day we trekked again, and finished up with a raft trip down a breathtaking mountain-and jungle-lined river.
 
Tried to slow down a day for ya’all.  Hope that helped. Until next time, Sao bi di!  (Hello and goodbye in Lao.:))
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Goodbye Thailand, hello Laos

We finished our last weekend in Thailand with a jam packed week full of Thai culture and activity.  We participated in a Thai cooking class, practiced Muay Thai with the pros and later got to watch a real match  ( honestly not really my cup of tea, but still quite interesting), took an amazingly calming yoga course, trekked to a magical temple in the mountains full of waterfalls (think Rivendale on a smaller scaled).  Chang Mai is definitely a city I will never forget with some memories so unique that only my group will ever be able to understand.  

on after the last few days of traveling by van, we crossed the Mekong River into Laos.  Already this country is a world a part from Thailand with imuch surplus of greenery and rolling mountains, and sudden lack of flocking tourists.  It’s so quiet and peaceful compared to our city venture, and I look forward to our three day trek kayaking in the next few days…like rock climbing was, this is right up my alley!

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Best of both worlds ( from feb. 3)

This past weekend we spent 2 days rock climbing, rappelling, and caving in the beautiful mountains near Chang Mai. This experience definitely met all my adventuring desires that had been building up for the last few weeks, and pushed me even further than expected  with my fear of heights rappelling and ziplining over 150 above the cave floor. I even completed some of my hardest climbs to this day! Definitely a time I will hold onto for a long time to come.   And with a guide job offer from one of the instructors, maybe it won’t be long until I am back in the area…:)

 
We spent the last few days in a Buddhist meditation retreat located in the peaceful countryside outside Chang Mai.  Looking forward to this for a while, I did my best to keep an open mind.  We started with a monk teaching us the details of the Buddhist beliefs and different methods of meditation including sitting, standing, walking, and hand movements.  Finally we began actually practicing the meditations with an experienced monk.  It was fascinating to be among such peaceful people and to be living a life they lived.  We also participated in certain food limitations and rituals and waking up at dawn.   While we were eating, our focus was to not enjoy the food and to only eat until you were no longer hungry.  After a day of practicing with the monk, we were able to meditate most of the second day on our own.  It was definitely eye opening to see how difficult  it was to focus so long. These monks got some serious talent!
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