December 28, 2012
Current Location: Vientiene, Laos
I think I could spend the rest of my life on this group tour. 14 little ducklings scurrying after our mother duck as she leads us from village to ruined temple to street market. I’m used to traveling on my own, planning my own trips, figuring out my own transportation. We don’t stay at comfortable hotels, but the conveniences of a group tour are pretty amazing (she checks us all in at the border crossings, translates for us everywhere we go). The conveniences aren’t really what make it so great, though. For me, the structure given to our days and schedule is exactly what I needed. Instead of constantly worrying about logistics, following their schedule has freed my mind for introspection.
One thing my inner self was telling me is that I’m kind of done with temples, monks, and elephants for a little while, and I need some beach time ASAP, so I changed my travel plans. I’m cutting out Chiang Mai, and instead spending NYE in Bangkok with three of my tour mates. Then, I head straight to Koh Samui on Jan 1. That gives me about 6 days in the islands to seriously relax, get some sun, do my laundry, read, write, and deal with the 1600 (and counting) photos I’ve taken. I’m feeling very backpacker-esque, floating wherever my whims take me!
Laos is actually an amazing backpackers’ retreat. It’s warm but relatively pleasant, beautiful, exotic, full of historic AND adventurous things to do, and the people are relatively relaxed (compared to Thailand and Cambodia). Luang Prabang, the historic capital, isn’t anywhere I would have thought of visiting, but it’s a really charming, nice town. I could spend a week there, if it weren’t so hard to get to from the US.
The woman offered “Noodle Soup?” and we said “YES!” Best mystery order ever.
Also, Facebook wins – over and over. Meeting up in random towns in SE Asia with friends from the US I haven’t seen in 10 years, all because we saw each other’s plans on Facebook, is amazing.
We’ve packed some of the most memorable and death-defying moments of my life into the last few days. Although, admittedly, every moment here is kind of death-defying since everyone seems to take anything related to safety extremely casually.
I was the only one from our group of 14 to jump off these waterfalls. It was the best! (Dude included in the photo for scale.)
Kuang Si Waterfalls, Luang Prabang, Laos
Who volunteered to ride for an hour on the angry elephant’s neck with nowhere to hang on? Me, of course!
Tomorrow, we poke around Vientiene (the Capitol of Laos), cross the border to Thailand, and then take an overnight train to Bangkok — and then go our separate ways. I’m definitely still in denial. Then the clock really starts on my time left as a wanderer.
It’s not all bad, though. Ending the tour portion of my trip means no more:
- Squat toilets
- 7 hour bus rides
- Potentially deadly ice in the drinks
On my first day in Bangkok over two weeks ago, I was overwhelmed and wondered if I could survive it for a month. Now, after Cambodia and Laos, returning to Bangkok feels like returning to full, modern civilization — almost like returning to the US. I don’t care if this makes me uncool — I am going to eat SO MUCH PHAD THAI when I get back to Bangkok!