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LAO LAO 24/7

Written on: Wednesday June 28th, 2006

A journal entry from: SOUTHEAST ASIA

Espenida Residence
PASAY CITY, PHILIPPINES

SABAIDEE EVERYONE!!

Laos a land of simple pleasures and extraordinary landscapes. I have officially switched into first gear... Guilt Free!! It all started back in Pai aka 'Utopai' yes, I reluctantly left without a doubt in my mind that I'd eventually find my way back someday.

We crossed the border at Chiang Khong into Huay Xai where we got our first taste of the relaxed lifestyle of the Lao people. We hopped on a slowboat to Luang Prabang - a two day boat journey along the Mekong. The river trip itself was priceless, we were able to admire the limestone peaks and mountainous terrain while cruising down the river on a rickety wooden ferry. Allow me to describe our journey: row after row of wooden benches that are half the size of your bottom (sore-bum syndrome for days), jammed packed full of foreigners, locals and monks (somehow Jennica managed to secure a spot on the floor wedged in between the locals... lol we have discovered that the boundaries of personal space no longer exist), an endless supply of beer lao (a GREAT way to take the edge off) but only to have it served by an eight-year-old bartender. The journey includes an overnight stop in Pakbeng, basically a small cluster of simple guesthouses and restaurants along the river with only generators to fuel the town (we soon discovered that electricity does not exist from 11pm until sunset during which you are engulfed in total blackness).

After arriving in Luang Prabang we settled into a lovely guesthouse. Our days were spent exploring the town on bicycles and visiting more waterfalls. Our evenings on the otherhand were spent hanging out at the night bazaar (when it wasn't cleared out by the torrential rainstorms), watching one too many football matches at the LLG and sampling various lao-lao cocktails and shooters at the only joint that was open in town (you see our options were endless... thank goodness for world cup fever!!!) FACT: lao-lao (lao liquor) or rice whiskey is not legal but no one seems to care. It's ridiculously potent and it definitely gives you a good kick!!! ;P

Next stop: Vang Vieng. We made our way down south along the winding roads and many villages. Barely functioning on three hours of sleep (the football matches started at 2am) and still intoxicated from the night before, I just couldn't bring myself to close my eyes (Laos was nothing like I expected... lush and rugged mountainous terrain that seemed to never end) making the eight-hour journey to Vang Vieng spectacular!

Welcome to Vang Vieng... drug capital of the country where everything is either happy or funny (finding a bag of opium here is easier than ordering a beer...) I have entered the Twilight Zone: you can walk down the street and set up base at a restaurant for an entire day watching reruns of FRIENDS or the Simpsons (and everyone succumbs to it... everyone) and everyone seems to own a restaurant but no one is willing to serve you?! Then there is a superabundance of banana roti stands every two meters of each other... randomness!? Another authentic Lao activity that has gained popularity in VV is tubing down the Nam Xong river and stopping at various riverside 'bars' to restock your beer lao and swing from vines... good times, great times!!!

From VangVieng, Jennica and I went our separate ways and I continued into Vientiane to catch the overnight bus back to Bangkok. I arrived in BKK after the 15hr bus journey and booked myself on the next flight to Philippines. Ahhhh Metro Manila... random chaoticness! It's been seven years since my last visit and it's not quite how I remember... It's nice to be back ;) I've spent the last couple days making the rounds of visiting and meeting family, nursing a skin infection as the tropical climate has definitely taken a toll on my allergies and of course doing my fair share of shopping. I will spend the next week recharging before I head down South to the Visayas and from there I will make my way up north.

BTW I finally have a contact: 00 63 919 251 6647

drop me a line or send me a text if you're bored (it's my personal mobile...) I would love to hear from you ;)