Archive for the ‘Emerging from a cocoon’ Category

Laos has been totally refreshing this past week. I spent three days visiting the temples surrounding Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and it is a truly magical place. But I also spent a lot of time hiding in my hotel room, watching endless movies on HBO/Cinemax. Generally, I am pretty fearless, but I was feeling afraid of the world and just wanted to hunker down in the safety of my air conditioned room. There are so many street vendors everywhere – from tuk tuk drivers to children selling post cards and water. Tourists (myself included at times) adopt this stance while walking on the street of looking down, avoiding eye contact and scurrying by the somewhat aggressive vendors. My isolation in the hotel room was an extrapoliation of this avoidance. I didn’t want to be this way, but just found myself slipping into this space while in Cambodia.

The Southeast Asian Games (regional Olympics) were occurring in Vientiane, Laos, so I headed for the hills and spent two nights in Vang Vieng, Laos. As soon as the bus left the city, rounded the curve and I saw the mountains, I breathed a sigh of relief. I forget how much I need nature sometimes. Vang Vieng is a beautiful town, located on the river and nestled in the hills. Spent an absolutely lovely day kayaking and caving. We used a sea kayak, and passed rice paddie fields and water buffalos cooling off in the river. I knew my days of fear were over when I entered a pitch black cave with only me and the tour guide, and I was laughing at the absurdity of it all (this is fun?! people pay money to scramble around in the dark?) instead of being afraid of being alone with a stranger in a cave. There is another weird side of Vang Vieng that includes backpackers sitting in restaurants watching endless episodes of “Friends” – I don’t know why they all play the same TV show, or getting drunk on the river and inner tubing. I was ready to leave and finally get to Luang Prubang, Laos.

They say Luang Prubang is a tonic for the soul, and this is definitely true for me as well. The town is straddled by two rivers, and has low lying buildings and just has a very relaxing vibe. I’m staying in a sweet guest house that fosters a communal sense so all the travelers spend their days together. I have emerged from my coccoon and ready to suck the marrow from life once again! This morning, we walked along the dark streets at 5:30 am to witness and participate in the daily alms for the monks. Hundreds of monks (most of them novice teenage boys) pass along the street collecting rice, bananas and other offerings from both locals and tourists. There are also local children that dot the streets kneeling with cardboard boxes. On occasion, the monks take food they have been given and provide it to the street children. It is an interesting circle of life, generosity and poverty.

My plans are evolving, but I will likely spend the next few days in the north at a small rural village on a homestay with a local family. They don’t have electricity or plumbing, and I want to get a sense of how most Laotians live outside the cities. This feels like the perfect way to spend Christmas, and I continue to be so thankful for my life, this experience, my family and friends. Thank you to all of you for being in my life!

Attached are photos of me at Angkor Wat, Cambodia; view from my bungalow in Vang Vieng, Laos; me providing morning alms to monk in Luang Prubang, Laos.

Angkor Wat in Siem Riep, Cambodia.
Bumpy bike ride outside Pnomh Penh, Cambodia.
Morning alms in Luang Prubang, Laos.

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