I am having one of those unfortunate insomniac nights that I have thankfully have had a lot less of since departing on this adventure…FOUR months ago! Which means I have been out of the good ‘ol US of A for 125 days which is just insane! Some days it feels like I left forever ago and some days it feels like I just left yesterday.
I am currently in Laos and have been more impressed with this little country than I thought I would to be honest. I had always heard great things about it from those who have visited, but those people who have been here are few and far between unfortunately. Why unfortunately? I have to say I am enjoying it more than I did Vietnam which I hadn’t thought possible as Vietnam was on my top five places to travel bucket list and Laos got added onto this trip purely due to where it was in relation to Vietnam which I am now very thankful for.
I have had some rather interesting experiences here so far. I took a 12 hour double decker “sleeper” bus from the capital, Vientiane, to a town called Pakse. This bus was decorated on the outside with Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore and there was a fun surprise on the inside. Surprise you get to share your bed with a total stranger! And by bed I mean a bumpy futon barely wider than a twin size mattress and actually shorter in length than one (my feet were hitting the end of the bed and I am a shorty- I felt bad for anyone taller than I). I guess I am thankful that Laos is pretty conservative when it comes to things like opposite sexes sharing beds, so my bunkmate was a chick from England which wasn’t so bad. My favorite part of the journey was when at around 5AM the bus stops in the middle of nowhere and honks the horn (which is a regular occurrence here with bus drivers when passing anything on the road or just because they feel like it- no exaggeration, promise!), a man jumps out of the front of the bus with a cardboard box, and out of the box a rooster starts running. I shit you not. A huge cock starts running around and then another man comes running from a shack down the road to retrieve said escape artist. Mostly everyone was still asleep at this point and I think I may have been the only foreigner that witnessed this event which was hilarious. Unfortunately, cock fighting is a pretty normal thing here and I am guessing that is what this special delivery was for. Who knows? But that was the latest of the strange happenings here 😂.
One day that l will never forget was a day that ended with my stomach hurting so bad from laughing so hard and and so much. It all started when I serendipitously ran into a French dude that was the only other foreigner to make the 26 hour bus ride from Sapa, Vietnam to Luang Prabang, Laos (read that we were the only crazy ones to make this long ass journey as most people split this up) about a week and a half prior. We helped each other try and figure out the border crossing as it was one thing after another and had some other wtf bonding moments during this long and arduous journey. Anywhoo, in he walked to the hostel in Vientiane and we were both surprised to run into one another again (although it has happened for me quite a bit on this trip which makes you realize how small the traveling/traveler world is) and made plans to go to this famous Buddha park the next day as he had rented a scooter.
So we leave the hostel and go about 20’ and at the corner there is a police shack and two policemen jump out and start blowing their whistles and motioning for us to pull over. We were on our way to the bike shop to grab me a helmet and I think this is why we are getting pulled over. However, in some kind of crazy broken English they start berating us for going down a one way street. Mind you there were no cars coming down the street or one way road signs and if you have ever been to SE Asia you will know there really are no road rules…except for foreigners. They take the keys away and make Cyril go with them in the hut and I begin to get a little worried, but at the same time find it a bit humorous to see multiple locals doing exactly what we did without the policemen even batting an eye. One cop is determined and pissed that we don’t know how to get the bike seat open and keeps asking us over and over if we have any Laotian friends we can call. Then they insist that the bike needs to stay with them and we are to walk to the police headquarters and pay a fine. I am thinking there is no way in hell I am doing that as I have watched one too many movies of foreigners ending up in foreign prisons and nope, no thank you, not today to me. So we are at a stalemate as we are saying no, we are not going to go to the police headquarters and pay a fine and they are not budging. Not one bit. And they keep asking over and over if we have Laotian friends we can call. Yes, we have made so many local friends in the week we have been in the country that we can just call them up and ask for their help for this police situation 😂. No. After about an hour or more another French dude staying at our hostel and his Thai female companion walk by and we start telling them what is going on. Thankfully the one of the policemen knows Thai so we try to get the message that we are very sorry, we understand what we did was very bad and wrong, and we will never do it again across to them. The exchange between the policeman and Thai chick goes on for about ten minutes and FINALLY they let us go 🎉🎉🎊🎊. We were so very thankful to get out of that mishap.
So we finally retrieve a helmet for me and start making our way out to the Buddha park which is quite a ways out of town. I forgot to mention we are riding on a hot pink motorbike (it was as if they sensed Cyril is gay and decided homeboy needed the pink bike 😂🛵🛵) which I have since dubbed “Pinky”. Well, all of a sudden Pinky decides she no longer wants to scoot on so we are dead on the side of the road. Thank the travel Gods that we happen to end up in front of a cafe where the owner is an American and we explain what happened and they let Cyril use the phone to call the bike rental place as we think they will just come swap out bikes and we will be on our merry way. Nope, they tell him it’s his problem as it happened while he has it rented so he needs to get it fixed 😳😳😳. No triple A or rental rescue here. Luckily, right down the street there just happens to be a bike fixing place so we settle in at the cafe and enjoy some delicious coconut smoothies and I had a kickass mango feta salad. Also ran into another American from North Carolina who just moved to Laos for five years (!!) while her husband teaches English at a smaller town up north. Once again confirming the world is a small place. By this time, more than half of the day is gone due to our cop run in and bike breakdown. I am thinking we are never making it to the Buddha park, but Cyril is determined and two hours later when Pinky is back in working condition we are back on the road.
About a half an hour later we finally make it to this Buddha park that once you walk around it the main question that comes to mind is what drugs were the creators taking when putting it together 😂😳. It was the craziest, most random, yet fascinating collection of Buddha statues and more. There was this big dome with an opening of a somewhat scary face where you have to crouch down and crawl into the mouth of the face to get in. The you have to literally climb up these teeny, odd shaped stairs, almost like a whacky treehouse ladder, to get to the top. There are five stories you must literally climb to crawl out onto the top of the dome where you can take in the view of the whole park. We do this first, so from far above it just looks like quite a bit of Buddha statues and I am excited to get down and explore. As we make our way down we walk around each floor and there are some really strange, almost hell-like cement/mud creations and I am beginning to wonder wtf?!
Once we get out and start walking around I now am faced with Buddha’s fighting/pulling on a grasshopper’s leg to women in mouths of big creatures to three headed elephants and so much more I can’t give it the descriptions they are due, but here are some pics for your enjoyment 😂😳😂. It was quite an experience and I am happy that we finally made it out there. We hop back on Pinky to our journey back to town and when we are about 2/3 of the way there…POP. There goes the back tire 😂🙈. See, things really do come in threes! By this time we can’t handle another Pinky episode and are half hysterical and half in disbelief. We try riding very slowly and Cyril in his hysterical mood starts randomly screaming at strangers which then causes me to start crying from laughing so hard at the ridiculousness of the day and what is happening. We are getting some very strange looks and then he mentions the bike feels like he is driving on ice, so I decide to hop off and walk back to the bike place to meet up with him there (in the lovely 90 degree heat- blech).
It takes me about 25 minutes or so to get there and I can’t decide if I should go there or to the hostel because of the time it took, but I knew that he was going to argue with them that they should cover the repair bill (which ended up being a belt that snapped, so yeah, they should, right?!). Well, not to my surprise unfortunately, he is still at the counter and at a stalemate with the boss lady. He won’t turn over the key as they won’t turn over his passport or any contribution to the bill. I forgot to mention earlier at the repair shop they threw out a price to fix it and he countered with a lower price and they met in the middle. Well boss lady is adamant that he overpaid by four times what the cost should have been for the repair. Well, no shock there that a foreigner is being charged a much higher rate to get their bike fixed than a local! Plus he had no way to gauge what a “fair” price was to fix the bike and she told him on the phone to deal with it as it “wasn’t her problem”. Well another 45 minutes later she agrees to pay for half of the repair and we are on our way back to the hostel finally. What a day!
Despite this occurrence, I had decided earlier that I wanted to get my New Year’s resolution of “trust” tattooed in Laotian. I decided my NY resolution will be to TRUST. I suck as this for a multitude of reasons from experiences to people who have meant a lot to me that have broken my trust. So I have decided it’s time to trust the universe, trust my intuition, trust people more, trust that I am where I am supposed to be, and doing whatever I am supposed to be doing. Not an easy one, but it just came to me when I was thinking what I needed to challenge myself with and work on, so here it goes and wish me luck as I love challenges 🤞🏼.
Anyways, when I first landed in Laos I was in Luang Prabang which is a town I completely fell in love with and I hope everyone reading this will be able to visit one day and sooner rather than later as I fear the word is getting out about what a special and amazing place it is. I did yoga there for the first time since leaving the States, had another pinch me moment with a Buddhist monk (who noticed I was taking pictures of him from behind, started walking away while smiling at me, then came back and rearranged his robes and POSED for pictures for me 😳😳😳!!), met some awesome new friends, and so much more. I knew after being there I wanted to get trust tattooed in Laotian on me and asked my hostel owner if she knew of any local tattoo shops. She informed me she thought it was illegal for any tattoo shop to tattoo women and that she didn’t know of any shops. I googled to see if I could find any shops and couldn’t, so decided I would probably have a better chance when I got to the capital, Vientiane.
Well like all things in SE Asia, what you think will be a seemingly easy task turns out to be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. When I get to my hostel in Vientiane I enquire if they know of any tattoo shops and they all say no. They say something along the lines of really only gangsters get tattoos here. I still have yet to research if this or if the women legality is in fact true, as I am determined to find a shop and get a tattoo 😂🤷🏻♀️💁🏻♀️. Those that know me know once I have my mind set on something, I am going for it. Many google and facebook searches later I finally find two shops. To make an even longer story short, I finally get in with a dude who is pretty far away. I get a not-so-cheap motorbike ride out there to what looks like a garage with a plywood box. I am slightly beginning to think maybe I shouldn’t go through with this. Next I ask him how long he has been tattooing and he says two months, but for quite sometime on his friends 😳. But I decide to TRUST and show him what I am thinking of getting and we come up with a design and he starts tattooing me. Halfway through I almost ask him to stop because I think it looks like it is going to turn out bad and far from what I had envisioned, but I had to keep ironically repeating “trust” over and over in my head. And I am happy I did as I LOVE the end result so much and am happy that I will have this lifelong reminder and that I will always stare at it when doing yoga is a bonus as well 😊.
So, that is what has been happening on my side of the globe over the last week or two 😊. Certainly has not been dull and I really do love this country! I just found out a few hours ago that the reason finding accommodations at my next stop has been extremely difficult is because I will just happen to be there when the ANNUAL festival at Wat Phu (a UNESCO World Heritage site) is going on!! Eeeeek can’t wait!! Tomorrow I am headed out to what is supposed to be some of the most gorgeous area of the country called the Bolaven Plateau with many waterfalls and other natural landscapes. Hope to dip my feet in the water as the temps are hovering right around 95 degrees currently- blech again!
Still can’t believe FOUR months have already flown by!
Peace, love, and still chasing rainbows🌈🌈🌈,