Friday, 21 December 2007

It's the end of an era

*originally posted 10 December 2007

So so sad. And to top it all off, we’re both sick again–we never get sick!–maybe it’s our bodies’ way of saying go home to your Ikea bed and your three boys–enough wandering…at any rate, I think we got sick from our bare-bones bungalow in Ko Phi Phi, an island in southern Thailand. You know you’re running out of money when you forego taking a $12 longtail boat ride to your bungalow and instead decide to hike over a mountain–at 9 pm–to get there. What should have been a 45-minute hike took us nearly 2 1/2 hours that had us tripping over tree roots, walking on rocks halfway submerged in the water (some Thai guy said to us, “Not now, wait until low tide”–as if we’re going to wait around until midnight! dumbass…). When we finally found the place the only lights glowing on the beach were at the bar, where we found the acting manager, an American expat–he couldn’t stop saying in disbelief, “fuck…you’re the latest arrivals we’ve ever had. fuck, man. couldn’t you have gotten a boat? fuck, man.”

But we really, really loved this place. The whole next day we did absolutely nothing. A whole lotta nothing–I had a scrumptious banana pancake with nutella slathered on for breakfast, we laid on the gorgeous beach (our beach in our minds since there was just one other couple there)….some smoothies throughout the day, a teeny bit of snorkeling offshore as the sun was setting, blah blah blah drool drool drool. I couldn’t have cared less that the bathrooms had no hot water (okay maybe I cared a little) or that the toilet flushing involved dumping a bucket of water in. It was our heaven.

I still think the previous occupants of our bungalow had been sick though, since Steve and I literally started sniffling within 5 minutes of each other the next day. It was almost comical.

Anyhoo. Goodbye Thailand (pound for pound, one of the best countries you could ever travel to), & hello Luang Prabang, Laos, which is–& this is agreed on by Steve so no I’m not being all lovey-dovey without good reason–the most enchanting city we’ve been in on this trip. It’s the city that time forgot–or rather, the French came & ”protected” it, and now luckily it’s the city that time forgot with all the preservation do-goodedness from Unesco. We’ve been staying in a bungalow on the Nam Khan river, a tributary of the Mekong, which is–again, this is echoed by my hubby (!!) lest I constantly speak in exaggeration–now on our top 5 list of favorite places we’ve stayed at. ever. Each night we’ll write our breakfast orders on a whitewash board at the reception desk, and what time we’d like it at…the next morning some gentle soul appears on our bungalow’s veranda at the arranged time with our tray of food. I love that! And in the afternoons we love to sit outside and watch the kids play in the river down below. The way they’re shrieking and laughing and carrying on with each other, you’d think there was nothing better than having the Nam Khan in your backyard. Right now I’d have to agree.

At sunrise each morning a procession–hundreds–of barefoot monks come down the main street from north to south for Tak Bat. Each carries a basket and townspeople (& inevitably tourists) kneeling up and down the street place offerings of sticky rice, tangerines, candy, etc. for them as alms in thanksgiving and respect.

Now it’s probably incredibly childlike of me to say this but I adore monks. I do, I can’t help it! I see their saffron-colored robes and start squealing. My right hand is now trained to reach down for the camera so fast whenever I spot one that we’ve got umpteen-thousand pictures of them: monk on a scooter! monk on a cell phone! monk holding an umbrella! monk buying spices at the market! monks on a water taxi! monk with sunglasses! monk with a cane! and on and on. So now here we are in Luang Prabang, and not only do monks go with LP like peanut butter goes with jelly, but I get to, in a tiny (and probably incredibly insignificant to them) way interact with them? I was so nervous about doing it the ‘right’ way (I very nearly chickened out and Steve talked me off the ledge so to speak)…women can’t make eye contact with the monks when doing this (heaven forbid you touch them–I read they’ll wash for days to get rid of the impurity otherwise), your feet cannot be pointing towards them, shoulders and knees covered, head bowed…but I managed it without an international incident.

Anyhoo. I should write more but we’ve only got a few more hours in this heaven of a town before our evening flight to Vientiane. So we’ve got to get out there and in the thick of it before it’s too late.

In just 36 hours–no, I can’t bring myself to say it! So I won’t.

No comments: