Motorbike crime scenes and the beginning of the end (of my sanity)
7/5/17 - 7/7/17
My last couple days in Laos started with me almost falling into the sewer.
No, but really. Let me explain.
In Laos, and in much of Asia, the sewer systems are covered by giant stone slabs [this picture is an example because I refuse to go back to the slab that tried to kill me].
Now this doesn't appear to be some deep cavernous sewer situation, but neither is it particularly shallow or (obviously) particularly un-disgusting. On this hapless morning, I was walking in the direction of the coffee shop as I always do, and didn't even glance at the ground. I stepped on the corner of one slab, and it immediately crumbled, tipped on its side, and fell right into the sewer, ALMOST taking my left leg right along with it. I wouldn't have fallen far, but I could see down there and it would have been DISGUSTING. Fortunately all those years of dance, gymnastics, and generally hating involuntary dirtiness gave me the agility to use the physics remaining from my footstep to leap the rest of the way over the slab onto safe ground. I came away from the situation with a slightly bloody foot and a moderately bruised ego. The glamour of travel, ladies and gentlemen.
I didn't have much else on my to do list for Luang Prabang, but I did still want to climb Mount Phousi. I had to look for monkey-ear-shaped mushrooms, after all. On the way there, I stopped to look at Wat Pa Houak, or the "Monastery of the Thorn Less Bamboo Forest." Founded in 1861, it has some mural paintings that have been preserved. It was beautiful and free, two of my favorite things.
At the base of the mountain, women sit waiting to sell you two things. One, little flower stupas that are used as offerings up at the temple. The other is tiny little song birds kept in itty bitty bamboo cages. Apparently you release them up at the top for good luck, though my personal understanding of karma is that if you just let the birds be free to begin with you might have even better luck... I politely declined both and huffed my way up the steps. The view from the top was great, and I wandered around taking some photos of interesting things I saw, including jewel beetles on the trees below. Someone had clearly purchased one of the little bird cages, and left a flower in its place. I suspect they shared my thoughts on the practice. I read my new book for awhile, and decided I wasn't going to be able to hang out until sunset because I might starve to death, so I headed back down the mountain, this time going down the other side, past the sleeping Buddha and several other sights.
On my way back I stopped at the mini mart and purchased a tiny bottle of nail polish for the equivalent of 33 cents, because I wanted to do something fun but didn't want to pay someone else to paint my nails for me. You'll be shocked to know that the pretty pink polish chipped off like 23 hours later, but it was fun while it lasted. I went to the night market one last time, on the hunt for some seeds from the Job's tears plant (do you remember that story? I told you all about them...a hundred years ago). I walked up and down every booth of that market, and only found ONE that was selling some. The very nice lady who was running the booth didn't speak any English, so luckily I had come prepared with a picture of the plant on my phone, and showed it to her. She seemed delighted that I knew what I was looking for (rather than just looking for a random bracelet), and I walked away with two strings of beads (okay they were supposed to be bracelets but there's not much difference). I think we were both quite happy.
My last day in Laos was mostly just me running errands around town and discovering random things. I had to print my Vietnam evisa, and the woman where I was staying offered to do this for me, but only on a half sheet of paper. She claims this saves lots of money? I guess I don't know the cost of paper or ink in Laos, so OK. Unfortunately she made the mistake of saying "I think it's OK" that it's that size. Clearly this French woman would be a lot less concerned about this, but as an American entering Vietnam, I wasn't super excited about winging it through customs and passport control. I wandered back to the French cafe as well to purchase a surprise gift for someone, and perfectly spent the last of my money again (#win).
On the way back to my room, I saw the remains of the motorbike accident that had captured everyone's attention a few nights prior, despite the fact that it looked like they really just barely bonked into each other, and everyone was fine. I did think it was adorable, however, that they had traced the bikes as if they were dead bodies at a crime scene.
I decided to leave the nail polish behind, and was happy to discover that the girls who clean the rooms and cook breakfast at the lodging place all had pretty pink nails a few hours later. Because they are awesome, the folks I stayed with the week prior had offered to give me a ride to the airport despite the fact that I no longer was staying with them. Seriously, nicest people ever, and they sent me off with some hugs. They said I didn't need to be there until like an hour before the flight, which I really didn't want to believe, that is until I was through check in, bag drop, customs, and security within 4.5 minutes. Not. Joking. (Keep in mind this was for an international flight...)
I did have a moment of weakness and decided to get some dinner at the airport, but luckily I could use my credit card for this. I got some yummy noodle soup and a milk tea. The woman said "we only have 3% milk, is that okay?" I giggled and said yes of course, thinking she must have meant 2% milk. Silly person. And then I realized OMG I'm an idiot, whole milk is 3% isn't it. And yes, it is.
Finally the time came to board my flight for Vietnam. I had plans to travel for 2 weeks with a girl I met in Thailand, and was both nervous and excited to travel with a partner, and to experience a whole new country. I heard Vietnam was crazy and hectic. If only I knew then what I know now.
Stay tuned: The Really Dramatic Saga Known As Vietnam is up next!