6/24/17 - 6/26/17
Okay so first thing first. I found a local vet in the area who was willing to go look for the dog to help him. I had no idea where to find scissors or the dog, and I knew I was leaving the next day. I offered to pay for any further vet care the dog might need if/when they find him.
I spent my last day in Vientiane wandering around half-heartedly, worrying about that pup. I went into a shop that sells handmade items made by local women in a fair trade situation, and got a couple gifts for folks. I also have to admit that I completely splurged for the first time here and bought myself the most gorgeous green woven silk scarf (it matches my eyes!). Again, that’s coming out of the Jen savings and not the fellowship budget, for anyone concerned.
I walked along the waterfront in the sweaty heat, and stared at Thailand across the Mekong River. I thought it was fun to stand in one country and stare at another, but no one else in town seemed to share my enthusiasm, and I was the only person down there. The insane heat may have also played a role.
I stumbled on a statue of King Anouvong on the waterfront. King Anouvong led the Laotian Rebellion in the 1800s and was the last king of the former Lao kingdom of Lan Xang. I sat and read the entire Wikipedia article about Laos one night, and I still struggle to keep it straight. The history here seems a bit different from other areas, and I’m still trying to learn.
I found a cute little pond where some locals were having a picnic, and then walked right by the American embassy on accident. Holy crap y’all, the American embassy looks like a FORTRESS. There were security guards everywhere (super friendly), and I had a moment of concern that I was walking somewhere I shouldn’t, but no one said a word. Good to know they were there if needed...
As I meandered my way back to the hostel (taking random streets in case I saw the dog), I bumped into another tourist site I hadn’t been looking for. It’s called That Dam (Black Stupa). ‘That’ in Laotian refers to an inverted bell shape/unopened lotus flower structure that usually contains relics of the Buddha. The legend is that a seven-headed water serpent (naga) lived here to protect the stupa, which was once covered in pure gold. The gold was pillaged during the Laotian war, so now the stupa looks black. It was pretty neat looking, and sat in a cute little roundabout with couples sitting on benches nearby. A teeny tiny puppy also ran out to say hi to me while I was taking a photo. A hundred years and several puppy snuggles later I moved on.
On my walk back to the hostel I saw some graffiti that said “ATS” in all caps, which google tells me could mean about 12 different things here. The part I loved, though, was that someone came through later and added “go” to the front, so instead now it just says “goATS”, which I say in a very specific and excited way in my head and it ends with an exclamation point. I also passed a shop that sells exactly two things: chandeliers and fans. Laos is quirky but I love it. I also love whatever dog is responsible for this:
When I got back to the hostel I met a German girl who had just arrived, and we chatted for a little while. She seemed really sweet until we got past the initial pleasantries. After that she informed me that all Americans are fat (she knows this because she went to one city for one day in the states, one time), and that Americans and Russians are the only travelers who are rude. I had flashbacks in my head of those drunk German dudes who disrupted an entire boat full of people on our national park tour, but I said nothing. I suggested that maybe it’s just common for some young people to be rude as travelers because they haven’t learned better yet, and she countered by telling me that Americans are taught that we are the best country on earth so we think everyone should cater to us. Now, don’t get me wrong here - I’m not going to defend every American traveler. There ARE some obnoxious people out there, but I’ve met obnoxious people from everywhere. It’s more about you as an individual, right? Anyway, I resisted the urge to say “Um...Nazis? Hello??”, and just patiently countered her until she went away. Oye.
The next day I flew to Luang Prabang, and got picked up and taken to the AirBnb where I was going to stay for a week. The place itself was a tiny bit of a splurge, but I had my own room with a glorious bed, and there were three doggos that lived there: Chunk, Phelps, and Reggie, each more adorable than the last (that’s a lie, they were all equally adorable). The owners were SO nice, and there was a couple from England staying there who were super nice, and a guy from Florida who was a total tool bag. It felt like one big strange family, and I was happy.