In Love with Laos
We Want You to be Happy – This sort of sums up the Laotian spirit. This sign was on the retail shop in the Luang Prabang airport. You can also get a Smile Burger, if you need to step up the pep!
I love love LOVE Laos!
I “had” to go to Laos this past week for work. I know, I know. I can hear your shouts of sympathy already. Thank you. ;p The goal was to get familiar with our hotel, Villa Maly in Luang Prabang and Kamu Lodge, our eco-lodge 2 hours up the Mekong River, nestled in the Laotian forest. Have I mentioned how much I love my new job?
Not only did I fall in love with our properties, I found one of my new favorite places in the world. Going to Laos, and particularly Luang Prabang, is like stepping back in time. Slow pace of life, friendly people, buildings no more than 3 stories high, natural beauty, no honking horns and a general sense of peace and serenity. My kind of place.
While I mostly focused on work, Kurt and I did get out a bit to take in the night life. We stopped by the night market our first evening there, where we bought these super comfy slippers. I spent all of $8.00, but could have done a lot more damage had I really put my efforts into shopping. We then went to the main street and found a great Laotian restaurant. We tried 4 different dishes, all very tasty with unique flavors. I loved the Lao basil. It’s a great herb, somewhere between Italian and Thai basil. We also ate a fired bamboo. Yu-um-my!
With our terrific co-workers, Marie-Helene, Henri-Pierre, Aurora and Phone, we enjoyed some Luang Prabang night life in the way of the local disco. And here, too, was like a tour of the good ol’ days. When young men and women dance together, they first greet each other with hands together and a bow. And then they dance without touching. The Laos ladies and men move their hands around similar to a Hawaiian style hula. It’s wonderful. The young kids love to do line dances and I enjoyed trying to catch on. What a fun night.
Kurt is a running maniac (way beyond enthusiast, folks) and had all of us up at 5:30 in the morning for jogging in the dark. My first morning out, we ran 5k. Let me back up for a moment and tell you how much I dislike running. I’m good for a quick sprint, say from home to 1st base, a 50 yard dash, or running for my plane. But I don’t really run, unless it’s for my life! While HP and Marie-Helene may have become semi-hooked, I’m not giving in just yet! I like my walks and hiking and mountain biking!
Having said that, it was quite humorous to jog in the dark and climb the stairs of Phousi Mountain. How is that pronounced? Think kitty cats. There is even a Phousi Market. Both of these monuments are (unfortunately) named after one of the founders of the city. We all kept pronouncing it poo-say, just to avoid the giggles. But giggled anyway. How can you not? It’s not every day you say, “I climbed Phousi Mountain.”
After a couple of luxurious nights at Villa Maly, we took the boat up the Mekong River to Kamu Lodge. On the way, we stopped at the Pak Ou caves, home to more than 5000 Buddhas. It’s a religious site where even the King used to come to worship. You can see some photos HERE. I had a little too much fun taking photos of all those Buddhas. It was pretty cool to learn that some of them have been there a couple hundred years!
Kamu Lodge is an eco-lodge. We share the property with the local Kamu tribe. I LOVED visiting the village and meeting all the little kids. They got a kick out of seeing their picture on the LCD screen of my camera. Bless them. I hope you’ll take a look at my photos. At Kamu, there is no internet connection or cell phone reception. You unplug from all of that and get heavily connected with nature. The sky is black and the stars are bright and sparkly. You go to bed early, letting the crickets and frogs sing you to sleep. And in the morning, it’s the birds and monkeys which call you awake. If you really want to unwind, this is the place to go. Layers of life and complexity are quickly stripped away. I could have stayed a week and not gotten enough.
On our last leg of the week, Kurt and I traveled to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. I was pleased with the warm weather – a balmy 28C degrees (82F). And while it was the capital, there were still no honking horns. I met more of my colleagues and we all enjoyed a night out. We had Lao Beers (very tasty) at a restaurant where you were looking at Thailand across the river. And then enjoyed a sort-of-Korean-sort-of-sukiyaki style BBQ meal. Very nice.
We only managed to see one monument while in Vientiane, as our one day there was filled with meetings. But nonetheless, Laos captured my heart enough that I know I will be back soon. How nice it is that the flight from Hanoi to either city is a short 50 minutes! I am going to love to be able to say, “I’m going to Laos for the weekend!”
On the Bright Side,