Saturday, February 6, 2010

Room With A View

The stark contrast between Vietnam and Laos was felt immediately as I woke up in a small bamboo thatched bungalow located high above a local river with an unpronouncable name. There was no longer the loud sounds of motorbikes, car horns, and street hawkers. The serene quiet kept us in our bed lined with a mosquito net, as Mariana and I actually slept in until hunger got the better of us and we ventured to the hotels open air dining area for breakfast. The hotel provided us with two cups of Lao coffee, a bowl of rice soup with pork, and a bowl of noodle soup with fresh vegetables at the outrageous price of $3 US. I haven't even seen Luang Prabang's city center and I am already loving every aspect of this wild country. The hotel informed us that they actually prefer to deliver our meals directly to our room for no charge, so we enjoyed most of our remaining dining experiences on our front porch. The porch came equipped with two eastern style mattresses and a small ankle-heigth table. Our view of the river provided most of our entertainment as we watched children of all ages come to the waterside to play and bathe throughout the day. Monks use the waters to cool off after a long hot day of walking from temple to temple and women use the waters to wash clothing in a communal manner that resembles happy hour in the US. Local fishermen tend their traps and farmers continuosly checked their water pumps to maintain irrigation to their stepped farms full of lush vegetation. I had heard of Laos' beauty, but I had no idea that the countryside would be this pristine.

Mariana and I walked a long way to the city center in the afternoon to map out our adventures for the next week, and we also decided to book a few nights in the heart of Luang Prabang to maximize our experience. I have not been this excited to explore a country and its culture since I first laid eyes on Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I am hopeful that I will not be disappointed and I will provide updates as soon as I possibly can.

By the way...the video below was filmed with my loving mom in mind, but I think it speaks volumes of the differences in culture between the US and Southeast Asia. The children in the video are between the ages of 4 and 7.

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