Same Same, But Different — Laos

You see a lot of shirts, shops, even restaurants being called “Same Same but Different,” and through some heavy research from my partner in crime (she asked somebody) we found out it’s just a jab at all the designs and services here. Everything is practically all the same, but you know, different. So now they sell tees and tanks that say ‘Same Same But Different’ and I came very close to buying one.

Short but steep stair climb up Mt. Phousi for a good, but touristy, sunset

Short but steep stair climb up Mt. Phousi for a good, but touristy, sunset

The tents all set up for the Night Market, and of course one of the many Temples

The tents all set up for the Night Market, and of course one of the many Temples

We spent 3 nights in Luang Prabang, a northern city in Laos (pronounced without the ‘S’, by most locals). We had a very nice flight over from Thailand and an even nicer welcome into Laos. Paid $45 for a Visa and the lines were short and the process quick. Everything seemed to fall into place very nicely, and that’s how the entire stay in Laos went. Magical, really. The main accommodations in Luang Prabang are guesthouses. There are several on each side street along the Mekong River. We stayed at Pakam Guesthouse in a comfortable room and called it home base for the next 3 days. Did I mention they had free bananas? And guys out front who always wanted you to drink beer with them? And they did my laundry for a dollar and then hung my underwear in the middle of the street? So lovely, all of it.

Mini Bananas, I was never able to stop until I had 4 in a row...I do believe they are glad I'm gone

Mini Bananas, I was never able to stop until I had 4 in a row…I do believe they are glad I’m gone

If I'm gonna drink beer, it better be a BeerLao

If I’m gonna drink beer, it better be a BeerLao

Laos has a heavy French influence so when we heard that we both got very, very excited. I got super excited for the good bread, and Haley got super excited for the good pastries. During our time we both really loved a place called the Pilgrim cafe. They use filtered water for all their meals and triple wash their fruits and vegetables. Their menu was yummy and the staff friendly, it was definitely the favorite. There was a few good bars, a lot of great bakeries, and a lot of great cafes. FRUIT JUICES were everywhere, just a huge list of fruits and they make you a smoothie for about 2 bucks. My main fruits on this trip have been Coconut, Mango, and Banana. Those 3 fruits have brought me so much joy in so many different forms that yes, they deserve to be capitalized and made into proper nouns. But the big news was that I gave dragonfruit a try and I really liked it. That’s it, that’s my dragonfruit story. Not good enough to be dubbed a proper noun. Moral of the paragraph was that the food was very good in Laos. One night at the market I got a streetfood buffet for $1 and it was marvelous. It was a bit sketchy looking, but had a lot of people in line and sitting at the picnic tables eating it all, so I joined the party. PLUS, look away if you can’t handle talk about bodily functions, I haven’t been pooping, like, at all. Strange don’t you think? Everyone comes to Southeast Asia expecting to poop their brains out at least a few times due to bad water or shotty streetfood, but me? Nope, nothin’. My body just loves this cuisine so much it’s holding on to it for what seems like eternity. Can’t blame it though, the food has been the focus of most days (duh) (okay all days) and has been so magnificent I’d want to keep it for as long as possible too.

Smoked Coconut Juice! Always been a dream

Smoked Coconut Juice! Always been a dream

Street Food!

Street Food!

Dragonfruit! Oh, excuse me, dragonfruit. I just get so excited

Dragonfruit! Oh, excuse me, dragonfruit. I just get so excited

Kuang Si Falls was nothing short of spectacular. We took a Tuk Tuk up to the park (a 3-wheeled shanty looking metal vehicle that is as smooth as your crunchy peanut butter), about an hour drive. We were rattling and rolling up those hills. Those drivers hustle so hard for your money but you can talk them down to half the price they originally give you. Haggling is a huge part of this whole experience. It was much easier in Thailand, but I find it much more difficult in Laos. I’m really bad at it to begin with because I understand the money goes such a long way for them, so I usually just cave, if I even have the guts to haggle at all. But in Laos, with it being one of the most bombed and poorest countries, it’s hard to barter a few cents and dollars, even if they ARE being sneaky about it. The Laotians are also less in your face about everything. In Thailand and now in Vietnam people are constantly yelling at you “boat trip!??” “tuk tuk?!?” “sandwich?!?” “you eat here (shoves menu in your hand)” but in Laos it was way more conservative. Not everyone, but most people. People just lay around and eat and nap. I walked in an outdoor little convenience mart and thought I was alone until I saw an old lady roll over under some blankets in the middle of her shop. She didn’t get up, mind you, she just simply rolled over for comfort.

Happiness

Happiness

Rich Turquoise Swimming Pools

Rich Turquoise Swimming Pools

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There is so much to be learned from our time in Laos. The culture is so rich. All businesses must shut down by 11:30 (Gov’t Regulation) because the Monks have very early mornings. There is no partying, no loud noises, no touching the monks (shet), dress conservatively, ask before taking photos, and most places like you to take your shoes off before going inside. A major lesson I’ve been learning, and relearning for several years now is how to slow down. I can be an extremist most of the time, and growing up in New York there always seems to be an undying “go go go” inside of me. I find myself “striding it out” when I have absolutely nowhere to be, and then getting upset if someone cuts in front of me. Part of it is having a really competitive personality, part of it is growing up in a very large immediate and extended family, and part of it is again, growing up in the “gotta go” culture. I went to college in upstate NY, which was the first phase in slowing down. I did a season volunteering for trail crew in the wilderness regions of the Pacific Northwest, which was the second (most learned) phase in slowing down. I did a season leading Europeans back and forth across the country in a big white van, which was a MAJOR step back in the slowing down process, hah!…and finally, I moved to Wyoming, where I’ve had a 2-year introductory (although most days advanced) course to the benefits of a permanently slowed down life. Savor each bite, soak up the wildflowers, hold the door open for each and every person, get lost in nature, smile at the sky, complain about nothing, and live with gratitude and grace. Laos has reminded me to again always be present, to fully be with the people around me, and to extend all┬ápositive feelings. I am blessed.

A super small wine bar we popped in because it just looked, right. The bartender slid over a huge box full of quotes with no introduction, bliss.

A super small wine bar we popped in because it just looked, right. The bartender slid over a huge box full of quotes with no introduction, perfection.

 

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