11 February 2008

slow boats, fried worms and doughnuts

Am in Luang Prabang in Laos. Gorgeously crumbly colonial town on the Mekong with basketloads of charm - which, as I write, is sadly being eroded by the tourist trail. Anyway, here's a grab-bag of goings on since Chiang Mai:

Spending an afternoon with a set of watercolour pencils, colouring in pictures for children's books in Laos (more

Lao and Buddhist design appreciation via endless wat wandering and visits to local weavers and silversmiths.

More chatting with novice monks (they are really very clever at capitalising on western curiosity for their converstational English practice!).

Rhapsodising about life in general since my reunification with coffee (glory of worldly comforts) in Luang Prabang.

Dining for a song: steaming bowl of rice noodle soup w DIY herbs, 80 cents. Big bottle Beer Lao, $1. Chicken on a stick, $1. etc

Slow boat down the Mekong, which after two full days of wooden seat sitting made me really appreciate (or not) the 'slow' concept. Fellow travellers entertain, one going overboard in the quest to find a sunny spot on the roof, thus sending the whole boat rolling to starboard as 100 people rushed to see him go in.

Broken conversation with two Lao women where, despite a lack of common language, one of them tries to marry off her youngest to an English traveller's brother!

Entering another realm when crossing into provincial Laos from Thailand. People walk down the street in their jim-jams at 7 o'clock, food is sold on the street by candlelight, the tuk tuk drivers barely register my presence and Sing at the guesthouse does my laundry in three hours of daylight for $1. (I also became an instant millionaire on changing my baht to kip!)

Bizarre hour-long whole-body massage with toe cracking, facial compression and karate chopping moves. Laying there with my bazoombas in the breeze - not quite knowing what do to - while a Lao woman did doughnuts in my hair (you know the kind that was popular in grade five to piss your friends off by making birdsnests in their hair?). Nevertheless, it was an interesting three dollar donation to the Red Cross (followed by a $1 herbal spa).

Elephant riding (still not sure about that one and won't be doing it again) and rainforest trekking in northern Thailand to visit Lahu and other hilltribe villages. Dining on fried worms (another thing I won't repeat!) before retiring to a raised bamboo hut with pigs and roosters talking noisily underneath all night.

Hard mattresses, vertical stairs and other guesthouse hazards have resulted in lower back 'issues'. The upside is I'm catching up on this blog and other writery things!

Off south tomorrow to Vang Vieng which the locals call 'Vang Vegas' so I daresay it'll be a one night stopover on my way to Vientiane. Still no photos (cringe)... yes I know, must get my act together.