Saturday, February 13, 2016

Notes From The Road: Decompressing Laos at Home in BKK

This is a first for me.
The heat tonight in Bangkok is a languid, wet blanket. I love not being cold so I receive this sweaty, sweet, liquidair hug with gratitude. Rachel and I are back in Thailand and survived Laos despite getting very sick in the capital, Vientiane, at the end of an otherwise incredible time in a highly underrated country.

Laos is wildly beautiful and I'm grateful to have jumped into the journey there although I didn't know anything about it beforehand...for instance, Laos is a communist country and has a national curfew of midnight. The United States bombed the shit out of Laos during the Secret War, and children and farmers continue to find active, unexploded bombs in the earth to tragic ends. The Lao people refer to their country as Laos, and themselves and their food/culture as Lao
Bucolic af.
not "Laotian." (We asked around.) The boundary between public and private life in Laos is even blurrier than it is in Thailand. We ate a lot of delicious home cooked meals in restaurants that can hardly be called that because the "restaurant" is an extension of where the cook lives. So much of what we consumed was made by hand, from scratch in someone's home. Lao people are warm and also just as big proponents of being barefoot as I am. Take your shoes off at the border, y'all. Friendliness, bare feet and DIY sensibilities. They're my kind of people and Laos has too rich an offering to overlook. I'll be back for seconds.

Being back in Bangkok means another moment of transition. Rachel's month with me is up and I have to release her back into the hip Vancouver wild. We're both usually solo travelers, and in our decompression tonight we agreed that it's a testament to the specialness of our connection that we like each other even more now than ever. Nothing will clarify the strength and lifespan potential of a relationship quite like crossing international borders on little sleep and no food. Public praise: Rachel is an inspiring, intrepid traveler who's helped me become far more flexible and adventurous. She taught me how to be brave in brand new ways. Choose your adventure partners wisely! I'm grateful to have one who drew out the best in me...and made me eat so many mystery foods.

Rachel and I with our new friends, Flo and Meagan.
After a month of near constant companionship, I'll be solo once again...sort of. You make friends, you see, and I have travel friends out there who I'll likely connect with in Siem Reap, which is next up. But first I'm taking myself to dance class and a movie, hanging around Bangkok like I live here. Do you know what I felt when we boarded a flight back to BKK? Relief to be coming home to a place whose pulse I've already felt, to an area I've already walked, to a restaurant where I've already eaten, to a little slice of familiar. When everything is foreign all the time it begins to wear. Learning new polite greetings and getting new currency and sleeping in new beds of various hardness and showering in showers of various warmth...at first these things are so exciting! And novel! A month in, you're saying thank you in Lao to your Thai waitress and you have four currencies in your wallet and you haven't slept well since the overnight train to Chiang Mai three weeks ago and you're tired. I am now, in fact, too tired to go to Cambodia.

Not really, of course. I can't wait to get on the train on Monday and cross another border and get another passport stamp and feel the pulse of another place. Even more than being still somewhere, I love the boats and planes and buses and trains in between. I get an electric, heady rush every time I set out for somewhere new, and, all gripes aside, it is a tremendous privilege to get to do life this way for a while. Not everyone has the resources to get this kind of education. I'm booking hostels based on bed comfort reviews from here on out (seriously, sleep is important, you guys) but am also okay with being a little tired. I'm now a daily coffee drinker. Oh well! It's delicious.

Hot, sweaty love from Bangkok! Use your time!

xoxox

From the inspiring quote collection at Icon Klub in Luang Prabang.

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