May 28, 2010

like a pro

in Luang Prabang i visit the Vietnamese Consulate like a well seasoned traveler.  that means i hire a bike from the guest house, ask directions and pedal away, ask someone else for directions and pedal in the direction they are point.  everyone is helpful and i don't get lost or 'off trail' as we say in Colorado.  i'm in luck because the consulate is open and in just a few minutes i'm back on my bike to keep exploring.  i pay $45US for a three day service on the visa.

the conflict in Thailand impacts Laos as well. one proprietor tells me that 80% of their tourists come from Thailand and when i suggest perhaps the Chinese will pick up the slack and his eyes light up and say he says yes, the Chinese come and spend money. in fact just five minutes later a group of six Chinese come to the restaurant and i can tell by the comments that although they like the money they don't like this obnoxious crowd. the night market in Luang Prabang is empty except a few westerners. the women come in every night with their hand crafted items and i wish i could buy something from each of them but i don't see anything i need or want. it's hard when they say, "just one dollar" as you walk by.

there is a performance one night at the palace museum ballet. the music is traditional and the costumes are bright and men wear masks that are amazing. unfortunately not all of the stories have a happy ending. there is a young girl who reminds me of katie because the whole time she is on stage she has the biggest smile on her face. she dances in sync with the older girls and you can tell she is having a wonderful time.
the next morning i get up early - that's 5AM here - to watch the monks collecting alms from the people of Luang Prabang. after morning prayer the monks walk in a procession around a small part of town with their bowls collecting food and money from the citizens. it is a symbiotic relationship and in return the monks include the intentions of the people in their prayers.

then i'm off to Phonsavan to see the Plain of Jars. i opt for the travel agent run minivan [5 hours] instead of the public bus [10 hours]. this was a good choice since we are only 30 minutes outside of town before we see the first public bus [VIP in big letters on the side] pulled over and locals and westerners standing outside. we travel for a while and i think the road is good for a secondary road then after looking at the map i find this is not a secondary road but Route 13, the superhighway of Laos. there is not a 100 meters of it that is straight as it is winding through the mountains. we see at least two more public buses broken down along the way which i understand is the norm.

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