Waterfalls, Blue Lagoons, and Smiling Children--My Life Is Good

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December 7th 2006
Published: December 7th 2006
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The Blue LagoonThe Blue LagoonThe Blue Lagoon

Yes, that is really the colour of the water there. The tree is the one you can jump off of.
Sorry for the long time between updates recently. I'm in Vang Vieng now, and internet access is 3x more than in Luang Prabang. It's still not really expensive, I guess, but it's the principle of having to pay 300% more for the same service that sort of erks me. Oh well, obviously I got over it because here I am! Updating the blog and responding to a billion scout-related e-mails. There's always a big increase in e-mail traffic after the national AGM (remember the e-mail volume graph, Brian?)

I cannot reiterate strongly enough how wonderful Laos is. At least, this part of Laos. Seriously, I am enjoying my time here SO much. Let me take you through yesterday:

-Sleep in in our incredibly comfortable, clean beds (we each get our own here!) until our bodies tell is it's time to wake up. Did I mention our room only costs us each $2US/night?

-Get up, dress, go for breakfast. Discover that we can get an extremely satisfying breakfast special of omelet with ham and cheese, baguette, and Laos coffee for $1.50US. I haven't had a real breakfast in sooooo long. Amazing. Oh, and the restaurants here are outfitted with
From the busFrom the busFrom the bus

Add some great iPod tunes to this beautiful feast for the eyes and you've got a pretty decent way to spend 6 hours.
low tables were you basically lie on comfy cushions and mats, with more comfy cushions to prop yourself up with. So we ate an amazing, cheap breakfast horizontally. We may as well been having breakfast in bed!

-Go rent mountain bikes and talk the proprietors into letting us have them for $1US for the day. Full suspension, which was incredible on the unbelievably rocky, dirt roads here. I should mention, though, that I was unfortunately given a children's bike which made pedaling a bit arduous, but at least my keister was comfy with the full suspension!

-Buy an amazing roast beef and cheese sandwich to be eaten, picnic style, later on. Wow, roast beef AND cheese? Two foods I haven't had in ages and ages.

-Head out on an indescribably beautiful bike ride through tiny villages, all the while surrounded by a panorama of huge limestone cliffs set against at a bright blue sky. Our constant companions were chestnut brown cattle and tiny, smiling children at the side of the road.

-End up at Blue Lagoon, a gorgeous swimming hole that included amenities such as a ropeswing and a big tree you could climb and jump
Missed OpportunityMissed OpportunityMissed Opportunity

This shot was even better a minute before, as an old Lao man in a long green overcoat and a military style hat smoking a long, curved pipe was standing and watching this man, but by the time I got my camera out (or maybe because I got my camera out) he was gone. This was taken in Luang Prabang at the base of a the stairs to a temple at the top of the highest hill in town.
off of. Meet a number of other nice travelers.

-Bike back to the guesthouse, change into less sweaty clothes, and head out to the Organic Farm which is famous for its local community development initiatives. From there go to the local community center and help in the teaching of two different English classes for enthusiastic local children. Awesome! We'll be back again tonight and tomorrow. Tricky work, though.... try explaining the word "zoo" to kids from a small village who don't know a lot of English vocabulary. "Uhhh... it's a place where animals are in cages, and people pay money to go see them. Yah, animals like tigers and elephants and bears. Well, I know you have those in the wild here, but I don't have them where I live so I would go to a zoo to see them. In the cages. *draw lame picture of a bear in a cage on a little whiteboard*. Right. Let's move on."

-Bike back to town (in the dark with only a faint headlamp for light! Good thing the full moon was two days ago) and pick a comfy restaraunt to eat at. Find one showing "Friends" episodes (yes, all the restaurants show Friends, or Simpsons, or Family Guy, or various movies. You just pick what you'd like to see! Friends is the most popular) and hunker-down for what turns out to be a few hours of marathon TV watching. Hey, we haven't seen friends or other sitcoms for 2 months! Have an amazing meal of spagetti, a Milo milkshake, and even icecream for dessert, all for $3US.

-Back to the guesthouse for another glorious sleep in our amazing beds.

Did I mention I love Laos?

Even the bus ride here to Vang Vieng from Luang Prabang was great, at least for me. I was certainly not looking forward to it because everyone says bus travel here is awful because the roads are so bad and flat tires are nearly and hourly occurrence, but I was really pleasantly surprised with the road conditions. Sure, the road was super twisty, but for the most part it was well paved. There were only a few problem pothole areas. Some people on the bus were carsick, but since I don't get motion sick I was free to enjoy the STUNNING scenery we were passing through. Amazing green rolling hills (all logged, unfortunately. I guess I know where the wood comes from for the beautiful doors) with huge limestone peaks here and there, with small villages of simple huts along the way and many people going along with their daily farming lives. I've yet to see any real wildlife, but I did enjoy watching the little pot bellied pigs and families of tiny billy goats (the kind at the petting zoo) that hang out at the side of the road. The three of us opted to spring for the VIP bus ticket to make the journey more comfortable, and I'm glad we did. We actually left, and arrived, right on time, which is more than I can say for any transportation we took our entire time in Thailand. My seat was very clean and comfortable, and although we didn't see a movie as promised the journey was great. A bit hot (the A/C wasn't spectacular) but we survived and I quite enjoyed the whole experience. I think we'll take the public bus to Vientiene when we leave on Sunday, which should be another experience entirely, but I think it will be good in its own way.

If you're wondering what we did on our last day in Luang Prabang, we went to an AMAZING waterfall. It was really beautiful. I only wish we had more time there. We didn't realize how far away it was, so when it was all said and done we spent 2 hours in transit and only got 2 hours at the falls. Oh well. We hiked up to the top of it and played around in an incredibly tropical swamp area that quite reminded me of something out of a Vietnam war movie (although in much more pleasant circumstances). We went to the falls with a big group of people, actually. We met up with Joost, from trekking, in Luang Prabang and he brought along a German girl, Stephanie, and she brought along two german-speaking Italian friends (who we met again yesterday at the lagoon). Apparently some parts of Italy speak German--who knew? There were some amazing swimming spots at the falls, and I took some great pictures on Mark's camera of the boys swimming in the idyllic setting. Something unexpected there were two zoo-like enclosures. One housed a full grown female rescue tiger, and the other held a number of Asianic Black Bears (aka Moon Bears, the ones with the white crescent moon on their chest). Both were sort of rallying exhibits for their species plight against poachers and habitat destruction. I had a lot of fun watching the bears, which were really active and playful. They were much scrawnier than our black bears back home, but really good climbers!

We're planning on staying her in Vang Vieng for 5 days, which will allow us to teach 3 nights of English class, explore a lot of the local caves, and spend at least one day doing the famous "Vang Vieng Tube Ride" down the local river, which should be pretty fun. It's a leisurely tube float, but the kicker is that there's little bars with cheap beer and lots of rope swings and dive platforms along the bank. We can't wait!


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