Tuesday, September 20, 2005

saabaa-dii laos!

i am now in laos, in luang pranang, and i can view my blog!!! how exciting.

this city is incredible, in a way that is very hard to explain. i've only felt this way before once about somewhere, and that somewhere was sayulita in mexico. this is the kind of place where at the very first sight, you want to spend a month. it would be easy, it would be lovely, it would end up being pretty expensive though. this city is very touristic, but there are more monks and temples than tourists, so it compensates.

i've found myself a beautiful room with double beds, hardwood floor, a/c, a hot shower (rare apparently in asia) and a western toilet for $4 USD (40000 kipps) a night. i tried other places that were in the book but one had renovated and was charging $25 USD/night and the other had closed down for renovation (but the building is incredible). i am located right in the center of things, between the mekong river and another one, tons of temples and restaurants, shops and bars. there's even a monk here checking his emails right now!

i love the orange robes and the shaved heads everywhere. there's something magical about these people that's hard to explain. i think the fact that they're untouchable (by women, at least) makes them seem a lot holier...

but yesterday in oudomxay we met a monk at the city's stuppa who was breaking all the rules... he admitted to smoking, drinking, kept signing songs, accepted something from a women's hand *and* kept flirting with me. he called me beautiful. what do you say to that, to a monk? ha! it was so weird! but he was so nice. along with a french couple that i met on the bus we talked for a few hours, watching the sun set over the city and the mountains and then by his invitation we went to his english class that evening.

it was really odd to feel like a tourist attraction. to have about 10 young men, mostly monks, ask you questions about your life (where are you from, how old are you, are you married are typical laos questions) to practice their english. it felt a bit overwhelming at times, at points i felt like backing out but this was the kind of opportunity you don't get if you're after it. so class started and they had a new teacher, who had a very strong laos accent and decided that i should teach the class and stand in the front!!! i obliged (again, this doesn't happen everyday...) and ended up basically talking about myself and doing a few pronunciation things (like "world" and "word", so they could hear the difference) and stuff. i even got asked questions like "what is the longest river in the world"! haha.

since in laos i have learned to use the new toilets but still refuse to use my hand to wipe myself. i just don't like the idea that much and the thought of wet panties all the time is not that appealing! but toilets here are super clean, they do not smell, and everyone flushes. why can't these people go to china and show them how it's done???

the weather here is supposed to be a killer (raining season right now, so hot and wet - supposed to be...) but it's been quite nice. we've had a bit of light rain and lots of clouds, so the heat is just perfect. you still need a sweater here at night, which is nice. and helps against the mosquitoes.

i've read everywhere that lao roads are some of the worst in asia. i have to say that so far, after over 10h of bus i have nothing to complain about. most of it was paved, some was gravel but some was earth, wich turned to bright red mud with holes and potholes. those sections where bumpy, but the drivers where good enough to go so slowly that you hardly felt a thing. i have also taken my first tuk tuk ride! it was lovely but it's hard to look outside... too bad.

oh, and crossing the border was super easy. i was really worried that perhaps they'd have stopped issuing visas at the border and that i'd be stuck in between two countries for a while. but no, 260 yuan later i had a lovely visa. it's not as nice as the one you get when you go through the embassy, but what can you do!

overall i'm really happy to be here. tomorrow i'll walk around and check out the temples, the markets, etc. but tonight i'm pretty tired and will go to bed early. there's an hour difference here and it means that it gets dark real early and somehow it's making me more tired. i also want to go to the caves, with thousands of buddha images. this is the number one attraction that i wanted to see in laos. hopefully it will live up to the expectations!


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