The airports left a bit to be desired, but heck, I arrived 2 hours early and it was lovely to just get to sit there and read rather than being tossed like a sack of potatoes for those two hours. I know I missed the scenery, but I just can't bring myself to get torn up about it!
Plus, I am feeling better today
. Not 100% but better.....maybe 68%...or 73%. I met a guy from Spain living in China at the exit of the airport and we shared a tuk-tuk into town. Riding in, I started to understand what the other travelers meant when they called Luang Prabang a 'must-see'. Called 'magical' and 'alluring' by the Lonely Planet, the city's tree-lined streets are languid and quiet thanks to a bus and truck ban in the old town. Cafes, hotels, and restaurants are housed in colonial or colonial-like buildings along the Mekong riverfront where lush green mountains beckon from across the water. The side streets are narrow, brick-lined affairs that could not accommodate a car. When you think of a lazy stroll along a romantic river, this is the place to do it. I couldn't believe the quiet; this appears exactly the place to recover. I can meander around, drifting unheard among the shops and grab nourishment from a delicious coffee. Gerardo and I stopped to have a coffee and it was the first good coffee I've had in a month. Thank you French imperialists!
At 4pm, as we were sipping our coffees, we heard a bass drum being beaten from somewhere quite close. It turns out that the monks play music everyday at that time. You can enter the temple area and watch them. I tried to determine what it meant---mediation time? prayer? give thanks? Not sure. In the mornings at sunrise, the monks proceed through the town and collect alms in the form of sticky rice offered by believers. The activity is called 'Tak Bat'. This is a way in which the monks demonstrate their religious vows of humility and poverty. The community thus supports them and gains spiritual enhancement by giving.
I can't believe tomorrow will be the one-month marker of my travels
. Time flies. In honor of the impending month anniversary, I decided to do a little bookkeeping. I have forgotten what it is like to be cash dependent. Taken together with the fact that the currencies here are so inflated, you have to carry a ridiculous wad of money around all the time. It feels like I am just racing through money like water because every single little/big
thing must be purchased and purchased with cash. Every day rent is due. Every day is grocery day. Every day is water day. In Laos, every ATM visit sees me taking out their allowed maximum of 1,000,000.00 kip. That's right, I'm a millionaire...like all the time. lol (In case you're wondering, that equates to $125 USD---yeah big money Jasmine). One million is probably the maximum because otherwise the ATM's wouldn't be able to stock enough bills to make more than 3 transactions. haha. The nice thing though is that in Cambodia, Canadia bank didn't charge any ATM fees--none! And, in Laos, the fee is only $2.5 USD. Since I'm with a credit union, I am having no ATM fees from my bank. Pretty sweet considering most banks have been charging $5.00 a pop and then the traveler is hit with their home banks' ATM fee...which all adds up when you have to have cash and you can only withdraw $125 at a time! My number crunching revealed that with today's flight included, I am averaging $42.25/day. That is everything---lodging, buses, food, clothing, toiletries, water, my nice hotel in Thakhek, everything. By far and away, the lodging is becoming the most expensive. It turns out that I started in the cheapest place and have progressively moved to more and more expensive cities. I wonder what Vietnam will be like. All in all, I am pleased with $42 and a quarter considering I have been doing what I want to do. I haven't stayed in dorms except for just a few nights. I've shared rooms which has been a big help. That's just under $1,300/month. Can you believe that? Seems crazy that you can literally live pretty decently with just the clothes and toiletries in your pack for that amount. (well...actually, I still have my cell phone bill and car insurance and some rent and health insurance....so maybe not such a hearty slap on the back huh? haha). Anyhow, the point remains that you can travel and enjoy many adventures/activities for cheap.
And time for me to rest up so I can get back to doing slightly dangerous and exciting things like rope swinging into a waterfall pool! ;)
I must have looked like a kid in a candy store on that silly plane. I could've kissed it! It was a brand spanking new Airbus 320 that hadn't even lost the 'new plane smell'! Everything was so clean and fresh. Cool air blowing strongly in my face. And the seats!---I actually could allow my arms to hang naturally at their sides without intruding on another person's space. I also forgot how smooth the cruise is in an airplane. I was so disappointed the flight was only 35 minutes long..hence the cruising altitude of 13,000 ft.