I do not want to leave Luang Prabang and am seriously considering letting my inner child take over and let her stomp her feet, throw herself on the floor, little fists in a ball, face streaked with tears and yelling: “I don’t want to gooooo!” But the adult in me knows that it won’t go well with the rest of the group and primarily, that it will do me no good. So my bag is packed and out the door. I delight myself in some local flora and pretend I’m here to stay.
Laos P.D.R. is the full name of the country. P.D.R. stands for People’s Democratic Republic though it is also an acronym for the country’s way of life: “Please Don’t Rush” I don’t want to rush in its discovery.
But then comes a tuk tuk ride to the bus. A daylong bus ride to Vang Vieng is ahead of us. We are warned that most of it will be on a windy, bumpy road. We are going to stop for bathroom breaks and to visit hill tribes along the way. Noon will find us at a “pretty for pictures” mountain-high restaurant. I mistakenly wrote I was on the “death road” yesterday. Well my mind got things mixed up and it was today. It is going to take us –on a good day- between 6 to 8 hours to get to our destination.
Suddenly the words “bumpy”, “windy”, “hill”, and “mountain-high”, connect! I add “death-road”, “vertigo”, “ouch”, “Can I get off now?” Later I would read that the road was “not recommended for nervous persons”. There are few to no barriers separating the bus from a vast ravine. Someone asks if I had fallen asleep because I was too quiet. No, I say. I’m just too queasy to talk!
No wonder my head hurts. It’s been bouncing against the window. Sort of like the head of those dogs they use for good fortune (the ones that their head bobs on any movement.) Fortunately, my palpitations will be reduced by a walk in the hill tribe village we stop at.
We are invited by a local to visit his home. In all the villages and homes we have visited there is a television and satellite alongside abject poverty. But these people do not live in misery for they are content with who and where they are.
Our host lives in this home with his wife and 11 children. He answers all our questions and I see in his eyes wonderment and disbelief in some of the things we are curious about.
There is a strange flickering noise in back of me that is a bit unsettling (Is something alive there?) but I don’t want to be rude, turn and potentially run out screaming if I find a strange animal resides in that corner.
After a few hours –many more than I like- we arrive at the restaurant for lunch. Mr. Peng laughs as he sees my expression of horror as he parks the bus head first, facing the precipice. Lucky me is in the front row. Okay, you are close enough, please stop the bus, stop please, STOP, NOW!!!
We are instructed not to point our cameras at any of the dead animals that are offered (head and all). Seems that these vendors are fully aware of Facebook and that a photo may go up that will force authorities to come in and fine or confiscate. They sell some animals that are not supposed to be sold. Fortunately I see none with a face to it.
And something that is nowhere near common or normal in my book. Our guide points out what looks like a stalk of something and says that it is a delicacy in his country. I am leery. Delicacy = very odd, strange, gross, inedible, retching-induced!
Our vendor starts the process.
And out comes the yuckiest of worms. It has been cooked in the stalk but that doesn’t make it any more appetizing. Our guide repeats it’s a delicacy and proceeds to eat it. Amazingly, so did one of our group who told everyone it tasted like chicken.
Back on a bus that, at this point, nobody wants to be in. Another hour and another stop at another happy place where, believe it or not, they sell Kit Kats and Snickers. I buy them and eat them both in a nano second! I don’t even like chocolate but somehow it was appropriate and satisfying to do so. It didn’t stop me from trying the local taro ice cream, either.
A million years more of a bus ride (or so it seemed) and my sore bottom and me arrive in Vang Vieng. The bus is too big for the city streets so we shall walk to the hotel. Vang Vieng has the reputation of being a backpacker’s paradise and it lives up to the fame with advertising for tubing, zip-lining, trekking, parties, etc. I get a kick out of one that is none of those.
We eat well.
After which I dive, literally dive onto my not so soft bed. Lots of excitement to be had tomorrow!