Riding A Giraffe, Finding Utopia, and Bowling

Trip Start Feb 12, 2011
Trip End Nov 19, 2011

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Where I stayed
Chitlathda Guesthouse

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Sunday, May 15, 2011

At the ungodly hour of 8am I went downstairs to get an extra towel only to discover the staff was asleep in the lobby, a common practice among the guesthouses in SE Asia, but I doubt I'll ever get used to it. At $6/night Erica and I found it acceptable to share a towel and 'rough’ it.  It’s amusing to think about the variance in experiences we’ve had on this trip.  Only a few months ago we were staying in a luxurious five star hotel, and now we were sharing a paper thin towel and staying in places without windows.  We really are in a unique position to experience both ends of the spectrum on the same trip, something I doubt we will do as we get older.

We had a pleasant breakfast by the river with Bar who enlightened us about the realities of traveling in the Middle East, and encouraged us to check out Lebanon, the Red Sea, Petra and Israel.  He was generous to offer to show us around with his father should we make it to Israel and both Erica and I were excited about the possibilities despite the negative news coming out of the region.

Even though we hadn’t done anything all morning we were both lethargic and spent a few hours back in our rooms catching up with friends before our scheduled taxi to the Kuang Si Waterfall.  The rapid pace of our traveling seems to have caught up with us and had we not pre-paid for our trip to the waterfall, we probably would have just vegged out for the rest of the day…how little did we know what was in store.

It was a surprisingly long drive through the countryside so we struck up a conversation with Daniel and Timothy, two young Canadians partying their way through SE Asia.  We also met Bhavina, a British lawyer on sabbatical.  I had no idea what to expect as we were dropped at a parking lot with a bunch of locals milling about.  Our entrance fee bought us a view of a fenced bear habitat, but they weren’t to be bothered to put on a show for tourists.  The promise of swimming wasn’t terribly enticing with cool overcast skies, and we were a bit disappointed with the first swimming hole we came across.

The water seemed quite cold, so we pressed on up the trail following the sounds of music and laughter to discover a large gathering of locals singing and teenagers jumping from a rope swing and a fifteen foot waterfallThe water is never too cold for a rope swing, and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves flying through the air above the water.  I had originally wondered what we were going to do at a waterfall for two hours, but the time melted away as we explored the park and jumped into the water.

We got to know Dan, Tim, and Bhavina a little better on the way back to Luang Prabang and made plans to meet them for drinks later that night.  Energized, we dressed for a rare evening out and followed the mysterious signs for a place called "Utopia". We were lead through a long alley and I joked that the gaggle of hippies we were following wasn’t a good omen.  To our delight, Utopia exceeded expectations with great food and a beautiful outdoor setting with tables nestled into an organically laid out garden lit by candles.  If that wasn’t enough, they had a sand volleyball court off to the side.

Our romantic dinner was rushed in order to meet up with the gang where we found Dan and Tim waiting for us at the Hive bar (Incredibly accurate review HERE).  Feeling spunky we ordered a jug of sangria and our conversation quickly turned into a game of cards which quickly turned into a drinking game.  We had already caught a bit of a buzz when Bhavina arrived, and either Tim or Dan ordered a giraffe.  We hadn’t really cut loose since we left Australia, and when the giraffe arrived we knew we would be in for a long night.

We hadn’t met many folks since we left Siem Reap, let alone people we connected with so we had a great time putting a few back.  It’s of no surprise we ended up with a couple of Canadians and someone that’s has a legitimate career.  As far as the giraffe goes, it was just another name for a 3 liter container with a spigot like the one we had in Chiang Mai a few months back, but with five of us, it disappeared rather quickly.  Had a few shots not been ordered, the evening may have ended a bit earlier, but with everyone riding a nice buzz we all motivated to check out the volleyball situation at Utopia.

We managed to catch last call and join a match with a bunch of French Canadians but it was really just an exercise in getting sweaty while chasing the ball around.  We were told there were only two places open past 11pm, the bowling alley and the disco so we opted to continue our day of physical fitness and hit the bowling alley.  We piled into a pickup taxi with the French Canadians and somehow Dan and I ended up on the roof while we drove into the black of night.

I’m not sure where we were or how a bowling alley got there, but 10 of us found ourselves there ready to bowl.  Somehow we picked up a couple more Brits and the French Canadians ditched us for their own lanes leaving us with 10 big Laos beers to finish, not the best decision we ever made.  Nonetheless, we spent the last of our Laos Kip on beer and bowling, but had a blast indulging in a bit of western culture for a change.  There were plenty of antics and foolishly we made arrangements to have breakfast with Dan, Tim and Bhavina at 10am the next day, a perfectly rational thought at 3am that would later prove ridiculous.
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