Trip Start May 25, 2003
13Trip End Aug 21, 2003
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We spooned all night, her angelic face on the pillow next to mine. Our matching coifs (she's sporting a GI Jane look for summer '03) spell out a black and gold yin and yang, and I tell myself she is smiling. I assure you that I am, smiling and snuggling and sniffing her sweet corn-chip scent. H, you better come home quick!
I can't say I really slept last night, despite nearly 30 hours of continuous travel since I left Bangkok. But I digress (as if that were the exception rather than the rule!)...
Our previous travel log brought you up to date from Vengvieng, the riverside playground in central Laos. We wanted to travel north from there to Luang Prabong, and did so despite rumors of an increased risk of banditry on the infamous Route 13. Apparently, two Westerners had been shot and killed a couple weeks prior, and numerous locals and several other travelers have died in ambushes on this road during the last year. The political picture is so complex in Indochina, nobody seems to really know who's killing whom for what particular purpose. Suffice to say that as our bus weaved its way through the spectacular jungle scenery, each of the 40 or so passengers had to find his or her own way to assimilate the presence of all those guns. Military guys always have weapons, for better or for worse, so that wasn't so strange, but teenage boys just shouldn't look so placid when they are sporting automatic machine guns on their narrow shoulders. And what are they doing there, just walking along the road with those big guns? Anyway, no shots were fired and we arrived in Luang Prabong just in time for a brief cloud-burst that washed it all away from our minds (but you can never forget, can you?) and filled the sky with rainbows, painting good omens overhead as we shed the stress of the drive and headed out to hunt for a place to stay.
Like the rest of Laos (the three destinations along Route 13 that we, like most travelers saw, anyway) Luang Prabong was very laidback, a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing pastel of Colonial France meets Old Asia (takes over and rules imperialistically for decades, but whatever). We chilled there for a few days, strolling through the night market, meandering up and down the Mekong to play in the spectacular waterfalls that tumble from the jungle high above pristine pools. As usual, it's no use trying to describe how beautiful these places are, how unlike anything either of us had ever seen. I do have the disc with all our photos and plan to post them some time this weekend, so stay tuned. Anyway, begrudgingly accepting that our time in Laos had evaporated, we decided to forego the devil we knew (gun-toting tikes on Route 13) and put our lives in the hands of Lao Aviation. When a plane whose prop-engines stall in the midst of a sphincter-loosening take-off, bounces into the air, careens from cloud to cloud like some doomed pinball, only to skip along the landing like a rock on a river, when that is the safe way to go, you know you are traveling in Asia. The indentations H gouged into my arm with her fingernails (ladies, how exactly does this improve the situation?) began to heal as we enjoyed a final day in the capital, Vientiane, where we arranged for a bus to take us through the night and across the Friendship Bridge into Thailand.
We got to Bangkok around 4:30am on Wednesday, just in time to ogle at the dregs of drunken travelers clumsily negotiating some conclusion to the previous evening's debauchery. We spent the day walking and resting and savoring the dwindling moments of our time together in Asia. After a very relaxing day in a very crazy city, we met Angie at the airport there and escorted her to our triple room behind the temple, just out of the fray in the Khao San area. Angie was no worse for the wear and, as is her way, up for anything. We had a couple beers and called it a night, though I'm told the girls stayed up long after I fell asleep, talking about home and their plans to travel south to the islands. We had a great day together, indulging in traditional Thai massages in the magnificent Wat Pho massage school, and delicious phad thai, whipped up on a streetside cart for 25 cents, with all the fixin's. We decided as a group that in order maximize their time in the islands, Ang and H should head out that night, rather than the following morning. We met up with some friends we had made along the way, ate, drank and were merry as could be, right up to the very last possible minute when the Blond Bombers hugged me goodbye and hopped a cab for the train station.
And that was that. Amazing how time flies when you spend it with amazing people in amazing places! Not sure if H and Ang will write from the beach, but we will put our heads together for a final final when she returns in a couple weeks. Also, I'll send a link when I have all the photos posted. Until then...