It’s been a helluva ride, literally and figuratively, these past couple weeks.
As you may have read, we’ve had laptop issues, which are still unresolved (our second attempt to fix my broken screen ended when the repair guy decided to get drunk, crash his motorbike, and put himself in the hospital) and now compounded (H’s MacBook screen also cracked, and though still usable, makes processing photos tough).
Then, there’s been the constant rain, cold, and fog. If you’ve never ridden through a cloud before, it’s pretty cool … the first time. Maybe even the second or third time. By the 20th time, you might find yourself wondering why you came all this way to shiver on a bike in less than 10 feet of visibility, only to put on wet clothes and do it all again the next day. Ad infinitum.
Rounding out this trifecta of awesome are the special “quirks” of Vietnam … ones the casual visitor may or may not notice but are standard fare for any expat or extended visitor. These range from idiotic inconveniences like getting turned away at various border checkpoints because your bikes are from the wrong province to cultural and moral issues that I plan to delve into when we have some emotional distance.
Folks, it is enough to break the spirit. It damn near broke ours, but maybe you are made of tougher stuff. We certainly thought we were.
Thankfully, Luang Prabang saved us.
For one, no more cold and rain, which has been the single biggest downer (as anyone who lives in Seattle will tell you). It is HOT here, with highs near the 100s, and it’s supposed to be hot and dry until May. We have zero complaints.
Then there’s the food. Vietnamese food is famed all over the world for it’s balance of flavors, nuance, and sheer variety of dishes. While we ate some amazing things (especially in Hanoi, Hội An, and Huế), I generally found Vietnamese food lacking both flavor and salt, and it was often overly sweet. By contrast, Laos cuisine is packed with flavor and gets the balance of sweet, tart, salty, and spicy just right.
So, now we’re warm AND full. What else is there? Charm, and boatloads of it in Luang Prabang (LP). LP is the former royal capital (aren’t all the best cities, really?) and is a lovely jumble of Laos and French colonial architecture. Jewel box temples (or wats) lurk around every corner, Euro-style cafes line the streets, and colorful tuk tuks zip along ferrying passengers and locals alike. At just around 50,000 people, it’s smaller than some of the remote towns of northern Vietnam, and the people are warm, happy, and laid back. Their good energy is infectious.
Simply put, LP is a gem, and I recommend it over anywhere in Vietnam except for Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park.
It brought us back from the dead, and we’re excited to explore all Laos has to offer and share it with you (plus so much still to come about our time in Vietnam, both good and bad).
The computers are still busted, but, hey, you can’t have everything.
Peace, love, and happiness –