Friday, April 9, 2010

Land of a Million Elephants

Okay, I started writing this and realized I was beginning to travelogue, which I promised you I would avoid. I've condensed these longer stories into the following bullets. But below are adventures of elephants, blue lagoons, Lao karaoke and more travails of the Rooster gang. I spent three nights in Louang Phrabang and two nights in Vang Vieng with the Rooster gang. Enjoy.
  • Laos traces it's history back to the kingdom of Lan Xang, which translates to "Land of a Million Elephants." I shelled-out some dough for a one-day mahout course, which basically means that in addition to riding them in those silly little baskets, you also learn how to steer one yourself by sitting on the neck. You also get to go swim with them for their afternoon bath. There is now way for me to describe this experience, other than it's like a giant see-saw that weighs a couple tons in the river. Now put me on it. Yeah, it was hilarious.
  • The gang decided to get a little rowdy one night at Hive Bar, which like all LP closes at 11pm. This seemed far too early to this group of mostly Europeans so we hailed a tuk-tuk for the Lao disco. Inside was indeed perhaps the most bizarre nightclub I've every stepped into. The music was often American music, but dubbed over in Lao or Thai maybe. Again, hilarious.
  • Woke up early to watch the monks procession down the main street to receieve their offerings. Since no reasonable establishment is open at 5:45 for breakfast (that's right, no Waffle House in Louang Phrabang), we ate a street stall. The only offering was Lao coffee (as thick as mud) and these donut things. It actually wasn't that far off from New Orleans style coffee and beignets.
  • The bus ride from Louang Phrabang to Vang Vieng is stunning. Both the amazing scenery and the vistas of entire mountainsides that have been slashed and burned for agriculture. The air basically everywhere is hazy (in Thailand too) because of all the burning. I can't imagine that there aren't any erosion issues once the rainy season comes around.
  • Vang Vieng is hailed as a backpackers paradise. It's a party town no doubt, but also has these awesome caves, mountains, lagoons, and natural streams to explore. I was bit worried it'd be too much like a frat party, but in the company of the Rooster gang it managed to be great. We rented bikes ala the Von Trapps (yes, we sang Do Re Mi in unison) and biked through rice paddies to get to a blue lagoo to cool off.
  • Last night with the Rooster Gang needed to be epic, so we decided to check out a Lao karaoke. Now "karaoke" apparently isn't where you get up a make a fool of yourself. They hire like 3 really good singers to just do cover songs. Again, all in Thai or Lao. But the locals enjoyed dancing with us, so although I didn't get to sing "Stand by your Man" it was fantastic.

I've now left the Rooster gang. Some of them are headed home, others to different adventures. I'm now in Hanoi and met up with Sarah Schwarz (roommate from DC) at the airport. Luckily, the Hanoi airport is about the size of the Jackson International Airport. Plan from here is a couple of days here and then on to Ha Long Bay. Can't believe half of adventure #1 is behind me!

Oh, and in news somewhat related: I am now scheming up an African adventure for the late fall. Turns out if you go to Princeton you can get a sweet job in Zambia, or at least that's what has happened to Mary Reid. So, being such a good sister, I've decided to go see her while she's over there. So if you have suggestions/recommendations/friends let me know!


  1. Hi Munny,
    Hope you and Sarah hooked up in Hanoi. Please tell her 1Sky peeps miss her! I trust your adventures will continue to be amazing/hilarious.

  2. GO TO NAMIBIA! I will tell you all the places to go, especially since you'll already be in Zambia!! YES.