Rachel Holan
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Sunny Little Paradise

March 2, 2009 @ 9:49 PM | Permalink

Last night the electricity went out over the entire town of Vang Vieng while I was eating dinner with friends. The waitress walked over using the light from her iPhone to bring us candles, assuring us that this happens all the time, and it should be back on in half an hour or so.
I love Laos. Stuck between the paddy field mentality and the influences of a modern age, it is everything I could want. Two weeks ago I took a wooden longboat trip up the Mekong River from the border of Thailand to Luang Prabang, which took two full days. It is quite a rare thing to travel for 48 hours on a boat and not see a bridge anywhere, but only a handful of houses. The tourist industry here is but an infant, which is why so many backpackers are drawn to the peaceful mountains and the ever-calm "Lao-wegians" as I call them, because the "Laos people" just sounds weird. No one hassles you on the streets because it's hot and they can't be bothered to try to sell you something. If you want a taxi you're probably going to have to wake one up and then convince him to work for a bit. The guy running the internet cafe I'm in right now is asleep to my left, so I'll have to wake him up to pay him. The honor system is definitely at work here.
And then there's Vang Vieng. Some genius figured out that if you build a few bars and rope swings by the river and buy a couple hundred inner tubes, then the foreigners will come. So for a few dollars a day you can tube down the river, which is the only thing to do here by the way, and be pulled up to a bar by guys on land with bamboo poles.
There are good and bad points to this, the good obviously being that it's ridiculously fun and it might just be the best party I've ever been to in my life. You meet some amazing, fun people, the rope swings are wicked and the mud pit is great for wrestling your new best friends in. The somewhat bad side to this is that you have a bunch of young people swimming around when they're too drunk/stoned to realize that it's a bad idea. Apparently there were three broken legs from Swing Five last week, and yesterday the rope from Swing Three snapped and some Irish guy got thrown half-way across the river. It's now the most popular swing. 
Another interesting thing about Laos is that, unlike Thailand, they aren't at all strict on drugs. Rachel's Travel Tip #47: Do not try the Marijuana-Mushroom-Opium-Whiskey-Red Bull Milkshake while trying to float down a river. It's just...wrong. Instead, perhaps just order a cocktail, but beware because they are only served in buckets, quite literally.
Now Laos sounds like Spring Break in Cancun, but I can assure you it is nothing but divine. The people are so friendly and helpful, the purple-green mountains surrounding me are ever-present and the baguettes are always fresh and warm, being the lasting remnants of the old French rule. The balance of the old ways and new is beautiful: how many of the villagers still bathe and wash clothes in the river but have a camera phone to take a picture of you from their moped as you walk down the dirt road into town. Although it is still technically a Communist country, I have never seen or experienced any indication as such and feel comfortable and happy in my sunny little paradise.
Hopefully we'll have electricity tonight...


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Great Story...I really got the feel of being there with you. More pictures, please!

Jamie Holan on A Nice Welcome Home 2009-04-15

AAAAHHHH the Caribbean....I'm ready to go back NOW. Thanks for the deep breath and pause in my hectic day

Jamie Holan on A Story for the Morning 2009-04-15

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