Monthly Archives: February 2010

Impromptu Birthday Party with Random Strangers – Luang Prabang, Laos

I was tickled pink to have made her acquaintance because Melbourne native Jules and I seemed to be cut from the same fabric. Initially, we were going to rent motorbikes and ride their ourselves but we were accosted by a boatman. He convinced us that it would be much more fun and cost efficient to let him take us there. After some gentle negotiation, we agreed to his offer. When we crawled into the long wooden boat, we were greeted by a five-some of young and beautiful Brits.

We made our introductions and learned that we all led quite interesting lives. I shared my cherimoyas with the group as we cruised down the Mekong River admiring the landscapes. A couple of them climbed onto the roof while a few others documented our adventure with their cameras. As we visited and got to know my new mates, I congratulated myself on having conjuring up such a fascinating group to hang out with for my special day.

After about an hour on the boat, we transferred to a tuk tuk (really just the back of a pickup truck) for the remaining 15 minutes. The cheeky driver made a quick stop at what looked like his families house and brought out some moonshine. After passing it around and the boys partaking, I was glad to have declined. After only two sips their eyes seemed to go bloodshot! What was in that stuff?

We finally arrived to the waterfalls and I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t overrun with tourists. Don’t get me wrong, the infrastructure is certainly there but we must have chosen a slower day or at least hit a lull. We visited the Bear Sanctuary and watched the roly-poly bundles of black fur search out their lunch. The keepers had hidden pieces of fruit all over the compound in some of the strangest places but the bears were privy to all of them.

After having our fill of the animals, we headed on to the waterfalls. We were all astonished at the surreal glowing turquoise pool and it didn’t take us long before we all stripped down to our swimwear. The water was a tad chilly but after about 2 minutes, it was fine. We splashed about and watched the dragon flies flutter around us. We marveled at the giant tree anchored right in the middle of the pool whose mystical roots looked like they may come alive at any minute. All of us agreed that this was the stuff of what fairytales were made of.

A short time later, we ventured up the trail and lo and behold, there were more falls…and more and MORE! Until finally, we hit the big one. It took my breath away and I couldn’t stop grinning at my fortune to have *this* as my birthday setting. Looking way way up you could see water cascading over dozens of cliff stages finally traveling all the way down to us. I just stared in awe at the giant spout as it crashed down over the mossy rocks into a frothy cloud entering the pool below.

With a little encouragement, we climbed up all the way to the top, walked across, and came down the other side. It was an arduous climb but worth it in the end. And I reasoned that this would earn me a piece of birthday cake without guilt.

At the end of the day, we all met up for dinner at the 8000 kip (about 1 dollar) vegetarian buffet. The meal was delightful, with birthday song, cake, presents, and all. It was grand and I felt really lucky to have been blessed with such a memorable surprise birthday party.

Grateful for surprises.

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Manifesting a Birthday Buddy – Luang Prabang, Laos

I woke up early and felt great so I decided to go out for an early morning walk. I had an extra spring to my step as I sang Happy Birthday to myself in my head. I was pleased to discover that I was staying just around the corner from the morning market. Boasting everything fresh from fruits, vegetables, rice, spices, noodles, and meats skewered on a stick to live chickens and small pigs in carryable handwoven baskets. It was clearly *the* place to be first thing in the morning as the place was bustling with locals and the odd tourist snapping photos with their wide lens.

I happened upon a pile of cherimoyas and bought myself a birthday trio. Then I got lost in some charming narrow side streets which were filled with guesthouses. I decided upon a place for breakfast and was elated when they served me my first Lao coffee of the day. It was divine.

Lao coffee is really something else, in my humble opinion. I have heard that most of the countries in South East Asia battle for this title of best coffee. I often wonder if it is because the popular alternative is the Nescafe instant granules. After having that a few times, if you are served a proper cuppa joe, no matter where you are its bound to be the “best you’ve ever had”. I guess everyone has their own view on the topic but for me, Laos does it right. And then some!

I was on my way back to my guesthouse with no real plan in mind, when I happened past a tour agency around the corner from my hotel. I decided to stop in to see what was on offer as I had been thinking it may be nice to go see the waterfall today. There was a sweet looking girl at the end of the counter who seemed troubled by all the choices. I offered her my two cents, summarizing what I had learned the day about the local tours. She was very appreciative and we seemed to get on, so we decided take a day trip to the waterfalls together. Armed with a bag of cherimoyas and a new friend, I smiled to myself that my birthday was already turning out to be fantastic and it wasn’t even 10 o’clock!

Grateful for birthday luck.

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