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Exploring, creating, & reflecting one day at a time

I’ve been slow on posting this time around because for what seems like the first time on this trip, we’ve had somewhat limited access to the internet (either too slow or non existent).

It’s also somewhat fortuitous that I left off my last post in Hanoi bragging about all the food we ate in just the first day and how much we were going to continue eating because (couldn’t you see this coming?) I woke up with sharp pains in my belly the next morning. It basically felt like someone was intermittently stabbing me in the gut with a red hot pocket knife (or something like that), and I instantly knew that I was experiencing my first– and hopefully only– bout of food poisoning. My ailments were likely brought on by our carefree feast of street food the previous day, no less. Luckily for me Alan started feeling sick too so the whole crew (now just three of us) spent the full day in bed watching Gallery Girls. TV marathons really have amazing healing powers when you’re sick, and antibiotics don’t hurt either.

We recooped for the most part and headed out on a two day, one night excursion to Ha Long Bay. The bus broke down on the 2 hour ride over though, leaving us to basically hitchhike on other buses and ride the rest of the way on less than ideal seats. Getting to Ha Long made it worth it though, as it was just as gorgeous and grand as advertised. The caves were really kitschy and geared heavily toward tourists with stalactites and stalagmites lit up in different colors and some ominous voice speaking/singing over the loud speaker in a way not unlike the creepy animatronics at It’s a Small World. Still, the weather was beautiful and Eric and I were able to kayak around the bay under rocks and in caves (Alan was still feeling sick and stayed on the boat, but at least he was spared the fiberglass splinters Eric and I dealt with for the next two days).


We headed back to Hanoi the next day only to realize there wasn’t much to do in the city in the way of sightseeing. We explored the night market, got quick massages and picked up our tailored clothes the next day but then were sort of at a loss. We hung out waiting for the next meal for the rest of our time there. I also happened to be awake really early one morning and consequently was able to finally meet up with Megan and Jenna, who had just arrived on the sleeper train from Sapa.

We took a prop plane from Hanoi to Luang Prabang, Laos, which was an amazing flight because having a birds eye view of Laos showed it was almost completely green and covered in jungle. The city itself was super charming–as Alan put it, “the perfect mix of developed and undeveloped.” Our fourth of July was spent biking to the Tad Sae waterfalls (40 km in the relentless sun), swimming in the falls and feeding elephants, and then kayaking down the Mekong (which bears a striking resemblance to the chocolate river from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by the way) back to town. We found a backpackers bar after eating a very american meal of pizza and ribs and hung out with a group of Mormons from BYU and a drunk Texan Google employee who now lives in Australia and goes to great lengths to hide her american origins. We rounded out our night with drunk american girls lighting fireworks and a couple games of bowling at the place to be in Luang Prabang–the bowling alley (which falls just outside the Lao drinking curfew of 11:30). I think that in the 3 or 4 Fourths I’ve spent overseas, I’ve always had more time in each respective place than in the states. Weird, but I guess that good ol’ american pride is amplified outside of the country.


We took a minibus to the bigger waterfalls, Kuang Si, the next morning and were greeted with more sunshine which was unfortunate for the boys, who got burnt on our kayak ride. The fish in the pond also really enjoyed eating the scab on my ankle which was all at once nauseating and terrifying. But hey, we figured out where the “doctor fish” come from. The falls were spectacular, albeit more touristy than Tad Sae. Overall our time spent in Luang Prabang left all of us agreeing it was our favorite destination thus far. Plus, Alan met a future coworker and now has at least a couple LA connections. Small world, eh?


The next morning we departed on our three day journey up the Mekong in a slow boat to get to Chiang Mai. We spent 8 hours per day for two days traveling upstream on an open air vessel with minibus seats mailed to the floor boards. Luckily for us we were going in the much more unpopular direction and had room to spread out and walk around. It did get hot and a little but uncomfortable at times but I’m really glad we did it because it was beautiful. Plus we all got a chance to read a ton, including The Defining Decade, which was recommended to us by newly befriended USC graduates, and which Alan happened to have with him. It made us all a little depressed and a little happy. The biggest problem that we ran into was trying to cross the Mekong into Thailand and being sent back across the river to Laos because it was 6:10 and the office closed at 6:00. The passport official on the Thai side really hated us for whatever reason and allowed the the Thai nationals in our group in, leaving us to sulk back to the other side. Bribery didn’t even work. He must’ve been having a very bad day.



Today we took a minibus in the rain to Chiang Mai. We’ve already scheduled a cooking class for tomorrow and a visit to the tiger park plus massages for the following day. I can’t believe I’ll be back home in 6 days, but I also can’t believe how much we still have left to do here.


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