Asia: Same Same, but Different

"I stopped feeling like I didn't belong anywhere, and realized that I actually belonged anywhere I wanted to be."
Sitting solo on a palette, at an outdoor bar in Luang Prabang I had become quite fond of, with my glass of vodka sprite and a candle lit beside me, I came to a realization that this feeling of being alone didn't make me uncomfortable anymore. If I left Asia with one thing I learned about myself, it was the ability to be content in a public sector by myself. Being content in the present is something I have had a difficult time mastering growing up. Each day, including the ones where all I saw was the back of an airplane seat, I soaked up the moments and enjoyed every one of them.

It's taken a month to write this blog, only because I had no idea in what direction to go, but that's somewhat how my trip to Asia was planned. So, it's perfect.

Bangkok, Thailand
After 25 long hours in a plane, I arrived in the middle of the night to Bangkok. Of course, I was ready to crash the second I stepped into a taxi, but two hours after arriving to my trendy hotel, I finally fell asleep.

Four hours later, I was up again and ready to explore the crazy city! My cousins and I went to Wat Arun (aw-run) and Wat Pho (poe) where I gazed at the amazing SE Asian architecture. All of the structures in the Wats were basically on top of each other and embedded with gold, broken pottery, gems and other materials.


 












We walked around a huge mall, Terminal 21, and found the ground floor with a variety of different sweets, meats, and greens to try.
To end the eventful day, we toured around the city and visited two different Hindu shrines, Erawan and Ganesha. These were pretty interesting sites since they were both located in the heart of the city. You smell the different incense from at least a block away, as well as different locals selling flowers and whatnot for gifts. My favorite shrine was Ganesha since it was an elephant!
 
Luang Prabang, Laos
The next morning, we headed to the airport, where I noticed just how cool and efficient the Bangkok airport operated in comparison to many others in the world I had experienced. Our flight was a short, two hours, but the format of the plane was perfect for taking photos of the amazing scenery I was about to enjoy for the remainder 10 day stay. The seats and windows were located under the wings of the plane (pretty fancy, I'd say!) 

Upon our arrival, Troy (my cousin's wife's cousin-- yeah, it made people think every time I said that), picked us up and the real adventure began! During the 10 days, we did something nearly every day that was adventurous. We even planned a spur of the moment mini getaway to another town, Vang Vieng. 
Here's a list with photos of some of the things we did:

Pak Ou Caves  
 
 
Tour the National Museum and Palace












Float the Mekong River and Kuangsi Waterfalls
















Ride the Elephants at Tad Sae "Waterfalls"
I say waterfalls in quotes due to the extreme lack of water (none at all) in the waterfall.
 
  
 The elephant is bowing for me!
Climb to the top of Phou Si Mountain
   
View overlooking Luang Prabang
Wat Xieng Tong
Largest temple in Luang Prabang                      















Vang Vieng, Laos
Thanks to a great friend, Vang Vieng made it on the list, and it was one of the best decisions made during the 10 days. Although, the eight hour bus ride nearly gave me motion sickness, it was worth the full day we spent in the backpacker town. 

Vang Vieng is a very quaint town, and almost reminds me of Colorado, and I was in awe upon our arrival of the mountainous scenery. Once we checked in to our nice villa, it was hard to leave and explore because of what we saw from the balcony...
 
We went to explore and grab a bite to eat. My friend recommended going caving, tubing, hiking and kayaking, so we found an agency to plan our excursion for the next day. This excursion included three caves, which also had one to tube through, kayaking, a lunch with bottled water, and transportation. All for $23 per person. Not bad, right?!

After booking, we went for a drink at a bar/lounge called The Other Side. A lot of the bars in Vang Vieng were for late teens, early to mid-20s who were backpacking through Laos. So, at almost every bar, there would be TVs mantled on beams showing reruns of Friends or Family Guy. You would think, 'why on earth would someone want to be in Asia and even think of watching Western TV reruns??' As I really started to meet people in Vang Vieng, I quickly noticed my two week adventure was nothing compared to everyone else's journey (I'm talking 3 months to a year-long touring SE Asia). I understood why these bars captured backpackers, it's a little sense of home. The view that came with a few of these bars was the best part.
 

We had an early rise to start our day of activities and rode in the back of a truck to the starting point. In our tour group was myself, my cousins and a California girl, Maggie, about my age and traveling by herself (are you reading this correctly, mom??) who joined us! We kayaked across the Nam Song River and walked to the first little cave that included a Buddah Shrine where the locals offer their gifts and prayers.

Throughout the day, we received stories and information about the culture and Lao traditions. We walked a ways to a hut where we took a rest and prepared for the first cave. 

I've been in caves before (North American caves, that is), but this was a different cave experience. We used head lights that were pretty dim to see the cave. The first two, we stayed in for a good 30-45 minutes. We stopped and had lunch, then continued on to the last (water) cave that we tubed inside! It was definitely an awesome experience. (Sorry, not many photos to show since the caves are dark and wet!)

The last part of the day was kayaking for 8 miles. This was quite a long ride, especially since it was my first time ever kayaking, but I loved it! I apologized to Maggie several times beforehand and at the beginning in case if I tipped us over, but it was a great time for good conversation about our travels and where we were in life while we enjoyed the amazing scenery.

 
 
Enjoy local bar scenes
hive bar: My cousin's bar!! Five days a week, they have an evening fashion show followed by a hip-hop/break-dance crew! The vibe is pretty chill with a variety assortment of bacon cuisines! Check them out on Facebook and definitely hit "like."  





Aussie Sports Bar: Just across the street from hive, you'll find the Aussie Bar where my cousin's wife and I would go for a brewski and catch the first World Cup game!

Utopia: Oh, Utopia. You were my cool zen place with great tunes with a vibe "anything goes."













To end my wonderful two weeks, my cousins and friends I had made, sent me off well, before a 49 hour trip home, with a dinner and a fashion show at hive bar followed by drinks at Utopia. It was a bittersweet moment.
(Maggie and Martha)














I hate to say this was the first time, but my escape to Asia actually wasn't an escape. I wasn't escaping anything and I can't recall the last time I went on an adventure, mainly, to escape reality. I left happy. I came back happy. 

"We travel because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something inside our minds has changed, and that changes everything." - Jonah Lehrer
Love. Travel.

Comments

  1. Awesome pictures! I'm so glad you got to take this trip!

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    1. Thank you!! I can't wait to go back! :)

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