Sabaidi Laos. Sabaidi.

IMG_3263One of my favorite word I’ve learned so far is Sabaidi. In Laotian it means hello and goodbye.

Walking up and down the night market streets it was constantly being shouted. ‘Sabaidi! Sabaidi! Would you like a bracelet? Sabaidi!’

It was a beautiful word. It was one of many beautiful parts about Laos.

We arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos in what I’m assuming will be the most interesting forms of transportation we have in our trip — a two-day slow boat.

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Hello slow boat!

Side shot of a slow boat

Side shot of a slow boat

With anything you do — work or play — the people you are surrounded by will make all the difference. We were lucky enough to have an amazing boat full of people. Soon the beer started flowing and people sat on the boat edges, toes dipped in the flowing Mekong River.

Then, the music started playing. Dorf, our Aussie pal, and a young boy on board brought out an amp and the party got started. We limboed and danced until our overnight stop in Pack Bang, Laos.

LIMBO!

LIMBO!

Anyways, the fun continued until we arrived in Luang Prabang.

It’s hard to describe what made Luang Prabang so special. It was a quiet, peaceful town with bustling markets and shops. The food was amazing, the exploring was fantastic, and our slow boat crew was in town.

Here are some highlights:

Maddy, Desirèe, Anna, Sasha (our pal we picked up on the slow boat) and I checked out the nearby waterfall one afternoon.

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Pals!

Desirèe, me, Anna, Maddy and Sasha

We hiked to the top where teenage Monks were doing backflips!

We spent time in the night market (so much cool stuff but so little space in the pack).

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We went midnight bowling because the bars all close at 11:30 p.m.

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We got fish foot massages, which were extremely tickly!!!

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We awoke at the crack of dawn to watch local monks receive alms from locals. (The extra was given to poor children in town.) *Pics won’t load … sorry!*

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We ate DELICIOUS food for a dollar.

Moral of the story, it was an amazing time. I fell in love and was extremely sad to leave. Until next time Luang Prabang! Sabaidi!

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Learning as we go

Two years ago I studied abroad in Stirling, Scotland. My pals and I did weekend trips and some longer stretches at the end of the semester. I also traveled for a bit around Europe with my parents before heading back to the states, so I like to think that I wasn’t a total amateur traveler before this trip. I’ve slept in some sketchy dorms and used some nasty showers.

With that said, things have been quite different traveling in Southeast Asia, and I am learning everyday.

Backpack fully loaded!

Backpack fully loaded!

 

Realizations:

  1. Two long sleeve shirts are not necessary.
    Right before I left Wisconsin I had a conversation with my cousins, Kelly and Ellen. They have both spent time in Costa Rica and warned me that I might get use to the heat. ‘It would be 80 degrees and I would have a hoodie on,’ Ellen said. But man. The heat in Asia is not a heat you ‘get use to.’ I would definitely ditch my heavier shirt at home and stick with the light, hiking material for long shirts and pants.Also, I made the strange decision to purchase two pairs of pants over here. Why? No one knows. Thiapants have a hold on my heart and they won’t let go.

    Thai pants for days

    Thai pants for days

  2. Clothes need to be durable.
    With packing my clothes I was only thinking about light clothing that I could mix in match. I had planned on throwing away a lot of the tanks I brought over before returning home because I imagined I would be sick of them. But I didn’t account for the wear and tear that would happen when I wear the same tank top every other day. The cheap tops I picked up at Forever 21 before I took off from home are already running thin and are significantly stretched out. Anna and I may have to do some shopping before too long! Bummer, right? 😉
    Shoes also need to be durable.
    Back home I NEVER wear flip flops. I have my Birks and my Chacos and that all I need in life (little dramatic but I love my Birks). I almost forgot to bring a pair but my doc stressed that shower shoes are a must for SE Asia. The morning of my trip I frantically recovered a pair of pink Victoria’s Secret flops from the back of my closet (high quality, right?).
       Anyways, it was week two and Anna and I were a bit turned around in Chiang Mai, and when I say ‘turned around’ I mean we forgot the name/location of our hostel so we just followed the AC around town. Well, this scorching hot day was about to get even better and my flip flop blew out in the middle of an intersection. I continued to wander aimlessly around town with one shoe dragging until a random Thai man — my saving grace — jumped out of a passing by car, showed me a piece of wire in his hand, and fixed my shoe for me! Whoever you are Thai man, I owe you my life! Or a hug!

    Post blow out. The wire eventually broke and I had to resecure the shoes with a bobby-pin. #crafty

    Post blow out. The wire eventually broke and I had to resecure the shoes with a bobby-pin. #crafty

    Moral of the story: Don’t bring crappy quality anything with you when you will be living out of a backpack for a few months. Now I’m sporting some super fashionable Abercrombie and Finch flops from a super legit street corner vender. What up!

  3. Plan for accidents.
    Our pals Maddy and Desirée are traveling with what they refer to as a pharmacy. Before they left they stocked up on motion sickness meds, Benadryl, creams and pills for swelling, bug bites and allergic reactions. I brought or took in advance the stuff my doctor recommended (like prescribed pills for typhoid fever, malaria, traveler’s diarrhea) and I brought Tums, Advil and some Band-Aids and Neosporin. But it was definitely not enough. Being the accident-prone klutz that I am I have a handful of bruises cuts. In Laos I slipped in a waterfall and bashed my leg against a SHARP rock. In Laos we got locked out our hostel and had to jump the front gate. Trust me. The spikes are effective.

    Beware

    Beware

 

Differences/Hints

 

  1. While traveling in Europe, aside from a few exceptions, we mostly stayed in hostels with dorm-style rooms. Sometimes the rooms would be as many as 16 people to a room. Here in Southeast Asia, Anna and I had intended on the dorm life, but with private sweets charging only a buck or two more than the dorms, we are high rolling a little bit.
  2. Another difference is towels and bedding! Most places required you to pay a few dollars for a towel … sometimes even for sheets! We definitely don’t need to be toting towels around.
  3. Another thing we are dragging around … TENNIS SHOES! We brought Chacos, light, water-proof hiking sandals that fight great and stay on in water or on land. So far I haven’t even considered touching my runners. I was thinking I would be working out a lot in SE Asia, but with this heat I would have to be getting up at 5 a.m. to beat the sun. No thank you!

    Where my runners have sat the entire trip (and where they shall stay).

    Where my runners have sat the entire trip (and where they shall stay).

4. It was also very unnecessary to bring a water bottle with. I was hoping I could use it to live a little eco-friendly on this trip but the only water you can drink comes from a vendor (sorry Mother Earth!). My water bottle has sat in the hood of my bag and it isn’t going anywhere fast. Do I leave it behind? But I love my water bottle. It’s been a month and I haven’t ditched it yet … but we will see.

5. Oh and for anyone out there thinking they will be writing and blogging while traveling, invest in a tablet. This beat-up, slow, janky MacBook Pro is driving me nuts.

6. The last tid-bit of information I’m going to share is the beauty of a neck pillow. Most people reading this are probably thinking, ‘Well, duh Martha. Everyone knows neck pillows are quite nice for airplane travel.’ But you don’t understand the love I have for my neck pillow. I would choose it over my computer as a travel necessity. Anna and I bought neck pillows in LA as a last second decision prior to our 14-hour flight. I use it constantly and people stare on with envy as we whip them out on overnight trains and buses.

Dreaming of her neck pillow

Dreaming of her neck pillow

Maybe I’ll update when I realize more mistakes I’ve made. Until then, Anna and I are doing well!

xx

Laos

To get to Laos we took a five hour van ride and then took a two day boat ride down the Mekong River to get to Luang Prabang. I REALLY enjoyed the boat ride. I didn’t expect to, but it was so leisurely and beautiful. We sat on the edge of the open windows with our feet out and beers in our hands as the mountains passed by. This boat is one of the highlights of my trip so far. We met a ton of cool travelers on the boat who we ended up hanging out with in Luang Prabang. Many people here travel alone then end up in a big pack. Eventually the group breaks up because people head to their next destination. It always feels like you’ve known the group for so long. There were some characters that’s for sure! The people you meet along the way are half the reason travel is so wonderful. We stayed in the city of Luang Prabang for four days. Favorite city thus far. It’s so laid back, I can’t really describe it. It’s less commercialized than Chiang Mai and Bangkok, and there are less people in your face to buy things.

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We nailed that day:

One day in Luang Prabang we did every possible thing we could, but not on purpose, it just happened. First we woke up at 5am to watch the monks gives alms on the streets, a daily tradition. After a nap we went to Kuang Si waterfall for about 4 hours. This waterfall is the most amazing waterfall I have ever seen. You start at the bottom and there are incredible blue pools with little waterfalls and as you keep walking the path there are more and more until you reach the big waterfall. You can then climb to the top of the giant waterfall, where there is yet another series of waterfalls that you can jump off! Off the main one, you can sit on the edge and overlook the whole valley. I’m doing a poor job of explaining but we’ll make a gopro video of it so you can see ☺ After the waterfall, we climbed the hill in the city center to overlook the mountains and river. That view though….. THEN we got fish massages! You stick your feet in a pool of fish that eat your skin cells away and it tickles so much! Hilarious! Next, we got dinner at the market (all you can fit in your bowl for $1.50) and went out with everyone to the bar Utopia. Bars close at like 11:30 here, but the bowling alley stays open until about 3 so naturally we did that. WHEW big day! We absolutely loved Laos and I’m kind of sad we left so soon but it was a good choice and I’ll explain why in the next post!

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