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05 January 2006

dancing around a flourescent

my first viewing of luang prabang in the sun and the city has a charm that i can't explain. the shuddering palm trees, the city embraced by the splitting rivers and the slopes of phu si, with a familiar sit back in a chair and absorb the sun and watch the world walk by feel. i found the bank after one miss at an office which did not cash checks, directed down the street. the woman scrutinized my amex gift check while i watched anxiously. she showed it to another employee who looked at it quickly before muttering something quickly in lao. i assumed it was a negative until she pushed over a form for me to fill out. 100 usd = 1,075,000 laotian kip. i completed the form, countersigned the check while she watched, and slid it across the threshold. she pushed over a neatly folded stack of cash separated into six smaller chunks. five chunks held ten 20,000 kip notes. the sixth held seven 10,000 kip notes and one 5,000 kip note. i counted all of the cash carefully, examining each note for any type of defects (i'd read that some shops wouldn't accept notes with any rips or burns), and then tapped the thick stack on the counter in the way you would organize a large stack of papers, folded it in half, put it in my pocket, and walked away from the counter a millionaire. my money issues were behind me.

i didn't have much planned today... the temples and royal palace would be tomorrow, after four days of transport today was for nothings. the weather was the typical amazing and i walked a big loop next to the river, stopping at a riverside restaurant to sample the lemon ice cream which was tasty but not quite as tasty as florencian lemon gelato. onward along the river, stopping to chat briefly with sam and rhia who were walking the same loop in the opposite direction, to the splitting of rivers, passing tuk tuk drivers who appreciated my heathen beard. back to the guesthouse to pick up some postcards i'd written in chiang rai and then to the post office; i don't think she said one word to me. i picked up some more postcards and then found a restaurant for some writing and eating.

walked another loop on the far side of the phu si hill; then back to thanon phothisalat; up the long flight of switchback stairs through the old twisted trees to the top with a wonderful view. there i relaxed and traced a long trail of ants from a wastebasket holding several empty soda cans to the highest branches of a nearby tree, wondering what they were doing up there; i'd have climbed the tree to find out had there not been a temple nearby. met an american photographer who asked me if i was on school holiday [yes ma'am... yes i am.] she had interesting information about vietnam and new zealand and i would have asked her about her photography and her gigantic camera if her guide had not prodded her and her husband to move on to what he was calling the most amazing temple of luang prabang. descended smiling past a monkey, a reclining buddha, and two monks who i talked to briefly, to buddha's footprint, and then back to my guesthouse. processed some pictures i'd taken earlier today and uploaded them in my luang prabang internet cafe of choice before meeting up with the slow boat crew (pritesh [eng], mira [eng], sam [eng], rhia [fin], mike [eng], elaine [eng], courtney [can], and ben [eng] (a friend of mike and elaine who they had randomly bumped into halfway around the world) at 2000 for some indian food. lots of fun.

pritesh, mira, and courtney had decided to move on to vang vieng the next day and decided to head back to their guesthouses for the night. we said our goodbyes and then sam, rhia, mike, elaine, ben, and i continued on across an indiana jones bridge to a mysterious party where a large group of drunk locals were dancing around a flourescent light fastened vertically to a pole and listening to a two person band, one guy rocking... no, ROCKING, a yamaha keyboard and the other singing... no, WAILING, hideously. the party finished up about twenty minutes after we got there and so we moved on to the hive bar right up the street where we met matthias [ger] and monique [ger]. ben killed us all with a round of shots of a local evil spirit... fermented rice fire called 'lao lao'. damn. my breathing was lao lao flavor for the rest of the evening until the bar closed and sam, rhia, and i said farewell to elaine, mike, and ben and walked back to the phousi 3.

posted by paul on Thu 05 Jan 2006 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)

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