vang vieng… where safety comes to die

In looking for information about Vang Vieng I stumbled onto this blog that describes some one’s trip to Vang Vieng as “where safety comes to die”.  I thought that was a fairly accurate portrait of the town – in my experience, it’s hard to beleive that so few people have died there.  I went off a really high water slide a few times and came dangerously close to hitting some rocks.  Vanessa sliced her foot open.  Everyone was drunk and/or high, jumping off 10 m high rope swings, constructed of rickety-looking wooden sticks.  The river is pretty low right now, but I would be terrified to attempt the tubing in the rainy season. Some other unsafe activities I spotted are as follows:

Open fires

Glass bottles

Very loud music

Unprotected sex

Walking barefoot

Illegal drugs

Running with scissors

Kayaking without a permit

Drinking untreated water

Really… the list can just go on and on.

The other somewhat horrifying things about Vang Vieng was that at least 2 restaurants were simautaneously showing Friends the entire time I was there.  Non-stop Friends.  In 2 different restaurants.  Other restaurants featured Lao cultural gems such as “Family Guy”, “The Simpsons”, and “Ghostbusters”.  Also, about 75% of the restaurants in the town actually have the exact same menu, which is pages and pages long and has everything imaginable on it.  However, if you ask for the fish, don’t be surprised if they make you wait 1 hour, and then come back to tell you, “Sorry, we don’t have any fish”.

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Martin Luther King Day

mlkihaveadreamgogo I just want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that on 19th January, 2009, we celebrate MLK jr day.  This is one of my favorite holidays.  Martin Luther King was not only an amazing orator and brillant public speaker, he was also a real hero and some one we should all be inspired by.  I made my students listen to some of his speeches yesterday, and tried to teach them about human rights.  Their vocabulary is a little weak in that area so I don’t know how much of Dr. King’s message got across, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to share my appreciation for him with my young Lao students.

I also made them do this worksheet.

mlkworksheet

Anyway, I am back to work at UCL today, trying to get some books donated from India.  As much as I love having Van & Man around, its nice to finally have some alone time!  I spent most of last night cleaning; the bathroom was terrifying.   Today I plan to do laundry, including all my sheets, and get the kitchen sorted.

Van & Man have gone up to Luang Prabang and Phonsavan for a few days.  They’ll be back around the 29th, and then on the 30th we’re having a dj dance party night at Martini! (Flyer coming soon).

I’m posting some more pictures from Amanda’s camera that she took of my Lao friends when they first arrived here.

“in the tubing”

So, Vanessa, Amanda and I went to Vang Vieng for the weekend.  Even though it’s only about 3 hours from Vientiane, I had never been.  I had heard a lot about Vang Vieng, both good and bad, so it was nice to finally get to experience it for myself.  My overall impression was that it’s a really lovely town, and the mountains are awesome, and the Nam Song is beautiful. The whole thing, however, is kind of spoiled by the drunk tourists.  Anyway, we did the “in the tubing”, and I have to say, despite all the drunkads, and the loud, shitty techno music constantly blaring, it was really fun, and I would do it again.  Except I managed to loose my sunglasses.

Some pictures from our tubing adventure:

about 5 seconds after getting in the tube, vanessa cut her foot on a rock.  we had to stop and mop up the blood and bandage her foot with a plastic bag, and then were back on our way.
about 5 seconds after getting in the tube, vanessa cut her foot on a rock. we had to stop and mop up the blood and bandage her foot with a plastic bag, and then were back on our way.
Vanessa "in the tubing"
Vanessa "in the tubing"
we took a break to get some beerlao
we took a break to get some beerlao
Amanda in the tubing
Amanda in the tubing
these were the annoying people i mentioned previously
these were the annoying people i mentioned previously

Some of these people were actually an embarassment to the human race.  I saw a girl in a bikini that had “free jungle trekking” written in permanent marker on her stomach with an arrow pointing down, and another with “up the bum = no babies” on her back.

Who let these people out of their country?

Despite these annoyances, the tubing was great, and when Alana comes here in 2 weeks, we are going again!  Vang Vieng is a really pretty town.  I hope next time I can do some spelunking!

back in vientiane

Hooray!  I’m finally home!

After spending a few days in Bangkok I was so happy to get on the night train back to Laos.  Now I have Amanda and Vanessa staying with me, so I don’t actually have much time to relax.

My trip to Australia was so much fun!  I did a lot of really amazing things.  It’s really beautiful there, and everyone is really fit and sporty.

My first experience arriving back in Asia was to take the bus to Khao San rd to find a cheap guest house.  I found one, at 1 in the morning, and tried to sleep.  This was impossible because there was msuic blaring everywhere.  I finally dozed off for a few hours to be woken up again by loud music at 7 in the morning.   I decided I had to leave – and when I left to find a new guesthouse, walking down the street at 8 in the morning, a drunk tourist stumbled into the middle of the road, and started taking his shirt off.  In the process, he spilled his drink all over me, vodka and redbull or something.  It was pretty awful, and just one of the reasons I am not a fan of Bangkok.

The entire neighborhood of Banglamphu is full of people like that.  Dudes walking around with out their shirts on – I saw some guy who had obviously just gotten a huge tattoo of buddha on his chest. Like wh the hell goes to Asia and thinks to himself -” I’ve got it!  I’m in a developing country, I’ll get a giant commemorative tattoo of buddha on my chest! “.  It’s like the guy who went to Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Phenom Pehn, and tubing in Vang Vieng, and then said “Yeah, I’ve pretty  muh done Asia.”.  He didn’t bother going China or Japan or any of those other less important places in Asia.

Anyway, I think I have more to write about Australia, but I have to go eat lunch now.

It’s really cold in Laos right now, we are all freezing to death.  It was 10 C on the train from Bangkok!!  I could see my breath while I was trying to sleep!

new years, canberra, my korean (boy)friends

Here are more pictures!

I’m heading back to Bangkok in a few hours… and then meeting Van and Amanda at the airport on Friday!!! Horray!

a meteorologist, a nurse, and a librarian walk into a bar….

I just finished re-reading “The Songlines“.  Having only read that, Utz, and The Viceroy of Ouidah, I may venture to say I think Bruce Chatwin is one of the greatest writers I have ever read.

He has a reputation for not accurately representing real people or events.  This is of no consequence to me.  It’s the author’s impressions that make stories interesting in the first place.

The first time I read “The Songlines”, I never finished the 2nd part.  Mostly because he just started transcribing parts of his diary, which I didn’t much like.  However, on the second go, I kept remarking to myself “This book is so fucking good.”.  Maybe it’s because I was reading it in Australia.  Maybe it’s because he is an amazing writer.  I don’t know. But I want to tell everyone I know and everyone I meet about this book.

I hate Paul Theroux, and most other travel writers, because I find them unbearably self conscience and on occasions, misogynistic.  While Chatwin does tends toward borderline hyper self-conscience, I appreciate his descriptions of women, and people in general, as a woman myself.

I think there must be some connection with this, and his homosexuality. His books aren’t outright “gay”, but are written with more compassion than most books by male authors, I would say.

Basically, I really like “The Songlines”.

Anyway, I leaving Australia tomorrow.  I have done quite a lot while in this country.  Including:

Visiting Uluru, Alice Springs, camping under the stars

Swimming in the Ocean

Walking in the Blue Mountains

Visiting the Powerhouse Museum and the Maritime Museum, in Sydney

Walking around the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens

Seeing the Harbour Bridge

Going to Canberra

Visiting the National Library, the Old Parliment House, The National Museum of Australia.

Going to Tidbinbilla National park, seeing kangaroos, and a koala.

Walking around a mountain in Canberra

Eating a steak

Drinking beer and wine

Watching the “Australia” movie

and so much more!