Retrospective continued: musings from Laos

 

 

This post was actually written abroad, but I (Megan) am just now getting around to posting it.

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Happy Birthday to my furry, lovable 9 year old Wiggles. I can’t believe we’ve known you for a year short of a decade. The one thing really missing from this Odyssey for me is you. See you in just six short weeks. Please refrain from eating squirrels. And I will do the same.

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Our first full day in Vang Vieng and oh my, did it deliver. Guidebooks and travel reviews oft claim Vang Vieng has lost its luster, that its true light is forever obscured by the haze of weed and other substances regularly abused by the partying backpacker scene that likes to post up and call this place home until the hangover wears off. That has not been our experience (well, of course not — we aren’t totally irresponsible parents. What I mean is we haven’t experienced Vang Vieng as “ruined.” Far from it.)

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view from breakfast

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Monks on a bridge.

As has been mentioned, its the beginning of rainy season, so we never really know what were going to get as far as weather is concerned. This morning we woke to a glorious setting — low morning cloud scattered among the karsts and a soft light reflecting on the river making for a dramatic view out our bungalow. The kids and I enjoyed a delicious complementary v
Breakfast of fried eggs, bacon and enormous piping hot French rolls. When in Rome. Vang Vieng will forever equal stunning scenery and gluten in my mind.

After breakfast the family headed out to source some time on the river. Within 1/2 hour we were suited up and in the back of a songtao (sp) on our way upstream with a fantastically friendly Lao guide. We put in on two kayaks (me and Andy in one and the girls and guide in the other) about 5k upstream from town — this is the popular tubing route for backpackers. Breathtaking natural beauty unfolding at every turn as we floated downstream. None of us wanted this ride to end. I little less than an hour we pulled our kayaks up to the riverbank by Ban Sabai, where we are staying. The short river tour left us wanting more and the weather was fine so we traded in our life vests and kayaks for our LA bikes and set out to find the —- cave, about 7km outside of town on a dirt road.

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If you had told me at the beginning of this trip that our crew would pull off what we did today, with the smiles and attitude that prevailed, I would call bullshit. Not that I don’t have faith in our family. It’s just the way it all went down demonstrates just how much growing has been going on, for all of us. And there is no way of knowing how that will unfold before it does.

As I said, we set out for a full on bike ride to caves after spending the morning kayaking. First recognition of growth goes to me for even allowing this to happen vs. insisting that one outing is enough. I’ve learned to recognize that there are times when this crew can rally. Now, I’m still a firm believer in downtime and consider it my duty to make sure we take it on a regular basis, but there has been growth. ┬áSo, we head out on our LA bikes — these are heavy street bikes at best, not terribly equipped for rutted out, rock laden, puddled dirt roads. But of course this is what we encounter. Andy blows the whistle and turns us around suggesting that perhaps its not in the crews best interest to proceed, after all we don’t know what’s up ahead (evidence of growth #2 — not that Andy would ever want to lead his family into peril, but this is one adventurous guy whose role in the Scott family is often to encourage us girls to push ourselves). So this is where the metamorphosis gets real. kEIRA pipes up and says “c’mon guys. We can do this. I want to go to the cave!” I mean, the kid is insistent and I swear she’s cognizant of what her request really means — an hour or so of bumpy ride through unknown territory in quest of a cave, for crying out loud. The kid wants to go. Andy and I look at each other — this is our cautious Keira. Of course, we go.

The ride takes us past rice fields and villages and is perhaps one of the most memorable experiences of this entire trip. The four of us on the bikes has become such a symbol of freedom and unity for me. The mind blowing beauty of our surroundings only made it more sublime. I believe the kids feel it too. They are always so happy on the LA bikes, its as though the pace slows and they are able to drink in their surroundings all the while feeling anchored with their little arms around our waists. Exploring yet Secure. We knocked off 7k of dirt road and ended up at the Blue Lagoon below — cave. The place is indeed a scene with backpackers and banana shakes and rope swings and the like. All good, but we were interested in checking out this cave. This is where I’m still dumbfounded by the girls accomplishments. Specifically Aili. This kid is not yet five years old and she climbed up (and descended, even a bigger deal in my mind) a rocky, muddy series of stone steps/ladder about 100 meters nearly straight up to the entrance of the cave. In swimsuit and crocs (love crocs!). And never once complained or freaked. Her delightful chatter the soundtrack up and down. People took photos of this kid she was such a marvel.
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Aili headed up
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Keira jumps from this branch!
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Nothing like a daddy-rope-swing-cannonball to get the party started

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Another gorgeous swimming hole in Laos

Day wrapped with a first class electric show (no rain, just major lightning illuminating the limestone karsts. Take that, sunset. Followed by the famous burgers (our first real western dinner of the trip!) at Aussie Bar. We’ve learned that when you are in mega backpacker land it’s the right time to just roll with it. VV is not the place to dish up the best traditional Lao fare but you can surely find a cheesesteak.