Last week I left Nakhon Sawan and headed for Bangkok and Laos. Danni and I left as soon as we got out of work, Saturday evening. We went to the local bus station and took a huge mega bus to Bangkok, which is about three hours south of where I live. By the time we arrived it was almost midnight, and, of course, raining. After much communication confusion, we found a taxi and took it to Khaosan Road, an area where all the foreigners go.
After being in Nakhon Sawan, where there are only about 50 other foreigners in the city, it was almost shocking to see so many people who were my same size, had similar appearances, and who could speak with me. Of course, not all foreigners are English speakers, but for the most part everyone I met the first night could hold a conversation and understand what I was saying. Until you are isolated from your own language, you don’t realize how much you take for granted the ability to freely communicate. We quickly found a room, got changed, had a few beers, and headed out for the night. The best way I can describe Bangkok/Khaosan is that they are like Las Vegas on crack, acid and ecstasy. It was everything your senses could imagine or ever want, all at once. There were people everywhere; travelers, foreigners, locals, and we were just two among a sea of new faces. People party in the bars, the clubs, the streets, dance parties on top of tables, whatever, you name it. We took our coworkers advice and got “buckets of joy” and enjoyed the music and the random people we ended up hanging out with. We spent the night consuming more than our fair share of alcohol, while wandering the area we were staying in, eating the most amazing street food, and having conversations with people whose names we never even learned. We made it back to our room just before the sun rose, and slipped into sleep.
By the time the bottom reached the bucket I gave up and didn’t bother finishing it. Bucket-1 Allie-0
When we awoke the next day the first thing we had to do was to buy a trainticket for that night, so we could take the overnight train to Laos. After we got our tickets we had all day to kill, so we walked around Khaosan more, exploring what it had to offer during the day time, and ate the most amazing brunch. My favorite Thai dish is Panag Curry, and the one I had in Bangkok was the best I have ever had. I may have just been beyond starving, but it tasted so yummy I never wanted it to end.
Passing by these IQ lamps in the tree was the first time I have felt the smallest bit of homesickness. My brother got me this same lamp years ago as a gift for when I was accepted into college. It was, and still is, one of my favorite possession and this was the first time I have ever seen them hung other than in a store before.
By the time we made it to the train station that evening we were so exhausted that we spread our luggage out and just laid on the floor, giving our bodies a much needed rest.
I laid on my back and looked up at the ceiling, which was made of all glass. There was a huge storm going on outside and the lightening kept flashing in the dark purple sky. The people in Thailand are so used to the extreme storms that they don’t seem to take any notice, but I have never heard thunder as powerful as I have since living here. it shakes the world around you, and quickly afterwards there is an electric shock that lights up the sky. Laying in the train station, watching the storm above me, was something i will never forget. It was one of the most beautiful moments I have lived. It reminded me of utterly powerless i am to the emotions of nature and the natural world around me.
Because I am a new traveler everything is really fresh and exciting for me, and what to many is a long and tiring train ride, was novel for me. The area you pay for turns into a bed and you get this little private area closed of by curtains, but which has a huge window in it to see the country as you pass through it. The train ride was about 14 hours, but it travels during the night, so that when you wake up in the morning you are at your destination.
After a full night’s journey, we arrived in Vientiene, Laos. Crossing the border and going through immigration was exhausting and irratating and cost a rediculous amont of money. I quickly realized that anything havig to do with border crossing was going to be an unpleasant experience, and not being able to speak the language makes it even more complicated. After about an hour or so of complications, standing in line, hualing aroud heavy luggae and taking muitple buses and taxis, we finally made it down to the river, where we were told to find a place to stay. I found us a Laos youth hostel and we crashed there the first night.
That evening we went down to the river market and then went out to dinner at an Indian restuarant. Danni had only eaten Indian food once before so I inststed she try it again and I ordered us an incredible dinner.
Afterwards we went to a rooftop bar and had a few drinks and watched a live band perform. Live music in Thailand is really popular and it seems that this is true also for Laos. More often than not I have been at places with bands before they have a DJ. The performers will play many American songs, but they always have a really heavy Thai accent, which turns songs like “West Virginia” into “Wess Va Jin Jhaa.” Classic.
Monks taking a morning walk around town, collecting donations.
The next morning we went to the Thai Embassy to get our Visas, and then went to brunch with a friend we had met at the embassy. He was staying right down the street from us, so we checked into his hotel for our remaining stay in Laos. He introcued us to a bunch of other travelers, from all over the world, and we all decied to spend the day together and go to a place with running water, that had flowed down from a waterfall upstream.
A van was rented that we could all fit it, and we embarked onto what was going to be a very bumping and rough trip. Most of Laos is undeveloped, and many of the roads are dirt with huge wholes, deep puddles of mud, or giant rocks that block the path. Because of flooding they have to close down even more roads which makes rerouting at the last minute inevitable. The ride to the river was crazy, but the view outside was incredible. It was so lush and green for as far as the eye could see. There were giant ox grazing in the rice fields and some even crossing the road. The area we passed through was the most impoverished I have seen since arriving in Southeast Asia. Outside my window I passed makeshift structures which they consider buildings and people living in conditions I can’t even imagine being in. No matter what your purpose is for traveling or living in another country, you are quickly reminded of the amazing opportunities you own life has presented you with, and the struggles you have not had to face.
After a bumpy ride we had reached our destination. We spent all day in the river, playing on a rope swing, drinking beer, and getting to know one another.
and then there were elephants….
After spending all day at the river we packed up and headed back into town. We got back to the hotel everyone was staying in, freshened up, and headed out for a huge group dinner and night out together. It was an absolute blast, and I am really lucky to have met such amazing people to enjoy the trip with.
After spending a few days in Vientiane, it was time for Danni and I to head back to Nakhon Sawan. On our last day we went to the station to buy another another sleeper train ticket, which would get us back to Bangkok. In Laos we had about four hours to kill before the train departed and we were in a very remote area, so we hung out at a restaurant across the street, playing “fuck/marry/kill, would you rather?” and laughing about the absurd encounters and adventures we had had over the week. We were also entertained by the owner’s children, who were the most adorable kids ever.
That night on the train we met another traveler who I invited to play cards with us. We played round after round of bullshit and then he taught us the German game “Mau.”