“Live, Travel, Adventure, Bless and don’t be sorry.” – Jack Kerouac
It took some planning to be in Chiang Mai for Loi Krathong, the lantern festival, but we arranged it and my parents stayed on for another week to see it as well. But before heading north we spent a few days in Bangkok. Maybe it’s my short term memory but Bangkok seemed much more orderly compared to my last visit. We went to a tailor and had a silk blouse made for my grandma, hit up Chinatown, saw the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
My mom thought it would be fun to do a side trip to Ayuthaya but the morning of she was feeling a little rundown and decided to stay behind. So off the three of us go to see more temples on one of the most blistering days. We walked around grumbling about how hot we were, saying “great, more temples” and deciding my mom had just sent us off so she could have some alone time. When we told her this she laughed, said she was sorry it was so hot, but we were happy to see that she at least looked refreshed. The rest of us needed a cold shower and beer… and maybe a break from temples.
Once in Chiang Mai we spent our days walking around markets and partaking in all the Loi Krathong festivities. We sent off our own lanterns in the sky and afloat in the river. As my incense kept blowing out and running into the river bank, I couldn’t help wondering if this was a bad omen. It was a spectacular night, one that I can’t compare to others. It was so beautiful seeing all the lanterns adrift in the night sky.
We decided to spend one day at an elephant sanctuary, rafting down a river and watching some weaving at a local village. It was fun feeding the elephants and bathing them in the river. I probably could have done without the ride as ours kept misbehaving and she made me a little nervous. Then it was time for my parents to head out and we said our tearful goodbyes at the airport. It was such a fun trip and wonderful to see them. I was thankful they stopped their lives and travelled so far to see us.
After my parents left I felt a little sad, we were tired from travel, and I was feeling a bit uninspired if I’m going to be honest. I wanted to do some training in Thai Massage or an herbalism course but just couldn’t muster up the energy. I kept going back in forth between I really love Chiang Mai and I need to get the hell out of this circus. I think I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind and it all started to feel a little lackluster. So instead of forcing it we decided to relax a few days before just heading on. Relaxing is one of my special gifts and with an abundance of affordable massage and fresh juices – I got a bit of a recharge. I made the decision to come back later in the year and study then, so we decided to head for the border.
Neither of us had been to Laos and were excited to visit. We decided to take the slow boat down the Mekong to get to Luang Prabang. There was still a little of the prevailing feeling that lingered from Thailand and we found being on a boat full of drunk twenty-year olds was not helping the matter. The past few weeks we were firmly on the backpacker trail and we wanted to get off. Ezra calls Southeast Asia “the gateway travel.” It was for us many years ago too, but as a result you tend to find yourself around a lot of young drunk travelers.
That being said we just needed some down time and found that Luang Prabang was a great place to do this. It felt quaint with all the French Colonial architecture, people were really kind, we were never hassled, and monastic life was all around – the town really has a special energy. It also has amazing tofu sandwiches! (I swear I’m not always this food crazy.) We made friends with our next door neighbors, an American couple that had been traveling for awhile too, and it was fun to exchange ideas and stories with them.
This was soon after typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines and we knew we wanted to try and help. We had been planning another month in Laos and Cambodia before heading to the Philippines, but when All Hands Volunteers accepted us, we jumped at the opportunity to be of some service. We were both needing some purpose and the Filipinos were really needing some help. So we started a four day journey through Vientiane and Kuala Lumpar to get to the Philippines.
I just thought these were great – some more profound than others!