1. Taking the bus from Hanoi to Vientiane. This was a 24 hour non-stop bus ride. You heard correctly, 24 hours. However, at this point in my trip I’m use to 8…10…15 hour bus rides, so really, what’s another few hours?
2. Being spoiled with a “home” and amazing hospitality. Sara’s sister Gemma lives and works in Vientiane, and let us stay with her and her boyfriend Thomo, in their amazing mansion of a house. It was so great to have a “home” for a few days (and a REAL BED!). They absolutely spoiled us. THANK YOU GEMMA AND THOMO!
3. Cooking for a dinner party in a real kitchen. Cooking is one thing I miss on this trip, and it was an absolute treat to get in the kitchen and whip up a meal.
4. Tropical Fruit, muesli and yogurt. Need I say more. This alone is my ultimate favorite food in the world. Well, maybe it runs a tie with Amarena gelato….
5. Working out in a gym! I was “Gemma” for the afternoon and spent 2 glorious hours lifting weights and running on the elliptical machine. I think I could have spent 8 hours easily. It is so hard working out while travelling and in humid heat (trust me, Brian, Suz and I tried to do sit ups on the beach in Thailand and got plenty of stares).
6. Meeting our new friend Joe on the bus ride up to Vang Vien. Joe is probably one of the smartest and most interesting people I have ever met. Suzanne, Joe and I were inseparable for about a week straight and I don’t think we ever ran out of interesting things to dicuss, debate or laugh about.
6. Being stranded on the road twice in one journey. Due to the tarantula downpour from the night before, our bus got stuck going around a corner as we made our way from Vang Vien to Luang Probang. We waited over an hour and watched as the bus/car backup piled to 20+ vehicles in each direction. Luckily after an hour, a tractor came and pulled us out. Later, when we were maybe only a 1/2 hour from our destination, the engine stopped. Fortunately we were picked up by another bus within an hour. Our 7 hour journey turned into a 10 hour adventure.
7. Sitting quietly on the temple steps, listening to the monks chanting their afternoon prayers in unison .
8. Learning how to cook Laotian food at the Tamarind Cafe. In an outdoor garden setting along the Mekong River, I learned how to cook gourmet Laotian food. The menu included: fish wrapped in banana leaves, chicken stuffed lemon grass, Buffalo laap, Jeow salsa & sticky rice and a traditional Laos soup. The flavors were incredible and the presentation was impeccable. I have the cookbook and bought a mortal and pestle, so get ready for a yummy Laos dinner when I get back!
9. Meeting Yev and Isaac, two fellow Americans (which is a rarity, because Americans don’t travel!). Again, traveling is more than just seeing the destination, it is about the people you meet along the way. Yev and Isaac also top the charts on being two of the most fascinating people I’ve met on this trip. Every conversation was stimulating, interesting and educational. I love learning and if this trip does anything at all, it has definitely made me thirst for knowledge.
10. Scaling the walls of a giant waterfall. Probably not the smartest idea, but adventurous indeed.
11. Using the waterfall’s rapid spray as a back massage. 1) it was free and 2) was better that a real massage. Now, how to get that set up in my backyard someday is the question…
12. Watching Yev run and slip-in-slide head first down a muddy trail. Absolutely epic.
13. Painting Yev, Issac, Joe and Suzanne’s faces with mud. It’s fun to be a warrior for a day!
14. Eating a Laos BBQ. This is not a traditional BBQ, but rather more along the lines of fondue. There is a grill set up in the middle of the table where you put on your own meat (and cook to your personal tenderness) as well as a bowling pot below the grill where you heat up broth for soup and cook veggies. Delish!
15. Being the instigator in setting up a 100 meter dash in the middle of the street, during pouring rain. Hey, if you’re already wet, might as well play in the rain!
16. Staying up til 5a.m. talking about politics, films, books, inventions, business, travelling and life in general. I can’t remember when I’ve had more interesting and stimulating conversations than that night hanging out with Joe, Yev, Isaac, David, and Suzanne. It was like we were in university—where we had time to discuss, to be creative, to brainstorm and to share personal knowledge.
17. Riding an elephant through the jungle, over streams, down mud trails and eventually into a lake where I bathed the elephant and got splashed with water.
18. Trying a smorgasbord of food from the local food stalls. It’s so fun to try out all the different type of food. Point and pay is the name of the game.
19. Laotian Pineapple–the BEST pineapple that has ever touched my lips. Unless you’ve tried it, you don’t understand.
20. Relaxing on a boat while we made our way to a cave filled with hundreds of Buddha trinkets.
21. Shopping in the Laos market, one of the most stress-free and relaxing market shopping experiences in all of Southeast Asia.