Travel Notes

Travel to Learn

Musings from Rebecca's travels around the world to hone her craft from visual experiences and people.

These stories and accounts will change, so visit often!

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LAOS

 

Well I'm finally here. It was a long trip taking that flight to Taipei was 13 hours then from there to Bangkok was 4 more hours with a little bit of a wait in between. I will say that the duty-free shop section in Taipei is over-the-top.  You could buy anything there I think. Arriving in Bangkok was no problem went to the hotel pooped. Got there and took a bath. Had five hours until I have to be up and back at the airport for the flight to Vientaine. Stood in line and got my visa and out the door. Mr. Serd met me, he's great, nice young fellow. He took me to the hotel after getting money and the hotel was having a brown out. So had to go get lunch somewhere else but it was great I was just so tired. Finally back to the hotel and checked in. It's called the Greene Park. Nancy was right it is great and I love my room. As soon as I got here I went to bed that's all I could do I was so tired at 2:30in the afternoon! Who knows what time it really was in my body clock. It's now 1:30 in the morning and of course I'm up now but trying to get organized for meeting Mr. Serd at nine to go to the market. The first of many and probably not very interesting but my attempt to dictate and trying to keep you posted. I wish you were here it would be fun but we have other times to do more things.
Xoxox
R

Day 2

New Year's Day, so things are pretty quiet. The shops and businesses are mostly closed so there aren't so many people. Yesterday we must have driven around in circles as every place we went is really right next to every other place. I Have had a hard time getting my bearings.  Always look for JO MA in Laos and you are near the center of activity. Yes, I found it and then proceeded from there. The shops that are open seem to be Hmong related and have so many textiles that I got really confused. It was kind of overload. I don't know enough about them to be sure what is what or how much they should be. I wish I did. Also there are a lot of Buddhas for sale but same thing plus how will I ever get it home? I did find the Fruit Dream and got a green drink and baguette with cheese and tomatoes and cumber. Mmmmm! Walked some more and got a coffee at the Scandinavian bakery. There are very few Americans here except for men with Lao wives and children. Most are Europeans who are not speaking anything I understand.  Scandinavian or Germanic languages. There are lots of young travelers in 2 s and 3s.  Mr Serd called me while I was walking back. The phone kind of works but not really. He was waiting for me at the hotel so I hopped into a tutuk and completed my trip back that way. Last night as I was reviewing the trip to the Plain of Jars I discovered that I wasn't even going to be there for 24 hours. I arrive late in the afternoon and was leaving for LP early the next morning. I emailed Khamsouk and asked if I could stay another night. Worked out so I have a whole day there. What was I thinking? I forgot to look at plane schedule to see the plane was so late getting there.  These people are so positive and they are always smiling. I like being around them.  That was enough for one day. Back to the room and downloaded pictures. I brought the right cord this time.  I think anyone who wants to come here better do it pretty soon. There are cranes everywhere and they are building giant shopping malls and hotels. The people who live here will never shop in them so they will need all those Asian tourists. Mr Serds daughter,Aluna asked me if I wanted to go to the mall with her! She is 10 and dreams of going to the mall!  Haven't done much drawing yet but have taken quite a few pictures.  It's 4 in the morning! I keep waking up at the same time. It must be jet lag. I hope the Plain of Jars will mystically cure that.

 
 
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Day 3

OK, if I don't write all of this down. You will never believe it and I won't remember all of it. You saw the picture of the airport, yes?  Well then the guy comes out and meets me speaking English a mile a minute! Mr Xang, who knows how to pronounce it. He kind of looks like a young Bruce Lee with Ray Bans !  He snags the suitcase from the cart that just pulled up to the back of the airport and we head for the van. The driver is there with a big smile and laugh, nice guy.  He opens the door for me into an old pretty worn out van. In we all get and off we go. It is now around 3:30 or 3:45. Xang says we are going to the site right now, didn't ask just said that was what we are going to do. I didn't even have time to pee! He says we will do site 1 this afternoon and site 2 and 3 tomorrow. OK off we went . We were not the only people there.  More Chinese or Koreans with their selfie sticks lounging and climbing all over the jars and taking lots of selfies. I had a hard time getting a shot of anything without someone in it. Finally I asked a family if they could move... Not exactly the way I planned to see the place but welcome to the Asian Asia. After all it is their part of the world. We walked all over site 1 and up to the top just as the sun was setting. It is pretty spectacular. I'm not too sure what site 2 or 3 will be like. They are on the other side of town. Apparently there are over 60 sites that have been discovered. On the way over we passed a group of young people performing a wooing ritual which occurs around the New Year. They throw a ball back and forth and chat at the same time. The ball being a tennis ball, go figure. Some were dressed in these fabulous native outfits. The shoes were not native though....the highest spike heels possible, totally in-congruent to everything else. They were still there doing it when we drove back!  The town is a lot bigger than I imagined and like every other town in this part of the world it has some sort of tourist attraction they are building water parks, hotels, golf courses,and huge temples with giant reclining Buddhas. Gives one the impression of wanting to be like Disneyland in some way in order to keep the tourist here spending money which will never touch the hands of the people that actually live here. It will go to the corrupt Government or to China ! Anyway if we decide to come back we better get on it or forget it.  So, the van rattles, the roads are bumpy and dusty, yes this is the van that is taking me to LP the day after tomorrow. These two kind of crazy guys and me! OK, on to the hotel, about 20 minutes from the Plain, may be farther but for sure on the other side of this place that is completely under construction. Trucks, motorcycles and lots of big potholes. I am wondering what the road to LP is like? The hotel is after the ghetto and up on a hill. We get out and go into the lobby,suddenly shades of Cuba! Cold, hard surfaces and an abundance of low wattage fluorescent lights. Off to the room. Remember that first room we had together in Baracoa? Kind of like that but at least it is clean and everything works. It is cold and there is no heat but remember, now I am here for two nights!! Ever since I got to my room there is some drum beating somewhere and it has not stopped yet, three hours later. There is some sort of new Year thing going on and the courting kids etc. The dining room......well the waitresses were wearing their parkas over their traditional outfits and socks with their flop flops.  There was one other table of people in there and it was quiet like a tomb. She brings the menu....all these fancy foreign dishes that I guarantee they do not have in their fridge or even know how to cook. I went for the page of native cuisine figuring they would do best with that.Actually they did. Meanwhile the drum is still beating and the beautiful fluorescent glow is getting to me. It was all pretty bleak. We would have started giggling and wouldn't have been able to stop!I wonder what your breakfast photo will look like tomorrow. Oh, and by the way, everything in the room is for sale including linens,TV and phone!  I'm back in the room now, no heat. I put on all my clothes to sleep in! The TV doesn't work and there is no internet so this will be a day or two before you get it. It is definitely an adventure!  It looks and feels like Taos. It has that Wild West character. Macho men and tough women.  It's Sunday morning. I left home a week ago. It seems like longer. My clothes need laundering and I am stiff. I woke up to fog surrounding this hill that the guest house is on. Then suddenly it started to rain just for a few minutes and then it stopped.  Its only 7 am so I will sit it out here and see what the weather is like by 9 when they pick me up to go to sites 2&3.

 
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Day 4

It is 6 am the roosters have been crowing for hours it seems. There must be thousands of them. There is music playing over the PA system and now a woman is speaking. Probably the news or whatever propaganda they want to pass out today. The fog hangs over the hills so you feel like you are in some sort of magic land except for the roosters and the dogs, I forgot the dogs barking. The dogs just roam and they are incredible at dodging the traffic. The cows too, nothing is tethered. The big water buffalo are in the fallow rice paddies eating all the shoots of grass and rice that remain after the harvest.  There is lots of water here and they capture it for large fish ponds where they raise tilapia, the fish of choice. Apparently the rivers have been fished out so they raise all of their fish.  People have vegetable gardens here but it was hard to determine what they were growing. Everything was pretty leafy. I walked across a valley with rice paddies and grazing cattle to get to site 3 of jars. All three sites are up on hills and have beautiful views of the surrounding area.  Before going to site 2 and 3 we drove to the old capital which is essentially a new town surrounding an ruined Buddha statue from 1600s. It has been bombed but is kind of repaired.  This whole area was so heavily bombed that there isn't much left of what was there before. It was a French colonial area previously. They ran the French out.  I did not think about the consequences of the Vietnam war when I decided to come here. All I was thinking about was going to see the jars. Now that I am leaving I am thinking about whether or not the trip was worth it or not. I think this little adventure was worth it just to take in the whole area. It is not going to be like this forever, growth and greed are beginning to take over just like everywhere else. There aren't too many cranes yet but here it's earth moving and digging. Huge temples, water parks and of course Jars, the main attraction!  It feels kind of like Taos. Big mountainous plateau providing a kind of Wild West atmosphere.  Big pickups and SUVs mix and mingle with pushcarts and motorbikes and pedestrians. All mixed into open markets and little produce stands. Tough people making do with what they have. As we drove along through little villages you saw everyone doing something. Fixing their houses, preparing items for market, cooking, washing clothes, digging in the garden while the children helped or played independently near by. Very small children were out in front of the house completely alone, or so it looked. Everyone was happy, no one was bickering or yelling.  They are all very calm and quiet while still getting things done. I am thinking about what we saw in Cuba. Here it is totally different. It is a pretty industrious society moving forward with what little they have. Yes there is a Chinese influence. We drove by a cement plant owned by Chinese. It had big buildings that housed the employees right there on site. I had to wait a day to finish this. The 8 hours in the car took a toll on me. I was quite exhausted last night. I think you would have probably wanted out after the first couple of hours of pot holes and switchbacks mixed with aggressive passing methods. I walked into town through the the night market and ended up eating at the Three Nagas walked home and went to bed. The room isn't so great but I am trying to get a long with it. The fan is not adjustable, the basin only dispensed cold water from a measured faucet that turns off just when you are ready to use it,the light by the bed is out, can't charge anything while out because key runs electricity, no chair to sit on, I locked the safe again , the fridge rattles and tonight the toilet overflowed. I am trying to move over to the Palace one day sooner if possible. I signed up to go and do some dying at the weaving center in the morning or I would move tomorrow.  So I guessed you figured out that this was today and yesterday all kind of mixed together.  Today I began drawing the Jars. They look pretty good. I got up late and went into town and had lunch at the handicraft center, that cute little house we went to for an evening of art and music in 2004. Yes that was the first time we were here with Bonnie and Global Heritage. I have to say, compared to every thing else in the world LP has managed to stay pretty much like it was the first time I came except it has the Internet.

 

Day 5

 

I had to wait a day to finish this. The 8 hours in the car took a toll on me. I was quite exhausted last night. I think you would have probably wanted out after the first couple of hours of pot holes and switchbacks mixed with aggressive passing methods. I walked into town through the the night market and ended up eating at the Three Nagas walked home and went to bed. The room isn't so great but I am trying to get along with it. The fan is not adjustable, the basin only dispensed cold water from a measured faucet that turns off just when you are ready to use it,the light by the bed is out, can't charge anything while out because key runs electricity, no chair to sit on, I locked the safe again , the fridge rattles and tonight the toilet overflowed. I am trying to move over to the Palace one day sooner if possible. I signed up to go and do some dying at the weaving center in the morning or I would move tomorrow.  So I guessed you figured out that this was today and yesterday all kind of mixed together.  Today I began drawing the Jars. They look pretty good. I got up late and went into town and had lunch at the handicraft center, that cute little house we went to for an evening of art and music in 2004. Yes that was the first time we were here with Bonnie and Global Heritage. I have to say, compared to every thing else in the world LP has managed to stay pretty much like it was the first time I came except it has the Internet.Up early and off to Ok Pop Tok for a morning of dying at their center by the river. I met the tut tuck in front of the shop here in town. Another lady, Janet fro Canberra, was going too. She was a home economics teacher, required for all students!  It is a beautiful setting, overlooking the river. A number of women were working at the looms. We were greeted by our instructor with a lovely cup of Bael tea. We proceeded to the area where she showed us how silk was grown and spun. Then she told us about the different plants that color the dyes. We walked around the grounds to see the trees and plants after we decided what three colors we wanted to use for our projects. I picked that beautiful saffron color of the monks robes, magenta and indigo. We picked leaves, dug up roots and oiled seed pods depending on what color. Back in the preparation area we picked,scooped out seeds, pounded with a mortar and pestle. For one color, the magenta, I had to split wood. We put the ingredients into individual pots and let them boil for a bit. The pots were set on individual charcoal fires. Indigo pots were fermenting nearby. I proceeded to wrap up my scarf for dipping.  Tie dying procedure for this. For the other two colors I dyed skeins of silk thread in the pots. I'm not sore where they will serve a purpose

 

Day 6

Up early and off to Ok Pop Tok for a morning of dying at their center by the river. I met the tut tuck in front of the shop here in town. Another lady, Janet fro Canberra, was going too. She was a home economics teacher, required for all students!  It is a beautiful setting, overlooking the river. A number of women were working at the looms. We were greeted by our instructor with a lovely cup of Bael tea. We proceeded to the area where she showed us how silk was grown and spun. Then she told us about the different plants that color the dyes. We walked around the grounds to see the trees and plants after we decided what three colors we wanted to use for our projects. I picked that beautiful saffron color of the monks robes, magenta and indigo. We picked leaves, dug up roots and oiled seed pods depending on what color. Back in the preparation area we picked,scooped out seeds, pounded with a mortar and pestle. For one color, the magenta, I had to split wood. We put the ingredients into individual pots and let them boil for a bit. The pots were set on individual charcoal fires. Indigo pots were fermenting nearby. I proceeded to wrap up my scarf for dipping.  Tie dying procedure for this. For the other two colors I dyed skeins of silk thread in the pots. I'm not sore where they will serve a purpose

Everybody arrived from the Eddie Soloway group and my life changed. Suddenly there were people to talk to and places to be. It all sort of ran together. I will try to divide it up and make it interesting. There are quite a few of them I can't remember their names and they all have huge cameras. Most of them have been to Japan none of them have ever been to a country like this so they are just really curious about everything.   They're modus-operandi is to have total submersion in the place for less than a week and take away their photographs.