“Become the leader of your life. Lead yourself to where you want to be. Breathe life back into your ambitions, your desires, your goals, your relationships.”
― Steve Maraboli
After arriving in Luang Prabang, Laos, by slow boat, who knew the adventure was not over? Hauling all my luggage up a steep incline was no fun. Where were the baggage helpers at this stop?? Nonetheless, I made it to the top and into a tuk-tuk to get me to the guesthouse. I arrived and got checked in. I had little idea what to expect of my time here, though I am starting to get used to embracing the unknown.
As the solo portion of my trip approaches, I am enjoying the last moments of spending time with the familiar. Chuck and I decided to invite our new friend, Diego (who we met in Pai), to share a room with us since he would be in Luang Prabang at the same time and he agreed. As I have mentioned, making new friends is one of the highlights of this adventure.
We were staying near the Old City and it was all very walkable and small. Each evening there is a night market and we all know how I love a good night market! After the bustling markets in Thailand, this one was a stark contrast. It was quiet, organized and easy to shop. The downside was mostly just repeated items at every vendor. The other obvious difference was the way the vendors interacted with you. Unlike in Thailand, they could not be bothered by you. If you wanted to purchase something, you had to make the first move. They just sat and waited. This was not dissimilar to the service you would get in restaurants as well. The food, at first glance, is much like Thai food, but once you take a bite it is not to be. The biggest difference is the food is much lighter on flavors and spice. We even tried our hand at one place, where we cooked our own. Not to say we did not find some very lovely places to eat, including one very close to our place, which I ended up having several meals at.
The biggest adventure of the week was a trip to the waterfalls. Kuang Si Falls is nestled about a 45-minute drive outside of town. The roads are rough, dusty and in bad repair, but the end result is well worth it. Our friends Nat and Pat, who we met on the Slow Boat, joined us for this adventure. Once you arrive you make your way past the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre. Here they are working to save the moon bears (Asiatic Black bears), which have been kept in small cages to extract the bile from them to use in medications. It is a barbaric and terrible way of life for these poor animals. It was quite the learning experience because, honestly, I had never even heard of these bears. The mood was a little heavy after that, but we marched on. The falls have several heights as you go deeper into the forest. Each one is beautiful and unique. Diego had already been and mentioned the water was cold. So, we decided to eat our lunch (that we picked up from my fav lil place) and debate the best location for us to dive into the cold waters. I was the first in and it was refreshing. This reminded me to breathe as it took my breath away at the moment. It was not lost on me that life is the same way and at times we have to remember to breathe. I made my way over to the edge and sat alone to contemplate for a moment, which I had not realized but I have been doing at each new location. A must-see in Luang Prabang!
Diego had mentioned wanting to give Alms to the monks and I was excited to join in. Almsgiving is the respect given by a lay Buddhist to a Buddhist monk. It is not charity as presumed by many Westerners. It is a symbolic connection to the spiritual world and it shows humbleness and respect in the presence of society. The acts of alms giving assists in connecting the human to the monk. We rose at 5:00 am and made our way into town. We stopped and bought some rice and the nice lady set us up some stools to wait. At 5:30 am the monks began their march. Once the first group of monks had passed and we were out of rice we ventured around town to see more. If I were to guess we saw about 100 monks, most of whom were children. It was a humbling experience and I am honored to have taken part.
My trip has been magical and I have gone pretty much nonstop since I departed the States. But in Luang Prabang, it really started to catch up with me. Another reminder to stop and breathe. I was starting to have some very familiar symptoms and realized I needed to take a break. I spent a few days just resting and letting my body recharge. To be frank, I probably would not have, but Chuck and Shawn convinced me it was very necessary. They were correct and it was very helpful. I spent a lot of time reading, planning, thinking, writing and, yes, breathing. Life is a balancing act and your body will tell you what it needs, if only you listen.