Thursday, April 10, 2014

Luang Prabang, Laos

The cool park at the top of the hill
Baguette in the white-hot sun.  Traipsing down the main street past French cafes and tour agents and elephant posters, trying to get to the temple or the museum or the cool park up the hill.  Food is horrifically overpriced, but the baguette stalls way down the gauntlet of pavement reflecting 120 degrees up at our faces, the sun beating a burnt patch on our faces and the top of our heads, are cheap.  I buy a hat to dodge the heat.  It’s only farangs out in this madness, girls in bikini tops and shirtless boys on motorbikes.

We have to buy eight bottles of water a day in order to stay hydrated, and they cost $1 apiece, and there’s no way to refill them.  Our budget goes down, my plastic guilt goes up.  We fill up an entire corner of our room with plastic bottles.  It’s also impossible not to buy them, as we’re sweating out the equivalent amount and often more—sometimes, often, I am dehydrated anyway.

Nevertheless:  drinks above the Mekong.  Climbing to the top of the hill and surveying the town from above, all the French red-clay roofs.  Walking one night way down to the tip of the peninsula and realize that it’s for really, really rich people, like $1000 a night rich people.  They can afford the water.  We can’t.

Our guesthouse has a terrace and we can sit out there at five pm and watch the monks begin to play music, a drum gonging the welcome and then everyone thronging to take their turn on instruments.  Priests in Luang Prabang are somehow more photogenic than the rest of Southeast Asia, teenaged boys from the provinces with black umbrellas and mismatched robes, chattering as they walk down the street together.  I understand why people try to take so many pictures of them, and I cannot bring myself to.  I try, nerveless, from behind.

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