Here now and now here or nowhere

The title of this blog comes from a play on words that "now here" is also the same letters as "nowhere" just with a space added in the middle. I am always trying to get better at being in the here and now, and I've always been a bit of a joker so that is why I chose this name.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hat Sa to Muong Khoua

After Phongsali I was ready to travel south to Muong Ngoi, a highly talked about spot to visit in Laos. To get there you need to take an hour bus ride from town to Hat Sa. Well, an hour if the road hasn't been washed out or destroyed by the building of a new road (see the 3rd picture down) From Hat Sa you take the Nam Ou (Ou river) south for about 15 hours, but as this would be extremely uncomfortable it's broken up with a stopever in Muong Khoua. Nothing too exciting about the town but a good place to get a rest before getting back on the boat in the morning to head more south. Also a good place to head to Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam.

A Journey to the North - Ban Khounloumluang

In the beginning of December I headed north to Phongsali, the most northern part of Laos you can go to before being in China.  Phongsali is a beautiful region of Laos but that is very much off the beaten path as it's more difficult to get to.  I had to take a 20 hour bus ride from Luang Prabang and it was far from safe of comfortable.  For the first 4 hours I was sitting next to the driver on the engine of the bus, facing the open door which had 2 boys hanging outside of it. I didn't need a seatbelt as I was squished between 2 girls on each side, a girl squished between me and the driver and the two boys squished between me and the boys hanging outside the door. Though not comfy it was a very entertaining beginning to the journey. The next part of the ride had me sitting in an uncomfortable seat that, yes was more safe and comfy than what I had been on, but I still found it near impossible to sleep. Anyways, I eventually made it to the north and I soon learned what people meant when they said to me, "Phongsali is cold bring warm clothes." What they meant was, "It's fucking cold up there, bring many layers or down jackets/blankets not just the long sleeve shirt and hoodie you have, you dumb ass."  So I was cold, very cold... very very cold.

One of the main reasons people go to Phongsali is to go trekking and see the variety of hilltribes and minorities up in that region. It is estimated that about 22 different ethnic minorities are living in the Phongsali province. Among them are Hmong, Khamu, Mien, Iko, Phunoi, Kheu, Lolo, Hanyi, Yao, Thai Khao, Thai Lu, Phuan and Phai.  I originally went with the intention to go trekking around the area for a few days but then shortly realized that I don't really like trekking.  Maybe I should define how I view "trekking." Hiking is one thing. I like going for hikes, but to me trekking is different. Trekking is something "white people" do. They go for walks around indigenous peoples lands and take photos and feel happy because part of their proceeds goes to these people. I could go more into it but it will only further provide reason for you to think I'm a snob. Needless to say, when I settled in Phongsaly I decided not to do any few days treks. Also I should add that most of these minorities are the same ones I would have seen last year in Xixuangbanna, China.  I did however decide to go for a long walk on a somewhat carved out path. This was the trail to go to Ban Khounloumluang.  I chose this one was I had been told that Phongsali Lao Lao (spirited alcohol) is the best in the country and I wanted to visit one of the towns famous for making it.

So off I went and I'm glad I did.  The countryside there is far from touched and very beautiful. I ended up in Ban Khounloumluang around lunch time and was rather hungry. I asked for a spot to eat in town (town being too big of a term here. really more of a small, small village). After a little hesitation I was pointed into a door which I assumed was a restaurant of sorts, but actually was a house and a Basi was going on, or in English terms, a celebration.  I ended up spending a few hours talking, eating, dancing, and drinking with the villagers.  I had to leave before it got dark and I wouldn't be able to get home ok, but by this time I was somewhat inebriated. I thanked them full heartily, left some money for the celebration and stumbled home all giggly like.

I still don't love the idea of trekking but I did have a good day of hiking.  There is a difference, I promise. :)

PS Those yellow flowers so prevalent in these photos... those are poppies. This region used to be huge for opium growing. Perhaps you've heard of the golden triangle?

Monday, December 26, 2011

How to easily support a traveling Yogi/Blogger/Wanderer

UPDATE:  We're nearing the end of this contest and I'm getting creamed. so if you haven't done it yet, please follow the info below as well as spread the word to friends, family, random people, or anyone.  many thanks ahead of time.  A!

OK, it's pretty easy and this is all you need to do.  click the link below, leave a comment, click the "like" on facebook button and if you're on twitter.. tweet about it. one or all 3 are good and the more the merrier.  Basically the deal is this, the person with the most feedback wins. and they win a free yoga scholarship (around $3,000usd)

So with your help I can win this and I'd really like to as nearly two years of backpacking across Asia have not done wonders for my bank account.  So click the links, comment and do it everyday!  It really takes no time and has no negative fallout.  Many thanks, ahead of time!!!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

a little thanks ahead of time

Friends, family and online acquaintances. I am aware that we all
dislike receiving mass emails and the like, so it is with that in mind
that I am sending one out with hope that you'll read it, act upon it
and not to be too upset with me for sending one out.

For those unaware of my situation, I've been backpacking through Asia
for the last 21 months. The last 7 of which have found me in Luang
Prabang, Laos where I've been doing a little computer work as well as
teaching yoga to cover my living costs. A better update could be
found on my blog here but that
isn't why I am writing you all.

In April I am planning on taking another yoga teacher training course
and this is where I am asking for your help. I found an online
scholarship program where the winner will receive tuition covered in
full. The way to win is by having the most votes by the end of the day
Dec 31st. Votes are counted in 3 ways and all done from the same
page. Comments left on the page, Facebook likes clicked on from the
page and tweets left from the page all will go to the final tally.
The contest ends in less than 10 days and I'm getting my butt kicked
hard. But I think with all of your help (especially if you forward
this on to your friends) I can win this. You can leave new comments
each day as well as from different email accounts. Your emails are
private and you won't be signed up for spam, they are just used as an
authentication method.

I would appreciate it greatly if you could take a minute out of your
day, today and each day until the end of the year and leave a comment
and or tweet. Facebook likes can only be done once but the comments
and tweets can be done each day.

The link to the page is here.

Again, I am apologetic for the mass email, but do hope you can look
past that and help a friend in need out.

many thanks and a whole lot of love


Thursday, December 1, 2011

...and I'm off again...

Today I plan to head up north to Phongsali, basically the most north in Laos you can go without being in China. It's a minimum of 20hr bus ride from here to there and this doesn't sound great, especially since it departs at 5:30pm (though I was told that yesterday it left late at 7pm)  Once there I plan to do very little. See local minority tribes, relax, read, maybe walk through villages. Basically be a traveler again.  From there the plan is to take a boat slowly down the Nam Ou (Ou river) stopping in on villages along the way before coming back to Luang Prabang.  A week with no work, nothing to do, no people I know around... sounds great and much needed.

While I am gone I will have limited if any access to internet so please vote for me at this website.
Comments, tweets and likes via the portion just below my essay are welcomed and encouraged.

Many thanks and be back to you interweb people when I come back.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jeans.. random

That's what my friend Corey said when I mentioned to him how his friend is giving me a pair of jeans.  But let me backtrack a little.

Having been in town for a while and planning to stay a little longer I've decided I'd like a pair of jeans. It's not great to longterm travel with jeans as they are heavy and don't dry quickly but at the moment I'm not traveling. So why not get some jeans? Well... to start off with I'm loads taller than almost everyone in this country, ex-pats included. So finding jeans in my length is near impossible. Scratch that.. it is impossible.

Last weekend a guy I know in town drunkenly asked me, "how come you never wear jeans?" I had to explain to him what I just explained above, but it left me wanting a pair of jeans more. The comfort as well as protection (especially when riding off roads on my motorbike.). There was a sense of longing with a knowledge that there was nothing I could do. And I was ok with it as it's just how it goes.

Flash forward to last Sunday night. I was having dinner with friends of one of my bestfriends from college, Corey.  I was explaining how it is nice living here but we can't get so many things, jeans being one of them. Matt asked, "What size are you?" Turns out that we're about the same size. Him and his wife were heading up to a ziplining treehouse place north of here, so he'd need them for that but when done he could leave them in Vientiane for me. WHAT?  really??? jackpot. They were nearing the end of their honeymoon travels and could get more jeans when home. but me? I was at a loss. Humanity at it's finest (well, maybe not the finest but damn great).

I've posted a bunch about how the universe is in tune with our needs and us asking for what we want and receiving it. It happens again and again and I couldn't be more pleased. Even when it doesn't happen it works out great. Like the Rolling Stones said, "You can't always get what you want but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need." Well, not sure if I need them but I do want some jeans and so with Thanksgiving having just passed I should add that I am thankful for this (and so much more.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Rice Experience

A few weeks ago a friend of mine invited me to go to "The Rice Experience." She is in charge of volun-tourists (people doing voluntourism) and her group got offered to help demo the program.  The Rice Experience is a new tourist activity that is almost ready to be open to the public here in Luang Prabang. And it's right up my alley.  The Rice Experience takes you through the 14 phases of rice development, with eating being step 14 (a step I have mastered.)

One of the things I had hoped to learn while in Asia, and especially on my farm work, was about rice development. I eat a lot of the product and by product but never knew how it was grown, harvested, produced, eaten.  Well, I knew the last part.  This program shows and involves you in all the stages.  From pushing Susan (their albino water buffalo) in the mud to til the land, to planting sprouts, to chopping stalks, to shaking the shit out of the rice. The Rice Experience does it all.  And it's SUPER fun. Learning and entertainment, hand and hand.  I have to say, I had a great time with Susan only I was a little sad as she was pregnant with a month to go before birthing which meant I couldn't ride on top of her. boooo!.

Besides The Rice Experience, the Living Lands area also has an organic garden and they are growing some great veggies. (Heeellllllooooo beets!!!!)

If you're in town, try to take this exhibit. It was a super fun time.