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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Photo of the Day - Nam Khan loves Mekong

Being that I am planning on staying in Luang Prabang for a little bit, I'd thought that I could try to start doing more regular postings of photos. I look back through my Lao photos and see that I don't have so many pictures so am hoping that with this "photo of the day" type thing that I can start to take more and share more with y'all.

Where the Nam Khan (Khan river) meets the Mekong. I sat here and talked to my friend Nok for a while. Located at the very tip of the peninsula it's an incredibly peaceful place to relax and just be. I took this photo just as a boat was coming down the river, you can faintly see it in the distance.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Giving Blood - Luang Prabang

I think I've mentioned giving blood on either this blog or my twitter account but I just received some great pics so I thought I'd share them here.

I had never given blood before as I was usually two much of a wimp and also when I was fatter they always had trouble taking blood from my veins. But I'm thinner and less scared than I used to be so why not give blood in a developing country where it may be more needed. Actually, it was more needed as my blood type, O+, is rare and highly sought after in Lao.

I went with my friend Kelly who I met here in LP and both of us had never given before and were a bit timid. But both him and I did it and felt better afterwards. Well, we felt lightheaded first, then better.

Come on, just stick it in me and let's get this over with. I'm a bit nervous here.

It's in. Don't look. breathe... breathe. actually it wasn't so bad.

Only one liter? let's go for 2!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chompet - Across the Mekong

In order to go any further in this story I should introduce someone to you, as well as introduce a common theme in SE Asia. The theme is of running into people you know from a previous time or of finding some weird connection you have to someone/something else. Enter Rachel, Rachel and I met in Vietnam about 5 weeks ago at the guesthouse I was staying at. Long story short, we grew up in neighboring towns, she went to high school with a cousin of mine and my uncle was her dentist. It's a small world. Anyways, flash-forward 5 weeks with no communication and then BAM!!! meet on the street in Luang Prabang.

We decided to hang out the next day and cruise across the river to Chompet. We rented bikes and drove around the area. I wanted to go to find a sugarcane farm (ran out of time) and she wanted to see some temples (there are a bunch lining the Mekong, though tourists frequent them less than on the LP side).

Near the end of the day we stumpled into a village and found a bunch of kids to play with. Rachel, the great biker, started taxi'ing 2-3 kids at a time up and down the road on her bike. Eventually they all started saying "pen, pen, pen" Rachel asked me what pen meant in Lao and I informed her "it means pen, they want you to buy them pens." She cruised over to the local store and bought all the children pens. Very sweet of her. I didn't buy them anything but did pick a few kids up and swung them all around and upside down. We all have our own way to effect the youth. :)

It was a nice day, but boy were my legs sore the next day from riding as it'd been a while and also I was a bit too big for their bike sizes.

On Chompet looking out onto Luang Prabang

looking down the Mekong

Rachel in front of one of the temples. This was one of my favorite temples, even though to get there meant walking up a shit load of steps.

some stupas outside the temple. I referred to them as the madonna stupas, in reference to the bra outfit she wore in the 90's during the Vogue tour.

wired design on a door in front of a cave temple

sunsetting over the mekong

crossing back to Luang Prabang on our "ferry"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang

Once again I'd travel on route 13 heading north from Vang Vieng and ending up in Luang Prabang, these roads becoming very familiar to me. Outside of Vang Vieng is incredibly beautiful with the karst landscapes and lush forestation. Past Phou Khoun on the way to LP you're driving along mountainsides swirling up and down and up and down and have access to the sights of beautiful valleys below. Just don't look too long or you'll drive off!!

Just outside of Vang Vieng. I love driving on this road as the natural beauty around just engulfs you.

A little south of Phou Khoun is this mountain lookout. A tourist stop with a little restaurant attached (how chinese) but beautiful full aerial of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

I love this sign. It welcomes you to a city that is 140km away. The first time I saw it I thought, "yes, I'm already there." Then I realized I'd barely been driving and had a long way to go.

Another ridiculous sign. Xishuangbanna (as you may recall from my travels last January) is in the southwest of China. Though somewhat close in relative distance, you're still pretty far away. Chinese tourism at their best.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A week in Vientiane

I left Luang Prabang to drive back down to Vientiane as I'd be teaching yoga for a week at the Vientiane Yoga studio. Unfortunately for my teaching, another guest teacher with more priority happened to be in town, but I was warned that this may be the case. I taught class every day at 7am but no one showed up. Toni, the other teacher did give me one of her classes to teach and it was a nice one. More importantly though I was blessed with the gift of new friendship. Marnie, the owner of the studio was a gracious host and friend. She put me up for the whole week gratis and shared with me much of her knowledge of Vientiane (she's lived there for over a decade) and also introduced me to many movies and shows I'd never have known about because they were Australian. (I know, who knew the Aussies had TV. hehe)

The week was very relaxing and restorative for me. I practiced yoga every morning to dvd's to remind myself of practices and forms long forgotten. I read everyday and also did my fair share of sleeping. I turned 31 on a beautiful friday and celebrated by practicing yoga and then basically doing nothing else but sleeping... I guess it's a good way to ease into the old age.

Besides all this, I also took a little day trip over the Friendship Bridge to Thailand to get a new visa as mine was running out. Already a month in Laos, can you believe it? Another place I planned to stay less time in and have stayed much longer in. I wasn't sure how easy it'd be to cross the bridge via motorbike as I've read it's not allowed, also I was never given the correct permits to bring my bike into the country. Long story short, I bounced around offices at the border to get permission to bring my bike back into Lao and I crossed over to Thailand. In Thailand I hopped from window to window and got my free stamps to which I then crossed back into Lao. I never declared my bike in Thailand as I was afraid I'd have to pay even though I was just there for about 20 minutes. Instead, I drove over a curb and zoomed out of the country, crossing the Mekong again.

This time in Vientiane I liked it much more than the first time around. I think it was here I figured the secret of Lao out. "If you come to Lao looking to do something, you won't like it. But if you come to Lao looking for nothing, you'll find it." It's not that Lao has nothing to do, quite the contrary. But so many countries in SEA (south east Asia) have all these "must-do" things that people come in for a week or so to do and then leave. Lao is more about relaxing, taking things slow and enjoying life.

So with that in mind, I'm signing off to enjoy some life here in Lao.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Motorbiking to The Omnivores Dilemma

Having recently read "The Omnivores Dilemma" by Michael Pollan I've found a new joy when driving through countrysides. I love to watch the cows, chickens and other animals co-exist in beneficial ways. Watching cows till the land, seeing the chickens pick through the cow dung to find grubs for food and then having the rest of the manure be left to fertilize the land. Things such as this fill me with an immense amount of joy and bring smiles upon smiles from with my lips. Not to get too preachy but as a US citizen I'm so disconnected from this natural environment. To the most of my fellow Americans we only think of chickens and cows coexisting together at the meat department of the local supermarket. But this habitat is how it's been since before man even domesticated animals.

It's very nice to get another view of how life can be lived. Moving forward isn't always progress. Technology doesn't always benefit society, or what seems like it may be better for us all (or just for big business) may not prove true over the longer period of time. But I'm not one to go too deep into all that. Right now I just love driving through countrysides, looking at animals and seeing how they live.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Giving Alms - Luang Prabang

One of the most enjoyable things one can do in Luang Prabang is giving alms. The downside of this is it involves waking up at 5am to await the sunrise at which the monks come out on the streets to accept their food offerings for the day. There is something really rewarding you feel in the action of doing this. Though looking at the pictures I do Feel a sense of how out of place I may look, but honestly I don't think the monks care who gives them food as long as they receive it from someone. There were some annoyances surrounding this though. For one the ladies who sell the rice you give to the monks had marked the price up 500%. Here the tourists awake way the fuck early to support the towns community and people still want to make money on this. Another annoyance is the travelers who are taking pictures, flash and all, right in the monks face. Can you imagine if you were in a cafe line getting food as you slid your tray down the aisle and every three second someone was taking your picture. Completely disrespectful. Alas, this is travel life. I really enjoyed doing this, though waking up at 5 may not be something I do to regularly. :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kuang Si Waterfall - Luang Prabang

One of the "must-see" attraction outside Luang Prabang are the Kuang Si Waterfalls. The Kuang Si Waterfall is a three tier waterfall about 30 kilometers south of Luang Prabang. The falls begin in shallow pools atop a steep hillside which lead to the main fall with a 50 m cascade. The water collects in numerous turquoise blue pools as it flows downstream. In one of the bigger pools there is a rope swing from a tree that numerous people will glide off from, letting go to drop in the pool below.

The bottom most accessible pool

To the left you'll see a little ladder built on the tree and a rope. This is the rope swing. I jumped off a few times and thoroughly enjoyed it.

another little lagoon, in hiding.

japanese girl stylie

layered falls

an old waterwheel


gushing down water

my friend john posing while climbing up the falls

enjoying food and beer with some Lao peeps

Near the entrance of the falls is a closed off area that is for protecting some Asian black bears. If you look carefully you'll see some sleeping in a hammock.

Here Kitty kitty..

Since being in Lao, I've viewed cats on a whole new level. I spent the last week in Vientiane where the yoga studio I was staying at two cats. One a shy older lady cat, the other a young male kitten. The kitten liked to claw and scratch EVERYTHING, though annoying as he was, he was still adorable, finding everything a toy and running around so cute. In honor of him I thought I should post some Lao cat pics.

in phonsavan at the market. a wild mountain cat and rooster side by side to be sold. it was grey and raining and the lady didn't want pictures so my iphone sneak shot had to do but is hazy at best.

this is a weasel, i believe, not a cat. same market.

This may be a cat but it's fuzzy to say the least.

cat, chicken, squirrel, and lizard. seems like an odd pair, but who am I to judge?

cat, hogtied to a bamboo stick while the hunter went out for more. I actually stopped short on my bike to get off and look closer at this. new experience for sure. poor cat.

this little girl has me cracking up. she was trying to play with the cat but kept choking it. she would also pet it pretty hard. I laughed so her mom tried to stop her which made the girl mad and with one hand would hit her mom while the other was choking it and shaking it. She didn't mean harm but was too young to realize what she was doing. The cat wasn't too badly hurt, so I don't feel so bad laughing at it all.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Another fun day of driving

The drive from Phonsavan to Luang Prabang doesn't sound too bad to the ear. It's only about 270km and you get to drive through beautiful scenic mountains. Well, throw in a ton of rain and the realization that those mountains mean tons of switchbacks up and down and up and down and up and down... and.. we'll you get the point. It wasn't the most fun day of driving but I did make it to Luang Prabang, of course I had to bribe a police officer to get in. It was incredibly annoying but that is just how law goes in some countries. In the end I talked him down from 50k kip to 30k and I got to put it in his commanding officers pants, so the story is almost worth the near $4usd.

the first time you see lao men with guns on backroads, it's a bit freighting. By this time I was used to it. Usually they don't let me film them but this guy was ok with it. I believe he is a hunter of some sort, what animal needs an automatic rifle to hunt, I have no idea.

This truck didn't fare so well during one of the rain storms. I don't believe anyone was hurt, but the truck was totally fucked up.

a treat of a beautiful mountain peak with beautiful sky surroundings.

the cop who made me bribe him. and yes he made me, I did not want to do it.

a wash out

This post was written on 4/28, but I am trying to keep my post in chronological order even if i'm a few weeks behind.

Yesterday my plan was to go from Vang Vieng to Phonsavanh. I saw that there were two routes a northern and southern and since the northern would be the same route back that I'd be taking to get to Luang Prabang from Phonsavanh, I figured I'd go the southern route. The road was strenuous for sure but I got great pleasure out of knowing that my minsk could handle these harsh terrains. The ride was very beautiful and I passed hill tribe people that don't see many foreigners. At point out of nowhere there beautiful lake or maybe river appeared right in front of me. It was so quiet there and full of natural beauty. Unfortanetly for me this body of water also over ran my road. I'm not sure exactly what happened but my road was completely washed over with water making it impossible to go any further. My plan to save time by going the shorter southern route was now foiled and I would have to go back. Back over these harsh bumpy and sometimes very steep "roads" (more like paths). I was upset as this meant time wasted but also money as I'd driven nearly 50km south of where I originally was and now had to retrace those steps and get more gas. The views on the northern route were also beautiful but I was somewhat too upset from the first half of the day to care too much. I ended up driving till 8ish when I had to stop for some coffee and ended up staying the night as I was tired and the road was pitch black. I met a guy who spoke some english and he bought me dinner and then found me a little room behind a restaurant to sleep in.

The day was long in all senses of the word and extremely tiring however waking up early the next day was great as I was treated to some excellent early morning views.

beautiful farm lands below

this road nearly killed me, both going down and then back up later. you can't get the detail or depth here but it was very steep and no real path here so I was sliding around a lot. of course, i survived.

I turned a corner and all of a sudden this beautiful lake appeared. quite a pleasant surprise.

of course that surprise was cut short when a little later this same lake had the road covered. couldn't cross. The water may not look too deep, but believe me, it was.

Back on the main road. These two twin peaks had a magical feel to it. Later, my friend Liam would point out the perversion in it. Honestly, didn't notice it at the time.

the sun begins to go down over an open range.

this little "shed" like structure was where I spent the night

woke up early to finish the drive and was treated to mountainous forests filled with early morning haze. beautiful!