So, after 10 weeks back in Australia catching up with friends and family and trying to earn money and decide what I want to do with my life, I once again packed up my life into a bag to begin another adventure. Once again sacrificing my love for (a very special and shiney) person for my love of adventure and travel. The reality wasn't easy, but the decision was made long ago, before I returned to Australia. It was great to see everyone again, laughs, tears, meals, drinks and hugs were shared and without me even realising the time had passed.
Ukulele in hand, bag on back, friend by side and adventure in our hearts we threw ourselves into the arms of South East Asia, our first stop Vang Viene, Laos.
We had heard mixed reports on Vang Viene, the town most known for tubing and drinking, some people love its party central atmosphere, others are sad it has lost its soul. The tourist area is full of bars and cafes blaring out friends and family guy 24 hours a day, drunken tourists in not enough clothing, and shop after shop selling the same things. We discovered if you look in the right places you can still see the spiritual, local life of Vang Viene, it just doesn't fit nicely in the minutes of walking from your hotel to the tubing station or stumbling home at 2am. Every morning we woke up early and walked out of the tourist area, we watched all the children riding to school and adults to work on bicycles designed to share and watched monks collecting alms and chanting blessings. Every afternoon we sat and watched the sun go down over the mountains, hot air balloons in the sky flying through sunset colours that look like a watercolour painting.
Tubing was a lot of fun and no where near as dangerous as expected. Due to all the horror stories that made it home, I decided to err on the side of caution and get a life jacket, yes I was that dork in a life jacket - my mother would be so proud. We spoke to an expat running one of the bars, he told us how only 2 weeks before he had watched someone jump to their death just outside his bar. The error was apparently in the landing. But as he said to us - anything you bring to the river you have to be prepared to lose, including your life. Against all odds, being Australians tubing, we survived to live another day. We stopped at a local hang out on the way down, where we met a group of (oh so adorable) Lao girls who were learning English. They we so friendly and lovely and we had great fun trying to understand each other.
The next day we went on a kayaking adventure, exploring caves, having splash flights, tubing through a cave lagoon and stopping at a bar mid afternoon for a drink and swim before kayaking back into town to once more watch the sunset. Bliss.
The moral of the story: the heart and soul is still there, you just need to open your eyes and make the effort to wake up pre 10am.