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Trip Report : Laos (Oct 2011)

So a little late but here is the trip report of our jaunt to Laos.  Instead of a rather expensive flight to Vientiane , we decided

– Fly to Bangkok

– Transfer to a flight to Udon Thani

– Take a bus to get to the Laos border and to cross over into Vientiane.

We had some minor drama at the border. There was some confusion at the Thai border as to whether we (India passport holders) would get a Visa on Arrival at Laos. But we had done our homework, so we werent really worried, just that the Thai officials had to verify for themselves. It took a while. Clearly they dont get too many Indians crossing into Laos from here.

On the other side we took a lorry. Ummm.. yeah that was not a typo, just a lorry type taxi. Ok whatever. We wasked him to take us to Buddha park , in the oppposite direction to Vientiane. Buddha Park was ok. It is located right next to the Mekong River , and that was the best thing about it. There are a lot of statues and you can take a few pics , but you can give it a miss also.

We spent the day walking around Vientiane, and it was quite alright. The walkway by the river was breezy and we walked around to a few temples. Which we found aftre some persistence. But we didnt have a fixed agenda.

IMG_1997The next day we sat on a run down bus , to head to Vang Vieng. The bus was run down and we assumed it would be the local bus. But we were wrong. The bus was filled with tourists. Mostly French tourists.

Vang Vieng was very surreal. It is nestled in mear the limestone mountains (see pic) , with a river flowing by. There are dozens of cafes that play F.R.I.E.N.D.S. or South Park endlessly. Time seems to have no meaning in this place. And you can sit for hours on end eating drinking and watching these TV shows.

We stayed the night in Vang Vieng. There are lots of activities that you can do, though mostly related to be drinking. If you are young and adventurous, it could be fun. I felt too old , and maybe too boring for Vang Vieng.

The next day , we headed out again by bus to Luang Prabang.  We met many of the same people from the day before. And once again we all got into a rickety bus and started off. The drive from Vang vieng to Luang Prabang , was really long and got quite tiring after a point.


We reached pretty late in the evening, and the bus just dropped us off in the middle of nowehere, in pitch darkness. Not sure where we were and where to head, we simply started walking. Eventually a rickshaw found us, and we gave him the name of a street that had a few hotels on it. He took us there. Its in the heritage center of Luang Prabang , and from here it was smooth sailing.


The next day we rented a scooter , and I rode all over town with it, with K in the back. It was super fun and convienient. We got to see quite a bit. I have no doubt that you can see most of it on foot , or bicycle too.


Here’s me on the scooter, sorry but I just loved it . and it was PINK.


Luang Prabang is a UNESCO world Heritage site. There is a place, a few shrines and temples and the center of the town is all pretty nice and worth seeing. Trips out of Luang Prabang , to the Plain of Jars and more. But we werent there too long and had to leave the next day,

All in all, I do recommend a trip to Laos .



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True Story

This is the story of how my life changed last year…. I had previously shared this on a different forum. Most of the story is completely, painfully exactly true. A couple of minor details are changed.

I was 30 years old,  in a job I loved, in a country I loved living in , with friends around me . I had kind of started dating a grad school friend, lets call him K, who moved here. I really liked him , but K was not very open about his feelings, and so I had no idea what he felt about me. But I wasn’t too worried , sure that in time things will work out. Life was perfect.

One Tuesday morning in May, I was showering , running late as usual for work, and I felt a lump in my breast. It took me by surprise, but I thought nothing of it. But somewhere some nagging made me go get it checked out.  So I went to a clinic at lunch. They ran some scans and told me to come back later at 4 for the results. I needed to call someone . I called K.

He reassured me that it will be fine and to let him know what would happen. I had a couple of hours to kill, so I wandered about , browsing bookstores and music CD’s. At 15 min to 4 , I slowly walked back. I was pleasantly surprised to see K there. He had skipped off work and come down all the way. We went to see the doc together. The scan results looked bad , ‘sinister’ was the word the doc used. She recommended a biopsy. I looked at R, his face was dark. As soon as we left the doc office, he exploded, how could the doc say such things, sinister, did she not understand the impact of her words? I had nothing to say, nothing to think.
The next day, I went to get a biopsy, K once again came. And a few days later , a Tuesday again, the results were due. So far I had not told anyone else, and on Tuesday I went to the hospital. I reached 30 min before the appointment and K wasn’t there. I wondered if I should go to the clinic and ask by myself, but I could not bring myself to do it. So I waited for 30 excruciating minutes in the hospital lobby. K showed up and we went to the clinic. He hugged me outside , saying its going to be ok… you’ll see.
We went in and asked for my report. I opened it and saw the word no one wants to see on their medical report – ‘carcinoma’. I looked up at K, I didn’t need to tell him what was in the report, tears had started flowing from my eyes even without me knowing. In his eyes , I saw all the same emotions I was feeling – shock, devastation, fear, anger all rolled into one. We had to wait 40 mins to see the doc, and we just sat there in silence, tears flowing down my face and K hugging me , occasionally getting me a new tissue. I have no recollection of what the doc said to us that day…. but the gist was that we would have to undergo a few more scans to check how far the cancer had spread.

The next days, K moved in with me. We would sit and research continuously. I was convinced that every ache and pain that I had ever experienced was cancer. K would patiently hug me and tell me that couldn’t be. I was angry and would yell and scream and shout, and he would stay calm and gently tell me it would be ok. One night I asked him, what if it was not ok, what if it was not curable, what if i died? I still remember the pain that came into his eyes as he momentarily thought about this. But this look vanished as his mind refused to consider this a serious possibility. He just hugged me and said that he knows that wont happen.

All the scans for the spread were negative, making the cancer an early stage one with a good chance of a cure. We were so thrilled with this positive news we went out to celebrate. I dressed up, put on makeup, styled my shoulder length hair and we went out. I looked beautiful , and K told me that day over dinner and by the candles that he loved me. It would be almost a whole year before we were able to dress up and go out again, and before I would look anything close to beautiful.

We broke the news to family and friends, and I started the first of several long and painful treatments. K moved in with me completely. I had to undergo a surgery, 3 different chemo drugs , and radiation. It took 9 months. to finish treatment. In this time K was my rock. I had lost all my appetite and K would hunt, buy or painstakingly cook all my favorite food. Sometimes he would spend hours cooking what I told him I fancied eating, but once it was done I just couldn’t eat it.  My hair started to fall in fistfuls, he would clean the house, out bed everyday patiently. when it became patchy he told me I look like Pranab Mukherjee and after I buzzed it off .. he told me I still looked beautiful. The steroids had bloated my face and neck , soon my eyebrows and eyelashes also fell off, and I cringed when I looked in the mirror. How he could continue to think I was beautiful I will never understand.

He would patiently sit by my side and stroke my head every night, after I yelled at him for trying to hug me, (I was in too much pain). When the pain killers wouldn’t work and I had to bear the pain, I could look at the desperation in eyes and I knew he would take on all my pain in a heart beat , if he could. This was the simply the most romantic gestures , I have ever experienced.
In that difficult period, I felt a lot of things, fear, rage, insecurity, pain, grief, fatigue , etc etc… but what I felt most of all was LOVED, every single day.

My treatments were completed successfully, I slowly recovered from the treatments, and I am sure K is my soulmate now.