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Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013
A Holiday AbroadPosted Sunday, January 2, 2011, at 4:38 AM
As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent the holidays traveling in Thailand and Laos with four fellow teachers: three girls and one boy, all English. This was not my first venture into underdeveloped countries, having traveled to India, mainland China, and actually Thailand, before. But, it is always an adjustment to enter a world sans streetlights and McDonald's, where cows might cross the "highway" and people constantly haggle with you.
We began our trip in Bangkok, which, like Hong Kong, has both Western and Eastern elements, ancient and modern aspects. From there, we took an overnight train (along with a few mini cockroaches) to the Thai/Lao border. It was a sleeper train, where the seats folded down into beds, and except for the occasional bug and the chilly air conditioning, it was quite comfortable.
In the morning at the border, we purchased entry visas on arrival for $35 US each. I was quite excited to use a crisp Benjamin to buy mine! After crossing the border into Vientiane, the Lao capital, we took a nine-hour minivan ride to reach Luang Prabang. The journey was only about 260 miles, but the roads, though paved, were a bit bumpy and very windy, perhaps the equivalent of some rural county roads. For the last few hours, we were driving on a road clinging to the edge of a mountian.
Although it was a bit of a marathon to get to Luang Prabang, I am very glad to have been there. The whole city itself is a UNESCO world heritage site, and nearby was a picturesque waterfall and riverside cliff caves. We took a boat ride on the Mekong River, and saw several temples, called wats, too. On Christmas Day, we all got massages that cost about $5 each.
I also took a cooking class one evening, where I learned how to make a delicious fish soup, a chicken dish with coconut sauce and vegetable crudite with spicy tomato dip. In general, the food in Laos was delicious, definitely a nice change from Hong Kong. Here, when you order stir-fried vegetables, you often receive a plate of bak choi; but there, they served you green beans, cauliflower, carrots, corn, peas, etc., etc. It was lovely. I also induldged in several Western-style breakfasts with eggs, fruit and a baguette, which only cost about $3.50.
For New Year's Eve, my friends and I were again in Bangkok. After a tasty dinner of pad thai (a noodle dish) with soulful live blues in the background, we rang in the new year at a hopping dance club. The bright, loud city was quite a change from serene Luang Prabang, but it was very exciting nevertheless.
Now, I am quite glad to be back in Hong Kong. Traveling is always exciting and enjoyable, but it is nice to return to everyday life as well. I can use my own pillow and my own shower and choose from a wider assortment of clothes, at least until my next holiday in early February during the Chinese New Year.
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Something about music. Something about small towns. Something about Hong Kong. Or maybe something else entirely.
Sydney is a former staff writer for the Democrat-News. She received degrees from University of Missouri in both music and magazine journalism. She played oboe with the Marshall Philharmonic Orchestra and the Marshall Municipal Band while she was in Marshall.