Scenes from a backpacker’s paradise in Laos

First off, a high-five to all the new subscribers and readers who have graced  
the pages of my blog in the last 48 hours.   
I never saw that coming, thanks FP. And thank you all for reading.  
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I looked down. 40 feet below me lay a wall of rocks and shallow water.

I looked to my right. My brother stared straight ahead, breathing rapidly.

I looked up. Our hands were raised in front of us, both grasping the same handle.

I looked inside myself. “You’re an idiot.”

Then the countdown began.

“One…” Oh god. Bad idea.

“…Two…” They really shouldn’t allow this.

“…THREE!” I gasped for air, my stomach leapt into my throat, and down we went.

“It didn’t break!” I thought as we soared through the air, the long cable arcing laboriously in an upward swing.

We reached the apex and began our airborne journey back to the jump-point.

Our feet dangled, kicking at air. My mind was holding it’s breath. My lungs were holding my stomach.

I felt a slight give in the cable. We were at the bottom of the arc now. Then I felt the cable snap.

I was weightless for a full second as I sailed, back first, into the waters below. A series of thoughts entered my head simultaneously.

“As I suspected, this cable does not have the necessary tensile strength required to support two huge men.”

“I guess all the others that went before us were small European couples.”

“I hope they aren’t mad we broke their swing.”

“This is embarrassing.”

“Glad we didn’t break it over the rocks.”

“I hope Sam doesn’t land on me.”

“No wonder people die here all the time.”

“Oh God, what’s that in the water?”

As these thoughts swam through my mind, the cable was falling around us, miraculously missing our vulnerable bodies. Sam was entering the water slightly behind me — butt first in textbook pike position. My back was on its second skip across the water. And only two people in the crowd of a hundred noticed that we broke the swing.

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The weather-beaten trash bags blew in the wind as our bikes bumped their way along the dry fields, guiding our way to Pha Poak, a small mountain accessible to anyone willing to pony up a couple bucks to the “guards” lounging the day away in their hammocks.

The hike was steep, with bamboo ladders sporadically appearing to assist climbers in navigating the small crevices and steep rock-faces that often appeared on the way to the top of the peak.

But once our sweat-soaked backs reached the rocky top that poked up past the line of trees and shrubs, the view was extraordinary, and the lack of shirtless dudes with penises spray-painted on their backs (check it) was a nice change of pace, perfect for a little reflection.

We sat at the top for hours, looking out across the expansive landscape surrounding us, trying to ignore the thumb-sized insects that swarmed all around us. I thought about the odd nature of this town and the juxtaposition of unspoiled natural beauty and the inevitable influence Western visitors have on places like this. 

A simple conclusion evaded me, as my feelings remain mixed on this. All I can do is embrace change, because it is one of the few truths that remains constant in a globalized world such as ours. I’ll just appreciate what is now, and if that means watching South Park while eating larp and sticky rice in the middle of Laos, so be it.

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“Are there cave monsters lurking in there?” I asked. “Eh, kid?”

The younger of the two brothers who were guiding us through the caves, a 7-year-old Laotian boy, gave me a blank look. He had no idea what I was saying.

“Well, Sam. After you.” 

“Pussy.” He said as he jumped in.

Seeing that he had yet to be pulled violently beneath the surface, I handed my slippers to the older of the two brothers and followed him in. 

I have a deep distrust of underground cisterns that are too deep for my feet to touch bottom. They might as well go to the center of the earth, and I’ve seen too many cave movies, so I scrambled out of the cool water shortly after jumping in.

“Well, that was neat.” 

After we were safely out of reach of prehistoric leviathans and in the fresh jungle air of freedom, the boys beat us up and took the rest of our money. Well, they took our money anyway. Extortionary bastards, I hope they use it for school like they promised.

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10 thoughts on “Scenes from a backpacker’s paradise in Laos

  1. Dan Bain says:

    That first pic is terrifying!

  2. 831photography says:

    that rope swing looks fun, actually the whole experience looks like fun

  3. Roxanne says:

    Wow amazing! Now that’s what I’m talking about! Enjoying life, now that is inspirational =]

  4. fionaqiqi says:

    i love the 1st pic. and ur 2nd paragraph reminds me of the experience of mine: walking on a rope, 10 metres high from the ground, even there are two cables i can put hands on to support me to balance my body, i still feel it sucks! and the worst of it is a bunch of friends are over the other side waiting for the last person, me, to get over there. but the only thing in my mind is “i wanna quit” and i know it’s not possible. so i have to, actually forced to move on… finally, i made it. i hate it, and i love it too.

  5. zachynyoga says:

    Hi, great photography, you have a very keen eye for just the right color exposure.

  6. Awsome pictures! Lively stories.

  7. Consuelo says:

    i fell in love with third picture. 🙂

  8. thriftydrifter says:

    I MISS LAOS SO MUCH! *sob* Thanks for taking me back!

  9. That’s some inspirational stuff. Didn’t know that opinions might be this varied.

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