|Phosit’s school and its soccer pitch, near Vang Vieng.|
The following is based on an email I sent to family and friends nearly five years ago in June of 2010. It details how a motorbike crash in Laos became a defining moment in several months of backpacking throughout South East Asia. And beware of fake signs leading to non-existent caves!
It was late afternoon when we were talking to him and we were leaving on a bus for Luang Prabang early the next morning. There was no way we could help out other than to eat at his cafe or donate money. And yet Phosit wasn’t asking for cash.
Bidding farewell, we took his address, wished him well and thought that might be that. After several days by which time we’d bussed north to Luang Prabang and caught an overnight boat along the Mekong River to the Thai border, a plan to return to Laos solidified. It became clear to me it wouldn’t be too hard at all to come back to Vang Vieng with some books after reaching the tour’s end in Chiang Mai, Thailand. My fellow Intrepid travellers (who I was splitting with) thought this was a great idea too and generously donated money. The plan was to fly from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang, catch up with Rosey for several days, buy the books and then head down to Vang Vieng, about a seven hour bus ride away.
|Some of the fake signs we encountered.|
So, long, long story short, the next key part of this twist of fate is that from the American teacher I was given clear instructions on where to buy blank school books, something no-one in Luang Prabang had been able to tell me. Unbelievable.
Directions to the bookshop written down, the next turn was realising I’d been in pretty major shock because, one, my tail bone all of a sudden started to ache and two, after aimlessly riding around for another hour I suddenly noticed my bicycle was bent out of shape and in major need of a fixit job itself. Locals then pointed me towards another bike shop that took 90 minutes to bang it back into shape and charged me just NZ $6.
Feeling very thankful but equally flummoxed by everything, I went and lay by a pool the rest of the afternoon. At the pool I met some lovely English tourists who decided my yarns would be better over beers at a ridiculously amazing bar / restaurant / garden / live music venue / beach volleyball pit (yes, all of those things) I’d found the day before called Utopia. What a day.
Ultimately I did a couple of trips to the bookstore and when reaching the maximum I could possibly travel with I donated the rest of the money my fellow travellers had given to a UN sponsored landmine-clearance organisation. After a few glorious days in Luang Prabang I took a bus to Vang Vieng and yesterday made two bicycle trips with my backpack fully loaded out to see a very gracious Phosit. As he said goodbye he looked me in the eye and said, “God will bless you.” And so I tried to tell him how fun the whole Laos adventure had been, which it had. Humbled, I thanked Phosit the monk, school teacher and restauranteur, knowing he’d given far more to me than I had to him.
So that is the update. Hope you’re all well, lots of love,
|The school bell at Phosit’s school, outside Vang Vieng.|
|Inside a classroom at Phosit’s school.|
|The peak of Mt Phusi in Luang Prabang.|
|My great friend Rosey the English diplomat in the Luang Prabang bar Utopia.|
|The French colonial architecture of Luang Prabang.|
|Vintage cars in an historic city.|
|Musical therapy the night after the bike crash, Utopia bar, Luang Prabang.|
|Luang Prabang street scene.|
|Monks swimming in the Kuang Si Waterfalls, near Luang Prabang.|
|Sunset over a dry Mekong River, Vientiane.|
|A riverside bar, Vientiane.|
|35 degree heat and some serious natural beauty, outside of Vang Vieng.|
|I like to think this photo wasn’t posed…|
|The actual Blue Lagoon, near Vang Vieng.|
|More blue than this in real life and very cooling after the bike ride and the fake signs / wrong turns.|
|The jagged, jungled peaks on the road between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng.|