Happy times in VangVieng

So in an effort to suck the marrow out of life (and because we’re both sort of convinced that we will never have another holiday once the baby comes) Mike and I are taking an Easter weekend road trip here in Laos.

We definitely don’t fall into the category of people who think that having a baby won’t change things much. If anything, we are too far along the other end of the spectrum. Every time we’ve been on holiday lately we’ve had moments when we’ve looked at each other with fear in our eyes.

In Thailand a couple of weeks ago I glanced across at Mike, responsibility-free and peacefully reading by the pool, and said, “This is the last holiday…”

When I let the sentence trail off Mike looked up at me with a wicked grin.

“Ever,” he said.

Of course – given that we’ve been on holiday in places ranging from Alaska to Siem Reap to Tasmania during just the last year – even if that statement were to come to pass it would be many years from now before you could really call us holiday deprived. This knowledge, however, is not preventing us from viewing the coming upheaval of our footloose and fancy free world with some trepidation.

Or maybe it’s only me that is suffering trepidation. Mike has even been known to say that he is looking forward to the baby’s arrival.

To which I usually reply, “well, I’m glad one of us is.”

Whereupon Mike will lean down to my stomach and conspiratorially reassure the baby that I don’t really mean that.

Except, sometimes, I do.

I am choosing to view this as appreciating each day of the present reality for the freedom it offers and trusting that after the baby does arrive I’ll find many things to love and appreciate in that reality too. Of course, it could also be that I am woefully lacking in maternal instincts but well-endowed in the selfishness department.

Yes, well, whatever it really means it’s part of the reason we’re in VangVieng this weekend. VangVieng is a small town surrounded by towering limestone cliffs that has turned into a backpacker’s must-visit and the adventure tourism capital of Northern Laos. You can raft, trek, bicycle and kayak here. You can rent motorbikes for $5 a day. You can also order happy pizzas (or happy shakes, cakes, or pretty much whatever else your happy little heart desires) all over town. A happy pizza does not, as one tourist was led to believe, come with extra pineapple. It comes laced with marijuana, mushrooms, opium, or methamphetamines.

For those of you who are curious about these sorts of things, if you must use opium don’t mix it with lime juice. I remain skeptical, but the locals and the Lonely Planet Guide insist that this combination can kill you.

We’ve so far stayed away from the happy pizzas, but this afternoon we’re going to brave another famous local past-time – tubing down the Song River. The water level is low and the flow fairly slow, so it should be manageable pregnant. I just hope that once we push off it won’t be too long before we’re past most of the beer bars that line the banks, waiting to refresh thirsty travelers with all sorts of happy concoctions. We went down to check out the launch point yesterday and I haven’t seen anything else like it anywhere in Laos (or the world, for that matter). There were half a dozen of these bamboo river-side bars thronged with hundreds of scantily-clad westerners drinking and gyrating to loud techno music. I don’t know which was odder, actually, the sight of pale revelers throwing themselves off the dance floor and into the river to continue their sojourn downstream, or the sight of thirty monks gleefully taking turns on the monk zipline nearby.

More from Vientiane next week. I hope you are all having a very happy Easter weekend (in the non-drug-induced sense). May it be a time of fellowship, celebration, and gratitude for the good things in the present reality.

Tubing in VangVieng

Tubing in VangVieng

Monk zipline

“Don’t worry, be Happy” in VangVieng

10 responses to “Happy times in VangVieng

  1. This made me smile… mainly in memory of a New Years Eve perhaps 10 years ago. Then I stopped smiling… because it doesn’t quite look how I remember it? But there may be reasons for that. Be thinking of you both floating down possibly the slowest river in the world, in what really arent comfortable tubes but is still a rather stress free way to spend 6+ hours…. until you have to dismount. Love your investments now for a future fear of being “holiday challenged”. The world is full of family holiday options… consider it a whole new market to explore! Gai xx

    • Yeah, I’d imagine some things have changed around here during the last decade. You know what, though, we never ended up going tubing! After being blistering hot on Friday it started pouring rain yesterday and we decided that spending 4+ hours soaking wet on the river may actually make us cold and miserable, so we gave it a miss. And it’s still cloudy and foggy and misty this morning. Weirdest dry season weather ever!

  2. I just have this feeling that you and Mike will be the type of parents who will do almost everything you do now, except while wearing a baby. 🙂 And I mean that in a good way! Once the first few crazy weeks are over, especially. And seriously, do you have a Moby Wrap or baby carrier of some sort? I didn’t get a Moby till my son was 6 months old, and I wish I had gotten it earlier. I love it so much, and so did he.

  3. Lisa – it is possible to go “on holiday” with a baby – I did it when my kid was 13 months. Hardest part was trying to keep up with her. Her ebullient spirit made folks gravitate towards us (Asians loved her blond curls and blue eyes), so the ‘Mama Bear’ persona tended to be always near by her! 🙂

    • Yes, I think you’re right. Absolutely possible to take baby on holiday. It’s the way it’ll change the holiday that I think I’m more worried about… like all that “keeping up” and “watching over” instead of zoning out for hours on end!

  4. Hi, Lisa — Relax. You are perfectly normal and, yes, vacations will never be the same but they will be much, much fuller of meaning and delight as you show ypur descendancy around the planet–something you are really, really good at doing–and how to best survive on it while making a difference. I remember I gave up worrying when I was expecting my daughter, soon to be 42 which I can’t believe, when I realized that, regardless, the baby was on her way and that was that. I think of you daily and hold you in my heart. Love, Donna

    • Thanks Donna! Yeah, at the rate this baby is growing – I swear I’ve doubled in size in the last ten days – I am daily reminded that indeed the baby is on his way and there is no getting around that fact now! Hope you’re having a great Easter weekend!

  5. One of the teachers I work with owns (I think?) Smile Bar in Vang Vieng, so he took some of us foreign teachers to check the town out. When I asked what we would do there, he listed caves and waterfalls, ‘and watching drunk foreigners dance.’ Most random city in Laos, I’m sure.

    • Yes, Mike and I were so proud of our people that day (“our people” in that collective “foreigner” sense). It is totally random wandering around town watching all these spaced out tourists gazing at reruns of Friends or The Simpsons on the loud TV’s blaring from most bars and restaurants (though as far as pastimes go, not as much fun as watching drunk foreigners dance).

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