Posted by: Anna | June 10, 2011

Laos Wrap Up

We had only planned to spend five days in Laos, all in Luang Prabang. Well, plans change. This time it was easy because Laos Airlines’ relaxed policy on flight changes, reflective of the laid-back attitude of Laos in general, enabled us to laze about and recover from the fast pace we traveled through the Philippines and Vietnam. Laos stole some of our time from Thailand or Malaysia (our next two countries) with her easygoing rhythm and slow-paced charm. Plus, you can always lure Tommy into staying longer by promising adventure sports combined with animal watching.

I will remember Laos – really Luang Prabang – more fondly than perhaps any other country so far. It was just what we needed. It was charming. Luang Prabang is a city made for me. I’ve already devoted an entire post to singing the praises of Luang Prabang, so I’ll not repeat that here. Go read that one here.

Although we debated a route through the south of Laos, we ultimately ended up doing the Gibbon Experience and the requisite travel (slow boat there, bus ride back) and little else in Laos.

Laos made me conscious that we have a type. We are 30ish couple-backpackers. This type is characterized by previous backpacking experience, often in Europe, a hint of nerdiness, and a little more money than the 20-something singles. We party a lot less and learn a lot more. People who chose to spend their money and time traveling around the world in developing countries are nerds, in a good way. Each new country gives us a glimpse into a different culture, offering the chance to learn history and geography on a concrete and really fascinating level. We are the same kids who read lots of books when we were children, for fun, because there was cool stuff to learn in there.

Generally, our type cares a little more about the impact our travel has on the people who live where we are going, especially when the economic disparity is great. Where it seems that many young backpackers see the cheap prices as the opportunity to drink more and do lots of loosely regulated drugs, we are excited to buy beautiful exotic things for our home. (Them: what bar has the party tonight? Us: Ooohh, a beautiful vase. How much will it be to ship it home?)

I would see the difference every day just sitting in a street-side cafe in Luang Prabang. For some unknown reason, the fa rang (name in Thai, used in all of Southeast Asia, for white folks) girls dress like they are heading to work at Baby Dolls (famous Dallas strip club). Bras hanging out, tiny booty shorts, skimpy tank tops…I don’t get it. The weather is hot; I do get that. I can tell I’m getting a little older because I am slightly shocked. For the most part, Laos women dress modestly, in long skirts and long sleeves. There are signs all over Luang Prabang, in English only, encouraging women to cover up…to not wear a bikini top as a shirt. It’s bizarre that a sign is needed.

When we left on the trip, I wondered if I would be able to recapture my backpacking spirit and ethos. Now I know: the answer is no, at least not exactly, and I wouldn’t want to. I can handle the privations of backpacker travel with grace (I think), but I no longer try to meet new people to go out with every night at whatever hostel I’m at for the night. I’m happy to be a slightly older, go to bed a little earlier (most days) couple backpacker. For some reason, it’s almost always couples, married or close to it, who fit this profile. We have met a few single people too (not to leave you out, Jay). We have liked everyone who fits this description that we’ve met. Because they have set off on a similar journey, they tend to have some key things in common with us – a love of adventure and new places, intelligence, and maturity (working to save money for a big trip tends to be reflective of a responsible mindset, in a way that a young person who has never supported themselves cannot have). We don’t spend a lot of time talking about the people we meet along the way in the blog, but without the random fellow travelers, our trip would be less of an experience. Sharing the experience is a part of the journey.

Luxury and style
Lush jungle pierced by gold wats
Seduced to delay.


Washing elephants
and zipping through the jungle
Special memories.




  1. I enjoyed this post because it reflects such a sense that you like and appreciate who you are. I think Tommy is the same. The most noteworthy thing about that is that you have been that way most of your life. I bet Tommy has too. That is such a rare gift. There are adults well into their advanced years who never learned to like others and form lasting bonds because they didn’t like and accept who they themselves were. You both value friends and family deeply and keep those connections strong and deep by investing time in them and not getting too distracted by the petty aggravations that both friends and family will cause at times.

    And Anna you have always been modest, another fine trait. All that dance that you did can bring out a characteristic the opposite of modesty. But for you it did not. Michelle, your drill team director, reinforced this with her costume choices and fine example. I appreciate that you can be a good example of an American who respects the cultural mores of the country they are visiting.

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