Epiphany at the Luang Prabang National Museum

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Truth be told, I might be slowing. The 2 mountains and a cave yesterday have left me with a pained walk. And since 48 hours is the peak of pain after rigorous exercise, I may in for quite a day tomorrow. I’d do it again. And again and again.

Lau Massage

I ended the day with a Laos massage which is theoretically the same as a Thai massage. All of the techniques, and the massage itself, are borrowed from India.

Tonight’s massage, unlike the two I had in Bangkok, was far more easy-going. The fact that a female performed the deed might be the reason. Still, I am sore. They work muscles you forgot you had. That’s a good thing.

Yes, it’s nothing like those in the U.S. A lot different. In fact, I’m sure a Lau/Thai massage would be illegal. Yes, the masseuse gets up on the table with you. Yes, that’s all I’m going to write. It’s a great experience but you have to be open-minded and like that sort of thing. I loved it.

Traveling alone

I was warned that I would be lonely. The words bothered me a bit as I wondered, but I can now state unequivocally, I love traveling and alone is a delightful way to do so.

1. I could find no way to be lonely, in fact, just the opposite. There are SO many people along the way with incredible stories and most are ready to share in a heartbeat. These new friends and I already know that we have something in common in that we all love to travel.

2. My pace is my own. I can walk myself into the ground if I so choose (and I may have done exactly that). No slowing down or waiting. The freedom is exhilarating.

3. You can definitely see more on your own. Or not.

4. Those selfie poles are for the birds and frankly I think they are a bit sad. There is always someone to take your picture near your newest discovery, and sometimes you don’t even have to ask. They volunteer and presto, you have a new friend.

5. Traveling alone does not mean you sit alone… on the plane, in the restaurant, on a bench. In fact, I’ve rarely sat alone. I’ve made friends from around the world with promises that we shall visit each other in the future. I now have a wide network of opportunity to travel just about anywhere I want.

About today

As mentioned, I’m moving a little more methodically today so mountains were out of the question. I did gain a new perspective on the Vietnam war and those events surrounding that time in history. Here’s how.

Yesterday I was miffed. The negativity toward America was infuriating. It did allow me a platform of dialogue to explain the wider picture of events with which many Lau are unaware. Their circle of concern is vary small and mostly includes the foundation of Maslov’s hierarchy. (It’s ironic that I just read a Harvard paper saying that Maslov’s hearty was so antiquated in that who really worries about food and shelter anymore? — uh, well, the Lau.)

To that end, the government, whether communist or king, is judged by the larder of the people. By their ability to build and maintain their bamboo homes. By their ability to buy seeds for their farm and maintain their looms for weaving. Luang Prabang, Laos (official name Lao People’s Democratic Republic [LPDR] has been ruled by a Marxist and communist government since two years after the American withdrawal from the Vietnam War (1975). With a 6.5 million population, the primary industry has been agriculture for centuries until tourist has begun to make its way into the region as of late.

They are country people at heart. They also live under one of the most corrupt governments in the world. Dissenters disappear regularly without a trace.

They remain under a command economy which is a white-washing of the word “communism.” That is, the government sets pricing, determines which goods are bought and sold, and so on. It’s a place no investor will tread and as is typical of such Soviet and Chinese economies, versus where the market is free and there exists sanctity of law, corruption abounds. And it leaves Laos Peoples impoverished. A third are very poor.

I befriended a girl named Fone. She’s about 39 and her father (and mother) who live out in the country (hour and a half bus ride) is 69. Fone has an interesting story. She is a travel guide in that she works for a number of agencies in a free-lance capacity and speaks fairly good English. In her 20s she was betrothed to a man for 2 years that ended up marrying a 16 year old. She found out by others in the village telling her because he wanted the multiple wives thing. Yeah, no.

Fone says she was near suicide when her mother begged her not to and the reason is not because Buddha would disapprove. Apparently Buddha is OK with suicide. (geez!) Her mother said it would disgrace the family since she was the oldest daughter. So Fone began weaving up a storm and taking her goods to market. With the proceeds of each arm’s full of cloth, she purchased more materials and sold more goods. Finally she had enough money to go to school to learn communist history and English.

Because she always wanted to be a tour guide, you ask? No. Because it’s her way of meeting European men to potentially marry and leave the country. In fact, she’s been communicating with a German who pays for the Internet in her bamboo home, a iPhone so they can Face Time and plane tickets to meet him in Chaing Mai. She has yet to go to Germany but that is supposedly in the future when Jinz (the 52 year old German with an earring in both ears and 1 leg from a birth defect) can secure her a Visa which is apparently hard to do.

We are sharing a ride to the airport today as I make my way to Cambodia and she makes her way to see her German in Chaing Mai where they will rendezvous for a week. He has already bought the rings (matching silver bands that set him back 1,200 euro) which he has sent her a picture along with a bottle of cheap champaign. They have seen each other in person once before and she says she insisted he secure 2 hotel rooms. Further, she says, he has yet to touch her other than a hand shake.

By Fone’s account, he is an administrator at a hospital and works for the government (a perk in Fone’s eyes who believes a government job is nothing short of nirvana). Jinz said he makes 2,500 euro a month but is going for a better job (aren’t they all?)

I know that’s a little off the beaten track from my travel log, but it provides color. Fone and I will stay in touch and I will let you know how this goes. She let me read his texts and he seems nice (for a guy looking for a mail order bride) and professes his love in every line. His story is that German girls don’t want him because of the 1-leg thing. OK. And he originally told Fone that he was really looking for a Vietnamese, but that she was so beautiful he was drawn to her (a Lau). OK – back to my epiphany.

And of course, now I’m running out of time because I need to catch Vietnam Air to Cambodia.

In a nutshell, I visited a grand palace that was built smack dab in the middle of the Vietnam War (which also, and quite heavily, included Laos). Like the band playing as the Titanic sank, the president (who looked more Chinese than Lau) was building his palatial (by Lau standards) castle. I was appalled. And so I now understood. If you are Lau and have been inundated by war, more war and then more war, you have a king who is concerned about his castle more than the horrific poverty of his people… then you have the stinking communists who seem to offer a better package (bait and switch), I see how they would be persuaded into the lion’s den. As I said, the Lau had 2 choices and they needed three. Capitalism without the king.

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