Should you kill an ant that’s crawling up a monk?
Can 10 folding chairs under a shade tree be an airport?
Are 14 karate chops to the face a massage?
We took our cue from the many monks who roamed
Were they pondering how
Our first day in
The more time we spent with
It was an awful lot to think about.
After three days in
We could travel 10 hours by bus or 30 minutes by air to reach it. We chose the latter, and boarded a shiny Lao Aviation propeller plane. A flight attendant walked down the aisle and offered us a moist towelette and a Hall's cough drop. A man with a badge that read "Flight Instructor" left the cockpit. And was that smoke seeping in from the ceiling?
At this point we decided to suspend our contemplations, because there are times when it's best not to think.
A half hour later the plane dove out of the clouds and pulled up on the runway next to 10 folding chairs under a shade tree. The airport, we assumed, until a bus arrived and took us a mile over to the terminal, a nice new building with a radar tower (one of two in the country).
Luang Prabang is a lovely place, slow-paced and temple-dotted, and set up around a mini-mountain named Phu Si. We strolled around for a few days, and thought and dreamed and hung out in air-conditioned discoteques.
Then the electricity went out. Boom. Just like that, all over town. No one seemed to mind, though, and they all had a ready supply of candles on hand, which added to the air of timelessness. The power still wasn't on when our flight left 24 hours later.
A scrawny old man in an undershirt and wrap-around skirt stoked a stone furnace underneath a house on stilts. He had the strength of 10 elephants, and heaved wood and assorted herbs onto the fire. A pipe ran up into the steam room, a six-foot by three-foot box filled with 10 sweating Laotians of both sexes.
After we had gone in and out a few times, dripping until our hearts were content, we lolled over to get a massage. The masseuse, a compact bruiser in his late 40s, had set up a wooden table right outside the sauna. For two bucks for 40 minutes, he worked us over like a wrestler. He twisted and cracked our necks, punched us in the stomach, karate-chopped our face, pulled our hair, and contorted us into a position resembling a Figure Four Leg-Lock. Somehow, this felt wonderful.
May 6 - 12, 2000