Friday, June 11, 2010

Creepy Crawlers and Elephants - Laos

There is an ancient Chinese proverb, "May you live in interesting times."  I feel that, in 2010, much of our world society lives within the vicinity of this curse, especially those that stay in the jungle of Laos during the rainy season, as we have done.  This lodging is in the country of the country, in the clouds with tigers and snakes.  Our vehicle broke down twice just getting there.  Luang Prabang has been coined an inland island due to the expanse of rainforest jungle that buffers it on all sides.  For a night, we made our home in this very jungle.  It was terrifying.    

We should have known when we arrived.  Thumbing through our check in hotel materials, we found a rather disturbing page about a creature called an "Irma."  The passage stated that while she may bite a human, she only does so out of self defense.  Irma is more scared of you!  We were told that Irma will be a contributing member of our bungalow, eating mosquitoes and other bugs that may harm us.  Irma was given personification by this entry, and this granted Irma immense power and damn near invincibility.  How could we kill Irma.  Oh, I almost forgot to explain what Irma is.  Irma is a spider the size of Manute Bol's hot dog finger hands.  Hot freaking mess.

Our bungalow was legit.  It looked out over the dense Laotian jungle, and we could hear the music of unseen beasts serenading with the afternoon storms.  It sat up on stilts, had an outdoor shower, and in the light of day seemed perfect.  We put on robes and high fived.  We talked about shouting at elephants from our balcony and riding tigers down the river.  We ate cashews and fully bought into the charms of rugged luxury.  Until of course, the gates of insect hell flew open.

It began around sundown.  Meagan noticed that her pack was covered with insects.  We lamented this unfortunate situation and cleaned up her bag, eventually blaming it on a half eaten clif bar.  Poor Meagan would later find her bed covered in winged creatures dying a slow death.  Ye gods, we thought, and our faith in the bungalow began to wane.  We shrugged our shoulders and went to dinner.

When I think of terrifying moments on my life, I can thankfully count on one hand.  The alleged devil worshipers that Jeff and I saw in middle school is up there.  The movie Cat's Eye screwed me up pretty good due to the stupid troll.  I once got a very cold uncomfortable feeling in a park where a murder took place.  These are all fairly mundane and hinge on the fulcrum of speculation, with errant imagination feeding the mind like red bull and vodka.  None of my prior terror grooming prepared me for what I saw when I returned to our bungalow from dinner.  I heard my housemates whooping and screaming.  I walked in the front door, looked up and stood eye to eye with Irma, perched on the wall directly above our door. This did not require imagination. This was very real.  And ridiculously terrifying.


During our discussion about whether or not to leave and head back to Luang Prabang.  Something else horribly spooky happened, Irma disappeared.  We looked up above the door, and a void was left that steered our eyeballs hopelessly around the room in panic.  A queasy sort of uneasiness sapped us of our energy.  There was nothing we could do.  I decided to discuss Irma with the manager, and all she said was, "They no poisonous anymore."  I cannot think of a more discouraging response.   I did not ask for elaborations, and we all went to bed.  What transpired was a frequently sleepless night punctuated by a blood curdling scream by Kristin at 4am when she found a large spider on the toilet roll.  We saw bugs we had never seen and heard sounds we had never heard.  We knew Irma was out there somewhere.  Lurking.  I stared at the ceiling all night, finally breathing a sigh of relief when the sun shone through the blinds.  Thanks for not eating me Irma.         

 In the morning, we took in an Alms ceremony, which takes place very morning and involves monks receiving food offerings from villagers.

 Villagers

 Our donation 

 Ryan and I, 6am, yay

 After the ceremony, we were told we must also give water 

 I do not usually like taking pictures of monks because I think it is a bit of a cliche wrapped up in offensive motives.  But at 6am, I dont care about my fabricated integrities.
 Kristin having breakfast 


 Me and our tuk tuk, wearing my famous headwear 

 The way to our place, Zen Namkhan

 Our tuk tuk packed full

 Ryan trying to catch up 

 Our awesome shower 

 The place was impossibly nice at first 

 Great view from the balcony 
We should have known

Laos living

 The ecological pool for swimming 

 fed by mountain water 


 The manager and her gong 

 Bungalow 

 Suspension bridge next to our bungalow 


 Goofing 


 Love this guy 

 Straight up jungle 

 eye to eye with clouds 

 Our walk 



 Furmonster of the day, followed us for at least a mile.  When we stopped, he would stop.  It was pretty funny.

 Nam Khan River 

 Elephant reserve 

 Butterflies are everywhere in Laos, just making the place all the more incredible 



 A strange vehicle 

 We see alot of these, and think they may be homemade cars 



 Cleaning out the bugs 

 stuffed with beef and potatoes 

 tom yam soup 

 Boring pad thai 

 Very tasty Lao chicken dish 



 Banana Pancakes

 Night picture of some wood and the pool 

 Tough reality to come home to

 Irma 


 Bugs in sink 

 Ryan the dockman 

 cruising the river to go ride elephants 

 weee




 Feeding elephants 








 All of the elephants were rescued.  One of the elephants was rescued from an existence that included being given copious amounts of extacy to encourage increased logging capabilities.



 They were such good animals 



 I really like this one 

 Leaving the elephant rescue center 



 Baggage Claim at Laos capital  city of Vientiane 

 Lunch at airport 

See you guys later.  Sorry for getting this up so late,  my charger was not working.

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