It’s now been two weeks since we arrived in your country, and I have to say, expectations were high. Hong Kong was too busy, Vietnam (and as we’ll probably see in Thailand) too touristy, and Myanmar is still so new to the game that we figured you would be the perfect middle-of-the-road destination, one still in its tourism infancy but with enough infrastructure to keep us from pulling our hair out.
Well, I hate to be rash, but before I tell everyone about each particular adventure, I feel confident in saying: You have exceeded all expectations.
Your landscapes are unspoilt, your pace is so refreshingly slow, and the people? Oh, the people. Never have we mingled with a more friendly, smiley, carefree bunch. We’ll never tire of kids squealing “Sabaidee (hello)!” as we walk or bike past. (Your little ones are seriously some of the cutest we’ve ever met.)
We sometimes feel a bit ashamed to say we’re from the U.S., considering the pain our country-of-residence inflicted upon you, an unassuming country, who got caught in Vietnam War nonsense. (What a tragedy it is that it will take 150 years to remove all UXOs, or Unexploded Ordinances, from your fields.) But your people have never bat an eyelid or shown a glimpse of sadness. They’re a resilient lot.
We’ll admit, the bus ride from Vietnam into your country wasn’t easy. Ducks on the roof, people sleeping in the aisles, that feeling that we’re going to tip over — but now we see that transportation here should be taken with patience and a laugh. It’s just as much about the journey as it is the destination.
Thank you for letting us hear our own footsteps whilst walking among your many beautiful wats. Thank you for tasty rambutan and sweet (and seedless) mangosteen. Thank you for the best coffee we’ve ever tasted. Thank you for the endless number of cute dogs and puppies I meet everyday. (And thank you to the young waitress in Thakhek who let me hold her puppy through our entire lunch.) Thank you for empty streets, charming villages and the serene Mekong River.
But most of all, thank you for giving us back our travel mojo. As you may know, we needed it badly. We may still be a smidge tired of roughing it and less than keen to play 20 questions with other backpackers, but we feel different. The morning we set foot in your country, we exhaled a deep breath we had unknowingly been holding. The anxiety just melted away. We feel so refreshed, so at peace and so encouraged to explore more.
Really, we’ve never smiled so much. Can’t wait to meet the rest of you.
Arch and Eaman
The beautiful — and kind of Shining-esque — Champasak Palace Hotel in Pakse. Really made us feel like royalty.
Rain don’t matta.