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We woke to the sound of our 5:30 alarm, packed our bags and headed for Yangon airport for our flight to Luang Prabang, Laos. When we got to the airport and checked in we found out that air Asia charges money for checked bags, it ended up costing us $160 American for our bags to make it to our destination. After saying aloud that I would never take Air Asia again, Jesse tells me our Australia flight is through Air Asia too. I guess that explains why it’s often so cheap. We checked our bags and got on our plane.
We had a few hour layover in Bangkok so I went to exchange our Myanmar money. When we got to the counter we find out that not one exchange booth would take it. It was 112,000 kyatt which is around $82 America’s dollars. I began checking gate numbers for flights that were leaving to Myanmar, there were two close to us. My only option was to walk around and ask random people if they wanted to exchange at a better rate. We were willing to take a price cut in order to switch currencies
I went to the people that I thought might have American dollars in hopes that one of them could help us out. The first few people were a little confused and scared at some random person asking them for money and a few people didn’t have cash on them. It wasn’t looking so promising for us, but I decided to go up to one more man. It turned out that he was going to Myanmar but only had a hundred dollar bill. I was willing to exchange with him for $70 instead. Neither Jesse nor I had change so I went upstairs to the exchange booth again and asked if they could break a hundred for smaller bills, they wouldn’t because their policy says they can’t. I went back downstairs to find the guy and he disappeared so I tried one more person and sat down, no luck.
We decided to go get something to eat since we had a little time. We saw a Subway upstairs, it’s nice to have familiar food once in a while. When we got back downstairs I tried one last time and I found a couple that we’re going to Myanmar and we’re willing to exchange 70,000 kyatt for $50. That’s all they had in American and it would normally be about $51 so we weren’t losing much. Unfortunately, we were still stuck with 42,000 kyatt but we were grateful to get a portion of it exchanged. Hopefully, somewhere down the road, we can get rid of the rest of it. So the lessons for the day are: Don’t fly Air Asia and don’t forget to exchange the currency you have before leaving that countries airport.
We get to the Laos airport after a short flight, pay for our Visas on arrival and head out the door. I love that some countries have e-visas or visa on arrival. If you’re traveling from country to country, sending your passport off in the mail isn’t an option so this quicker visa process is great.
We hopped into our taxi and headed for our guesthouse. When we’re in the process of traveling from place to place, putting our bags down as soon as possible are our first thoughts. We have everything we own in them so currently, they are pretty heavy, probably heavier than they need to be. When we get to Australia we’re going to rethink what is necessary to be traveling with and get rid of the rest. Jesse and I both often wear the same clothes every other day or for a few days in a row. I’ve always been an over packer so it will be nice to get rid of what I haven’t used in months.
As we get into Luang Prabang we immediately notice a change in the air and overall vibe. The air seems cleaner and smells fresher. Since many countries still have the open sewage along the roads you often get a whiff of unpleasant smells if you are walking. We are surrounded by mountains and right along the Nam Khan river. Our beds at our guesthouse were dorm style, Jesse on top bunk and me on the bottom. These beds were probably our most comfortable beds in Asia so far, they were bigger than a twin but smaller than a full, with a soft puffy blanket and a soft pillow. It’s rare to have everything on the softer side while traveling so we were really living it up.
We sat down for a little while then decided to get some dinner and head to the night market. We found an all Vegan buffet right in the market. It was basically a table with a bunch of pans filled with different items. Then you fill your plate and give it to the cook to heat up in a wok for 15,000. You can pile the food as high as you can too. This was the cheapest meal we’ve found so far in Luang Prabang. It’s funny you think that a country will be cheap and it is but since tourism is growing things are becoming more expensive. It seems to work for the people traveling on vacation but those that are long-term traveling, the cost really adds up. That’s why volunteering is a win-win for everyone. It saves us money and we get to help others on an assortment of projects.
Right in the city, there is a restaurant and bar called Utopia that has a beautiful view of the river. There were cushions on the ground for floor seating and numerous other cushions just for lounging. It was nice because some were in the shade and some were in the sun, you could even nap there if you wanted to. Almost everyone there was a foreigner, you wouldn’t see the local Lao people spend their money there, its too overpriced. Regardless of the price of the food, this place was beautiful and the owner really took their time putting Utopia together. They also have a net set up for volleyball and have other games you could play, or you could simply go there and relax with a book without even buying anything. It’s definitely a place to check out during the day to relax, and at night to party.
We spent a few days at the guesthouse and then headed to our next volunteer experience. When we got into our Tuk Tuk, in the back there was a small hammock stretched across. I peeked inside to find a little girl sleeping. I really love how different cultures have different modes of childcare. This little girl was so content with just laying there, even when she woke up she was just calm and quiet. It’s likely that she does it pretty often so she’s probably used to it. In 2017 so many children are just given a screen to look at to keep them busy and when nothing is there they don’t know how to entertain themselves. I had so much fun playing outside as a child with no electronics, but times seem to be changing pretty quickly. I can see myself telling my grandchildren…”Back in my day…”
Finally, we arrive at Nam Khan Eco Farm where we will be volunteering for the next 3 weeks. It’s based on the banks of the Nam Khan river. The volunteering is a mix of building projects, gardening, eco-farming, and teaching. The land is very beautiful and relaxing with 9 greenhouses and tons of fresh veggies growing in the garden. Its pretty great to be surrounded by fresh locally grown food, you can really feel the life of the plants. I never thought I’d be amazed at how beautiful a head of lettuce is while still in the ground. I’ve been wanting to tap into my green thumb more and begin Learning more about gardening so this experience should be a perfect beginning. Nature is a healing and we look forward to helping at the Nam Khan farm.