We returned to Nong Khiaw and I still wasn't feeling great, so I lay down while Hanna checked out the local hot sauna. At night, we walked around in the dark to look at the stars. In my entire life, I have never seen stars like this. Since it's already a small town, if you walked even a few yards out of the light, you were in pitch-black darkness and the sky was filled completely with stars. It was pretty unbelievable, and I wish you all could have seen it. Especially my dad, as I know he enjoys a good star-gaze.
The next day we headed back to Luang Prabang. We biked around, saw some more temples, and checked out the French Language Center's Biennial. As I've said before, my life in Asia is pretty lacking in "culture," or whatever would define culture in New York. I miss contemporary art museums and galleries and homey bookstores and independent films. I'm happy to give those things up for a year here, but when I come across the stray cultural institution, my soul is always a bit quenched. The exhibit at the Center was great. It was called Tele-Spectators and it was a series of photographs about how we watch television. It touched on the vulnerable physical and mental positions we end up in when we're consuming media. I thought the photographs, which were taken all over the world, were unexpectedly beautiful. Pardon the quality, since these are pictures-of-pictures:
Eventually it was time to leave Luang Prabang and our cheap, lovely guest-house, with its long list of rules on the back of the door. Numbers 5 and 6 were the hardest ones to follow.
I didn't think it was possible for our bus back to Vientiane to be worse than our bus from Vientiane, but it was! We got on, and immediately the driver gave everyone two plastic bags. Curious. We hadn't even left yet, and already the woman ahead of us was opening her little jar of smelling salts. These seemed to be ominous signs. And indeed, without exaggeration, more than half the people on this bus spent the ride vomiting. The road was pure switchbacks and curves and turns and it was just awfulness. Hanna and I didn't throw up, luckily. We have iron stomachs. Finally, the road straightened out and we entertained ourselves by recounting the entire script of "When Harry Met Sally" and singing Dar Williams's Greatest Hits. Our fellow passengers might not have been overjoyed, but I had a lovely time.
Then, it was back to Vientiane. We stopped at an internet cafe so I could buy plane tickets and check my bank account, and who should walk in but Ross and Kelsey, from our Luang Prabang cooking class! It was a funny coincidence. Later that night, they met up with us for a drink at Makphet, perhaps one of the best restaurants I've ever been to. It's run by a nonprofit organization and all the waiters are former street children, who are being trained in the service/hospitality field.
The next day, Hanna and I went our separate ways, sadly enough. I had a wonderful time with her. Next adventure: a solo trip to Cambodia!