I move hotels, another location with mildly less guest fees. Luang Prabang is more expensive than Thailand and certainly more expensive than India, which is disturbing for the average annual salary in Laos is less than $1200. The disparity of wealth between the small group of business elite and the masses is stark here, I learn later that all companies require strict permission to be created by the government.
And it is a government that one is explicitly advised to not converse openly about. The only legal political party is the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP).
With the expansion of tourism in the last 10 years let’s hope Laos will shine and that all are happy and free.
The new guesthouse is charming with a bamboo thatch covered sitting garden in the center, wispy pink flowers hanging down gracefully, with dark wood communal tables and complimentary hot beverages. Bike rentals and a sympathetic host add to the charisma.
I cruise the streets of this UNESCO world heritage town, a place bound by mountains centered between the Nam Khan (Khan River) and the Mekong River. Luminous Wats, French colonial architecture, restaurants, markets, travel agencies, youthful backpackers and French speaking elder tourists.
The lack of English allows me to feel truly far away. I am in a world budding in creation, it indeed most important that we inspire the conception of a life of equality, prosperity, and harmony for the Lao.
I sit on the top floor of a riverside café and enjoy the gorgeous view, feeling spoiled by ability to do so, sending light to all those who have less than I gratefully experience.
The energy is mixed it seems, the traditionalism I learn a combined result of the town’s status as a UNESCO heritage site in addition to the years of domination and communism. I am suggested to go the Red Cross, a 5 dollars donation yielding an hour massage and unlimited time in the steam bath room. A young girl practices her skills as we chat (poorly) about life in Laos. She loves giving massage (which makes me feel a lot less guilty) and moved from her hill tribe community (she is Hmong) to the city to study such arts. The crumbly Red Cross building is less than sanitary but I worry not for I will be sweating out anything that does not serve me in the steam room. I am loaned a sarong to cover my body and head into the tiny 4×4 steam room, ladies separate from the men, standing tall in between countless petite woman. I feel colossal and white.
The women smile welcomely and I send energy via the bottoms of my bare feet in the sauna, grounding love in the earth. I want to hug them all.
I later cross the paths of some of my bus mates and am invited to play but choose to rest. There is a mandated 11.30pm curfew in town keeping Lao Lao beer consuming backpackers at bay. Nocturnal peace is thus enjoyed by all.
Perhaps I will talk to the rivers tomorrow.