Under the Mango Trees
When I woke up that average September day, the last thing I thought I’d be doing was brushing off my passport to book a flight to a region of the world that I had been dreaming about visiting for years. For months, my boyfriend Evan and I would occasionally discover affordable flight deals from the west coast to far off destinations abroad, and we always joked about just booking one on a whim. When it came to the discovery of an affordable flight to the country of Laos in Southeast Asia, I could no longer joke about the situation. We have to do this, I thought, imagining the adventures that awaited us in such a culturally vibrant and intriguingly exotic region of the world. For a moment, we paused to ask ourselves if we knew anyone that had been to Laos. No we didn't. Did we know.. anything about Laos? Nope. We'd only heard about many people traveling to Thailand and maybe Vietnam. That was about it. “Okay, let’s just do it!,” I said as I hovered the computer cursor over the “Book Now” button and clicked. That was that! We’d figure everything else out later.
Six months later, we found ourselves stepping off the airplane and engulfed into the warmth and tropical humidity of Luang Prabang, Laos. A UNESCO world heritage site, Luang Prabang is a little ancient city in the heart of Laos. A slight haze lifted through the mountains, as the haze of our jet lag began to wear off by the excitement of our first look around this new and foreign world. Those first few hours were eye opening to say the least. I’ll never forget the bewilderment I felt in our ride from the airport to the guesthouse we were staying in. As the van traversed the roads, dodging motorbikes that whizzed by so effortlessly, my eyes were glued to the windows of the transport van. Everywhere I looked, I saw something I had never seen before. Golden stupas shimmering in the sun, towering palm trees and bright green tropical plants clustered among bamboo houses, and the occasional glimpse of a centuries old Buddhist temple with huge swooping rooftops and ornate red and gold detailing. As we pulled into town and were delivered to a cramped 8 foot wide alleyway that could hardly be defined as a street, the historic presence of the French became apparent from the architecture around us and the sweet scent of fresh baguettes wafting through the air.