A year ago, I took a tour of SE Asia. I traveled via bicycle from Saigon, Vietnam to Bangkok, Thailand.
Crossing the Vietnam/Lao border into Lao
The border crossing was simple. It was bittersweet leaving old Vietnam behind. Many monuments/relics/stations from the war a faint reminder of a soured past.
Lao immediately gave me a welcoming smile. Everyone yelled "Bai Bai" as I journeyed a few meters from the border. I smiled and said hello and they repeated their "Bai bais". It was like I was the conductor of a parade. Kids would run out full-throttle, jumping in the air with big smiles on their faces with hands eagerly waving in the air.
I picked up the Lao greeting "Sa Bai Dee"! The hooting and jumping and hollering of the children made the 40 km go by in a breeze and I could feel the adrenaline surging through my blood. The landscape brought veins of stretched fields of palms and jungle, all leading to rocky-topped mountains filled with roads and needed exploration. A serenity filled the air. A modern Garden of Eden is what it felt like. Houses on stilts, blue roofs brighter than the sky. Streams and rocks, pastures and road-side water buffalo.
It rained and I took cover under what was intended to be a gasoline pumping station, but for now made the perfect shelter. I gave thanks to the man that owned the facility, it seemed connected to his living quarters, and smiled on my way out. A run in with a plastic bottle in the road made me almost biff it as I was waving at a big group of locals at a coffee shop before getting laughed at as I stumbled back to a normal ride. Smiles of the Lao people make it all better, their upper crescent is contagious. My smile could reach the moon.
Sapon to Donghen, Lao
I'm biking in Eden. The butterflies flutter beside me, doing acrobatics right in front of my eyes, four coming together and then dispersing in a mad dash (practical aerial artists!). Three different colored, flying in parallels, like Sleeping Beauty's three fairy godmothers. It's the butterflies that constantly remind me of the journey, staying within the moment, struck by the beauty of the land, the greenness of the grass, the trees, the red of the clay dirt, the blues of the sky; the rooftops, the paint, the pastels of the butterflies, the greys of the distant rock, browns of waterfalls, skin sun kissed, wooden beams, whites of the smiling children. Brightly painted spiritual flowers, road markers, long roads stretching, mirages, tree silhouetted shadows, workers in the fields waving. Amazing.