In the last post I reported suddenly finding myself penniless. I was waiting, waiting for MasterCard’s “Emergency” Cash. As the days slipped by, the prospect of living under a tree in a foreign country eating nuts, berries and leaves was a daunting one! But what happened next was like one of those rags to riches stories. This time I was living it.
Laos was never on my destination list. You think of South East Asia and either Vietnam or Thailand immediately rises to the top. Most people don’t even know where Laos is.
Unfortunately it’s another one of those countries with a dark past. Laos has been the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. For nine years to 1973, the U.S. dropped the equivalent to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day on the country.
I’d heard along the way about this city in the north of the country. I couldn’t even pronounce the name. But the inside information was you have to go there. And that’s what I did. And what I found was probably one of the nicest places I’d gap yeared to. Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang has a magical blend of French influence infused into Asia. Now I don’t care what the English say about the French. But you gotta give it to the French. They got taste. And that’s what they left behind here back in the 19th century. Luang Prabang is outstanding for both its rich architectural and artistic heritage. You soon experience this just walking around the streets. With the Mekong River winding its way around the city, it’s at night when its beauty really shines. The streets lined with restaurants and guest houses come to life at night fall as the trees and buildings tastefully light up. Blending together with the tropical night air to form the perfect setting to dine or chat over a drink. The city thankfully misses the pub street partying atmosphere of the more popular tourist hot spots. Instead a slower paced ambience that not only glistens at night but entices a casual meandering stroll or bicycle ride through its streets. Stopping off for a coffee at a French patisserie or a beer in a bar, if not just simply to take it all in.
It’s clearly been a well kept secret. Fellow Perth Rotarian club members have been coming to Laos for years through their Global Hands Charity organisation. They’ve shown me photos of them mixing cement, building dormitories, handing out hearing aids to deaf kids, fixing bicycles. Totally dedicated and admirable voluntary work they do. But showing me photos of Luang Prabang, as I only now found out they’ve been going to. Oh no. Not a word about Luang Prabang. Clearly there’s been a pact to keep this secret well under wraps. Maybe it’s because they too discovered the millionaire lifestyle I suddenly found myself in.
It may have taken a while but when MasterCard finally delivered, I too was suddenly live’n the life. From penniless to the life of a multimillionaire. At one point I peaked at 2.6 mil. Suddenly I found out what it was like living the life of the high rollers. If a top quality coffee cost a few grand, so what. Dining in one of the most beautiful settings you could imagine on the waters edge. Another few ten grand here and there. It was there to be enjoyed.
I was now also obviously amongst the elite and famous in this well kept secret Asian hideaway. Like world famous Kama Sutra. I realised that early one morning when I discovered he was staying in the room above me. I was woken suddenly just before 4am. Like most of the guest houses, they are a wooden construction. He was either just getting home or, was just firing up. Now there’s no chandeliers in our rooms. But clearly that wasn’t stopping our friend Kama Sutra. I soon learnt there were more creative uses of floor boards than I could ever imagined. Each move of his prowess boomed from the building like a giant boom box blasting across the town in the still air of the night.
But just like ol’ Kama Sutra in the room above me, all good things eventually come to an end. It was also time for me to leave. And so was my millionaire lifestyle. I still had a mil left. But after exchanging back to dollars, I wondered where else my now hundred dollars may once again bulge my pocket with such sudden wealth. If not at least to once again provide that same millionaire feeling.
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