Back on the road in Laos

With my nose pressed against the airplane window, I watched the sun drop down below grey candy floss clouds earlier this evening. As the turbulence pitched us up and down for a few brief moments, my toes twitched in their socks and the imposed face mask scratched at my cheek.

The fading golden disc of fiery heat closed inwards to a final, gasping dot of colour. I wanted it to come with me, to touch down on the tarmac two miles ahead, walk with me off the sky deck and onto the fusty, carpeted walkway into Vientiane’s arrivals terminal.

I could have pocketed that bright, baby orb of light, as it dwelt for five more seconds over the horizon skirting. But, instead, I blinked and it was gone.

Later, I was stood by the baggage carousel, checking the notes I needed to change at the counter nearby. There was a comforting familiarity in the metallic surfaces around me, the garish advertising and the random assortment of backpackers and silver haired tourists shuffling past.

Who was watching my sun now? I wondered.

It was Christmas Day, almost 3 months ago now, that Issy and I were last in Laos. Our pre-wedding honeymoon, in Luang Prabang – a week of chilly morning hillside treks, and afternoon card games by the Mekong River.

Between then and now I’ve enough memories and stories to fill a dozen blog posts. Our wedding celebrations in Galle provided the perfect, sustained segueing celebrations between 2019 and 2020. A daily barrage of unique sensations and delights, as we were surrounded by special people and blessed by all that Sri Lanka has to offer.

For another time, with photos and reflections, I will try and paint in more detail how those fabulous days unfolded…

For now, for tonight, I am satiated by the privilege of travel, and the upcoming delivery of a week’s work ahead.

Interlaced between these weeks and months of crashing daily media about Covid-19, the girls have been off school since they closed at Tet, I’ve been setting up my new venture (www.coracleconsulting.net) and excitedly started agreeing work contracts, only to then disappointingly lose them to the virus. And alongside this we’ve been firming plans for a future move to Australia. The year, as most will concur, has not been without its “interesting” moments already.

But for now, for tonight (and until otherwise instructed!) I am here in Vientiane.

A city somewhat left behind from the accelerated growth that other Asian countries have enjoyed. A city of charm and hospitality. A city, it turns out, with seemingly very few face mask wearers and, as I remember it from my last visit, a city where things take their time. Laos PDR, we were informed over our Christmas “pre-moon”, stands for Laos ‘Please Don’t Rush.’

I don’t think I will. For now.

 

 

 

 

It was Christmas Day almost 3 months ago now that Issy and I were last in Laos. Our pre-wedding honeymoon, a week of chilly morning hillside treks,

 

Rajasthani Rooster

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Smoke o’clock, Jodhpur

Indeed, the title of this post makes no sense really, without the additional footnote that, back in January during Chinese New Year (Rooster year) Issy and I took a trip to Rajasthan.

In fact, I’d set up these photos and curated that catchy title whilst we were on our flight home and yet had just not quite managed to write up some lines to glue the images and the memories all together – until now.

If my most recent work trip to West Bank and Gaza, earlier this month, already feels like a hazy memory, then the brain is really scratching around looking for the according nodules of recollection which house the sights, sounds and sensations that we experienced in India, four months back.

What does immediately come to mind is what a relatively seamless expedition we managed – 1,500 kms in 6 days from Jaipur to Jaisalmer, and back again – before closing out by dropping in at the Taj Mahal for a final day’s soak up of one of the world’s most iconic sites.

Getting around Rajasthan is fairly simple and affordable. The trains are a great experience, and we also lucked out with a wonderful driver and hire car for most of our trip “out west”.      Continue reading

Wanderlusting

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Sunset on Dili beach, Timor-Leste
I double checked the meaning of Wanderlust – which turns out to be the “strong desire for, or impulse to, wander or travel and explore the world”.

Since running off to Uganda when I was 21 years old, in the absence of having any more concrete a plan for how to handle life after university, I’d say my Wanderlust levels have remained piqued ever since.

No doubt some genetic influence from my parents helped fuel my appetite for getting out and “seeing the world”. In reading Dr Suess poems to my daughters (as well as flying them off to different countries almost every school holiday) I suppose instinctively it feels appropriate to want to pass on that particular piece of DNA, connected to wandering, to them also.

Over the past five years, even without that DNA, the travel I’ve undertaken as part of my job has secured for me a schedule for which any aspiring “Wanderluster” would have been thrilled.

As someone working in international development, I can’t quite settle my mind about how conflated my footprint and actions in the world are. Choosing to direct my career into finding better ways to serve the poor, whilst simultaneously responsible for emitting more carbon in an average month than the output my entire family back in the UK manage in a year (ok, Mum and Dad are relatively guilty on the carbon too, but I wanted the analogy to sound extreme!)      Continue reading