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language barrier

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

overall i haven’t had much of a problem getting around not speaking the language in hong kong or thailand, but here in laos things are tricky sometimes! lao and thai are very similar, and most lao people understand thai, which is good because i learned quite a bit of thai in the last few weeks. and often here, i’m mistaken for lao because a majority of the tourists i’ve met are french and very fair-skinned, so a lot of times locals start off speaking to me in lao and i have to tell them that i don’t understand. often though, i find myself mixing the two up, and sometimes i’m just at a loss without a phrasebook, or even sometimes with it!

as most people will tell you, a smile and trying out a few words will often elicit a friendly response in return, often in english, and if all else fails you can always try sign language. but this yesterday i found myself in a position where was so frustrated that i gave up! (and i HATE giving up!)
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point A to point B

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

the variety of ways to travel in southeast asia are enough to give even the seasoned traveler a huge headache! but sometimes figuring out the best way to get from point A to point B can be fun! and sometimes it changes your entire itinerary!

i arrived in the capital of laos, vientiane, a few days ago after a 3-hour ride on a so called “VIP” bus from vang vieng that felt more like a sauna on wheels. there were only tourists/backpackers crammed into the bus, leading me to believe we’d all been ripped off. (if you see NO locals on the transport option you’ve chosen, that’s a serious red flag in terms of how much you paid!) and besides being relatively expensive (i guess i can’t really call $6 expensive, can i?) it was just sooo hot. they said it had A/C but i don’t think it even worked. luckily i only had a duffel bag with me – i’ve been traveling with just a small bag for the last 6 weeks, leaving my suitcase in bangkok – so i was able to keep it on the ground near my seat. the luggage holds underneath the bus were crammed to capacity with huge backpacks and occasionally a few suitcases. there were STILL more packs crammed into the aisles of the bus so that to get out at our rest stop, i had to climb over about 7 or 8 of them just to get to the front of the bus!
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