At the moment I'm taking advantage of rare contact with a computer courtesy of the hostel, which affords the luxury of typing on something other than my phone. I'm feeling rather guilty about this, given the blazing sunshine outside and it being the last of our three days in a town (Luang Prabang) which undoubtedly merits more. Nevertheless, a kind of saturation point has been reached - one gets to the point where only so much visual stimulus and culture can be absorbed before feeling like a pair of eyes wandering aimlessly while the same old thoughts trundle on beneath. Already we are a third of the way through this 6 month trip, and although it feels like it only really started properly when we entered Laos just over a week ago (Vietnam was the polar opposite of this country, extremely hectic), we ask ourselves - what is changing? One of the main things I was curious about was how my thoughts would respond to being freed from the 9-5 routine, like mental blinkers being removed. But despite more interesting dreams (for me, at least), generally the same old preoccupations remain despite the physical distance...you take yourself with you, after all!
We had good intentions about engaging more with the culture of these countries, in addition to doing some form of voluntary work(s), but I am ashamed to confess that either of these have yet to truly materialise. In terms of the culture, this was possibly a naive expectation given that however much one thinks of oneself as a traveller, one is really only ever a tourist. We stayed in a village homestay with native tribespeople in the north Vietnam mountains, but the experience was purely a commercial one; and given the disparity in incomes between both parties it will only ever be thus. It is possible to view traditional dance, music and theatre in all of these places of course; but the shows accessible are designed for tourists. As for the voluntary work, anything physical has been ruled out by the heat! We've found a fantastic literacy project here in Laos, as well as trundled down to the local library to donate to their initiative whereby one can buy books which they distribute once a month by boat to remote villages. Getting involved in any depth is slightly hampered by the fact that we rarely stay in one place for more than three days, but the overwhelming impression is that these projects need money more than anything else. So in a way, it's really helpful to see firsthand what these projects are achieving; and we fully intend to donate more fulsomely once we're back and earning again next year. (Amusing aside re: the library - it is full of Buddhist monks on the computers, all on Facebook!)
Well, tomorrow it is Xmas and we will be moving on somewhere different again; with new thoughts, impressions, and experiences to come...only a fraction of which will ever make it onto here; as writing notes from each day, going through the photos, and keeping the blog fully up to date could genuinely keep us occupied for much of the time we are out here; it is difficult to get the balance between experiencing and recording! In any case, merry Xmas to everyone that is reading