Thursday, 17 September 2015

Baking in Luang Prabang

A Guest Post by the other Sloth....

While John studies hard for his CELTA certificate (more about that in a minute), I've offered to up-date the blog for John otherwise it could be 2016 before the next entry.

We spent 6 weeks at the Yellow House in Luang Prabang and when I think back it's quite hard to remember exactly what we did for all that time. Days were hot and humid, sometimes the clouds built up for a great tropical downpour and occasionally there were dramatic thunderstorms with pink lightning and ear-shattering thunderclaps. I mean it didn't just rain, it was always an event. A major plus for us was having a real kitchen with an oven - a kitchen applicance that it's hard to replicate when cycling and camping. I discovered the best markets for fruit and veg, found the bakery selling baguettes (a relic of French colonial times) and a shop selling some "foreign goods" (at foreign prices of course).  I cycled the 4 kms into town daily to buy whatever looked good and brought it home for John to turn it into something delicious. We feasted on pizzas, quiches, we made chips (sort of), banana cake and chocolate brownies!! I created colourful, tropical fruit salads by the bucketful. Finding an almost full bottle of gin in the cupboard just added to our glee  (we knew our dear friends wouldn't mind, the French don't drink gin, do they?).

Luang Prabang's a sleepy place but also a "must-see" destination for all those backpackers having an adventure out of Thailand. It's not hard to see why people come....there are the beautiful old wats (temples), the Mekong River, a busy night market selling handicrafts (mostly stuff from Thailand and China) and enough restaurants and hotels to accomodate the regular flow of western, Chinese, Korean & Japanese tourists and backpackers passing through. Luckily it was low-season so the sleepy pace of life felt even sleepier and our Yellow House was away from the old town down a bumpy dirt road.

We visited Ock Pop Tok, a local weaving and handicraft centre, set up by 2 women, one local and one British, to promote and showcase Lao textiles along with designing and creating beautiful things with these textiles. We also visited Big Brother Mouse to help out with some voluntary English conversation classes. Big Brother Mouse is a Lao-owned project set up by an American publisher to bring books to Laos (many children have never read a book apart from school textbooks). They publish books, give them to schools for free and throw rural book parties!! Many monks came to the conversation classes along with the other students and it was our chance to ask them about life as a monk in Laos.

As the days went by we tried to catch-up with family, friends and events back at home using Skype a lot, e-mailing and listening in to Radio 4. The other thing we did was think about what next.....? We've been on the road since July 2012.....more than 3 years. Maybe we need a break from cycling....? Funds are substantially depleted since we left home and need an urgent boost. What we really want is to pause and during that pause reflect on what we've done so far, get excited about new places to come, become part of a place for a while (we always seem to be saying goodbyes) and earn some money. Of course we knew we'd reach this point when we left home and have been here before. So, time to try something different. We'll look for jobs teaching English in China. I already have a CELTA certifcate (the best qualification to have when you're an inexperienced but hopeful applicant for TEFL jobs) and some quick research came up with a school in Chiang Mai where John can do his CELTA. He applied, was interviewed on-line and got a place for the course begining in early October. So, Chiang Mai, here we come.

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