Up to this point on my Southeast Asian Adventure, I had been sick on a motorbike, on a cliff, and on a speedboat. Thanks to the adverse side effects of malaria pills, I soon added a longboat and a bus to the list after I crossed over the Mekong into Laos. This time it was a normal bus, no tranny bus stewardess or “Best Friend Companion” snack boxes or bathrooms for me. Just 8 painful, winding, bumpy hours before I arrived in Luang Namtha, where I expected nothing more than a place to stretch my legs and rest my head.
I was making my way to Luang Prabang to do some trekking, so despite my uneasy stomach I decided I needed to get out and get some exercise before another full day of travel. Some friends were renting bikes to go check out a nearby waterfall, so I decided I would run and meet them there. (I got hoes in different area codes. Except, well, our relationships are purely platonic. And they are not hoes. I’m sorry I said that. That’s offensive.)
Now, I don’t know what you know about Asian cultures, but I can tell you this much: people don’t often run, casually, just for the hell of it. Me being tall, fair-skinned and blonde running through this village was a bit like me heralding my own parade. Despite the fact that this casual run turned out to be 6 miles, I was loving every minute of it, exchanging “Sabadei!”s with various villagers as I struggled up hills on rocky terrain on my way to the waterfall.
On my way back, I passed a group of girls who just couldn’t contain their giggles at the sight of me running past them. Now I’m not sure if they were mocking me or just trying to see where I was off to in such a hurry, but after I passed them they started running after me, gathering more and more kids as we made our way down the dusty village road. It was the Laos version of the scene in Forest Gump where he runs across the country with hundreds of hippies following him just to figure out why he was running. I might not have noticed they were behind me for a while, but luckily a friend was biking back from the waterfall and was able to capture this shot.
It wasn’t long before I could tell the kids were getting tired, so I stopped to smile and laugh with them, as our words were meaningless to each other. I tried to motion to “high five” one of them, but not understanding she adorably clapped her own hands together. Once I showed them what I meant, you would have thought I had just given them the best present ever as they squealed in delight, repeatedly high-fiving each other and me until they were shaking the sting from their hands. I had not expected much to happen in Luang Namtha, but more than all the big adventures, it’s the tiny, unexpected moments like these that keep me on the road.