Playing Forest Gump in Laos

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.

Stopping off at a Roadside Market on the Long Journey

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.

I don't normally smile when I run. Then again I don't normally run.

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.

Just like Tom Hanks

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.

11 thoughts on “Playing Forest Gump in Laos

  1. You have been in such beautifull place, far away of your country, thats brave.! So, I think that is wonderful to you, travel frequently… I can figured that it’s a bless be there and enjoy that kind of things. Luang Namtha sounds such a peaceful, quite and small place and you can learn about their culture.
    I have never traveled to Asian and for some reasons that I don’t know right now, I don’t like the idea to travel there but you showed me a little bit about it. I would like to know in what part of Asian you were because You didn’t say it but sounds difficult to reach.

    However you have to be more careful to the thing that you eat there, maybe it’s sounds strange but Asians eats a lot of rare stuffs.!! hahahhahaha So be careful the next time.!


  2. Shannon Gump, jajajajaja

    What a beautiful tale!!! I would like to travel and do things like this. Most of the time, children are those who can tell us about the culture of every country, and there we can find the happines.

    Talking about high five, Just because of the program with the same name, I learnt about High-five or give me five, so I understand those children who don’t know what to do in that situation. I think your run was so funny and a litlle tired, din’t it?

    I f you have more pictures of this place, please uploadead.


  3. Asia! I can’t imagine how is that! Well you already gave all of us an idea. It would be so nice to be there and share the people’s culture and idiosyncrasy. As you describe it, it sound so peaceful and simple! I think that this kind of experience becomes you more sensitive and helps you to appreciate more the simple things. It’s a dream of mine go to that places!
    I’m sorry about your stomach, but maybe is part of the adventure! Please keep showing us your experiences.


  4. I never thought that going for a run was such a different activity for some people. It’s interesting how all of our cultures are so different. But I love the humility of some cultures. That a simple run through the village can be so amazing and can feel them with joy.

  5. Wow!!!! … I’d like to travel like u but there are a lot of excuse to not to do it 😛 … I don’t like running because a have a serious problem with cigarettes jajaja… But all your travels look like so exciting someday I will try that but is not sure 🙂

  6. Hi Shannon
    I think this trip was fun for you as it almost always smile with children and especially when I say something funny in class but that is life, we have to enjoy it to the fullest because there only one chance in life to achieve all your achievements and goals and I hope you continue smiling because as hisistes with children who did not know if they were making fun of you or wonder where you get so many smiles.

  7. ohhhh….Forest Gump in Laos?

    Wouuu.. Interesting trip…. oh!. Shannon how did you feel in that marathon among the childrens….
    It is interesting how we can express diferents things and it dosen`t matter if you speak the same language the most inportant thing is the way and the feeling in that you said that.

  8. oh my God, Some day I will like to go there. I think that the experience tath you had were amazing. I can imagine the wonderful time that you had and the feeling when you were running and see that a children were running to. You are a great adventure person. You must to continue doing this fun activities and meeting more people. I wish you can still doing this thinks,Only that you have to be more carefully when you eat something strange.

  9. HI, Shannon
    This post has one of the most beautiful stories I´ve ever read. This one , definitely, deserves a big applause from the audience =). I´m sure it must have been one of those moments in life when you see the simplicity of life showing up. The girls shouldn´t have had any idea why you were jogging or why they were jogging behind you, but they just wanted to laugh. Can you believe it? Just laugh. I´ve seen this spontaneous acts in Ecuador also, and had made me cry because I can´t see where the world lost its way. Life is so simple and beautiful that it decided to appear in a group of girls following and hi fiving a blonde runner. Lovely.

  10. Hi Shannon
    I think that travel to another country where you don’t know nothing about the culture and the language is hard, but if you have a big spirit vagabond you can do all tips of travel, an special travel. I saw the movie Forest Gump, and you should feel really good when few people ran with you, sounds crazy, but I want do something like some time. Travel to the southeast asia sounds dangerous because the diseases are really dangerous in this part of the world but see new places sounds really interesting and beautiful.

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