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An LP Afternoon

An LP Afternoon

(Note: LP means Luang Prabang. The biggest and most popular city in northern Laos.)

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Nam Ou River valley near Luang Prabang, Laos

The air is molten when the sun shines. The breath you take is hot in your throat, and the thought of movement brings sweat to your brow. Clouds are all around, threatening the forever blue of the afternoon paradise sky. There is no wind here. The air is quieter than a held breath.

And a rooster crows.

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A young monk sweeping up leaves. Many young boys in Laos go to monastery’s to get a good education

I got a shave earlier and rode into town on my bike in search of a tire. I bought one straight from the rim of a rental bike. It isn’t perfect but it will do the job. I know I overpaid but the alternatives were to have no tire at all and have to boat and bus it for the last days of my vacation, or use a skinny little racing tire to try and get me back to Chiang Mai and risk being stuck in the middle of nowhere where the only available rubber might be that drained slowly from the body of a tree.

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A traditional Laos attack boat. The boat is similar to Chinese dragon boats but longer and with a different bow.

Cicadas in the trees sing their endless song: a melody that provides the backdrop to every “we’re in the jungle,” movie that has ever been shown. This is not a stereotype. This is who they are. They are the omnipresent voice of the jungle. Except under the weight of rain. When the rain falls hard they withdraw waiting into some dry hidden vale. When the showers end they sing, and the brighter the sky the louder they sing until under the blinding heat of inferno they scream to the heavens as if they were the unrepentant whose flesh was being seared from their very bones. The hum drops to a sustainable buzz when the fire relents.

And a rooster crows.

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A view of Luang Prabang from atop Mount Phousi

Over here a bird is chirping. Its call is the chirrup of sharply fired missiles. Another responds in the staccato of medium range weaponry: a retort slightly higher in pitch, and lesser in power. The play goes back and forth harmlessly like the bang, bang, bang of children shooting from their pointed fingers. Cops and robbers. The good guys and the bad guys. The light and the dark locked in endless battle for a supremacy that doesn’t exist.

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Just outside LP my route soon became a broken wet and muddy path

The next sound is a plane flying in out of the southwest, it’s engines a descending scream. You focus on the sound and with no conscious effort your breath has fallen in time with it and you exhale slowly trying to match the remaining volume of your breath to the life remaining in the sound of the airplane. You follow the sound to the northeast as it drops from a high pitch to a rumble. The rumble becomes a low drone and then fades farther and farther away until you are sure it must have disappeared by now but somehow you can still hear it and could go on hearing it forever if only you could let out your breath that long.

And a rooster crows.

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A fisherman at work in the Mekong

Even the deadest air must breathe occasionally to continue its claim to existence. A breeze moves through that disturbs the leaves on the trees and the dry grass upon the walkway, sending them shuffling in a hiss like a thousand straw skirts.

And somewhere in the distance a rooster crows.

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A lot of the architecture in LP reflects the French colonial period in Laos from 1893 to 1953

 

6 Responses to “An LP Afternoon”

  1. Mom & Dad

    Beautiful Pierre, well done. As I was reading I tried to visualize the scenes & sounds you described. Love reading about your experiences looking forward to more & love all the pics. xoxoxo

    Reply
  2. Viola

    You are a wonderful writer! Looking forward to that first book.😀

    Reply
  3. Bride

    Absolutely beautiful. I really enjoyed reading it. Looking forward to reading more articles and seeing more pictures as soon as they become available.

    Reply
    • Pierre

      Glad you enjoyed it Bride. I really enjoyed writing this one. It came fast and easy. all I did was listen. I hope to have something else for everyone soon

      Reply

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