Blowing away the cobwebs

While Yangon continues to bake, I am finally able to post this, written during my offline Thingyan break in the Luang Prabang hills,10 April 2016

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I don’t think I have ever flown quite so close to the hills as we did on the descent into Luang Prabang yesterday afternoon. Even in the many flights I took while in the five and a half years I lived and worked in Nepal, I believe. As we flew northerly across the Thai border into Lao airspace, we passed through thick air which buffeted the little plane alarmingly. As we approached Luang Prabang, we descended below the tops of the hills, so near I could make out the individual trees quite easily. So close that I found it easier to look away than to admire the stunning landscape we were flying through. In no time the river appeared below us and it was reassuring to see that we were in the valley and not headed towards a hillside.

I was leaving Yangon and Myanmar’s Thingyan Water Festival, and Thailand’s Songkran far behind to escape once more into the Laos hills where their Pi Mai water festival would be carrying on in full swing all around but not in the little haven I was headed for.

I finally packed up from work on Thursday evening, heading home carrying a plastic bag with dripping wet clothes, the ones I had worn to work that morning. The clothes which were unhesitatingly drenched by laughing colleagues in the Water Festival celebrations which had been planned. Not an indoor celebration with music and gentle but increasing sprinkling with water as there had been in previous years. The general exuberance which has been in the air since November, and particularly since the new government took over power on 1 April has only grown. This year’s water festivals are sure to see only increased celebrations. This year the party was held outside, so there was no need to be sparing with the drenchings of fellow colleagues. Within minutes of my appearance, I had had water poured over me from all directions and before I knew it, I was joining in with the laughter and water throwing. I still had work to finish and at that point in time, I knew that the only thing I could possibly do was to cross that bridge when I came to it, with all of its water puns intended. My boss and I had headed out to join the fun briefly and returned laughing and dripping, standing in the scorching sun a few minutes to try and take away the worst of the excess water. I remembered my “emergency lyongyi” which I kept in my desk, especially from the days when the taxis almost always had wet seats in rainy season and a change of clothes was needed on arrival at work after a taxi ride. I also had a t-shirt, and so was at least able to change a dry top layer, even if other layers were wetter than soggy.

I left Yangon early the following morning, Friday 8 April, knowing that the airport would be busy but not expecting the crowds that were there already. I can usually pass through Yangon’s check-in and immigration and be heading for a cup of tea in around 20 minutes. The line at even the priority check in lane was longer than I had ever seen there and it took around 45 minutes to get through. The scene at immigration was no less crowded and another half an hour was spent there. Arrival in Bangkok was no less busy – I march in autopilot towards immigration there clutching a very precious pass for the priority lane (oh thank you, Bangkok Airways for recognising the many flights I take with you) and came nose to nose with an official holding a sign which read “Immigration full” and directing passengers to the other immigration section. I waved my pass hopefully, and in response he waved me off in another direction. Immigration was indeed completely full.

My afternoon in Bangkok was spent catching up with a number of tasks personal and professional to take care of before I headed quite literally to the hills and offline for over a week. Offline completely, no internet and no phone signal. That is a rare and precious thing in today’s world. And not fully understood. So I have prepped my email address to send out a message saying that I really truly will not see this, and a message on social media to the same effect. I have left the phone number of the lodge with my immediate family, along with the email of the owner. Just in case. Just how we used to do long ago before we had connectivity on multiple devices in the most obscure of locations.

As I boarded my flight in Bangkok the next morning, I turned off my phone and said goodbye to the outside world for over a week. Ready to greet the simplicity and complexity of nature where I can recharge my depleted energy stores, and allow my creativity to be inspired. Time to blow away the cobwebs and refresh my physical and emotional being.

Pi Mai has not yet started in Laos officially, but all the way up into the hills there were groups of children at the roadside in the villages, with buckets and basins to throw at passing travellers.

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The air of Luang Prabang was as hot and oppressive as that in Yangon and although it cleared somewhat higher in the hills, it was still incredibly hot and heavy. I had slept badly yet again the previous night in anticipation of a very early start and was particularly tired. After settling in I succumbed to the call of the chance to lie down, read and nap. I cannot have nodded off for long, but I was woken by an awareness that the light had changed and taken on a more deep, mellow hue. And then I heard a wonderful, unexpected and sweet sound. Raindrops. Really? If it was raining, there was one thing I had to do immediately. I dragged myself up, pulled out my swimsuit and within five minutes was in the pool. The raindrops had already receded but the air was different, less tired and with a hint of promise.

The pool water was cooler than I remembered from last time, but within moments my surprised skin had recovered and I could luxuriate in the coolness, even though the sun was higher in the sky that it is usually when I swim. Wispy, moody clouds attempting to mask it from time to time and throwing slanted rays of light across the skies. When I climbed out of the pool an hour later, I was convinced it must be early evening and was surprised that the afternoon was still fairly young.

It was barely 6 in the evening when I decided that my hunger could no longer be quelled and I settled to listen to the evening critters sing, and to watch the light change and fade on the little balcony outside the dining area. As I wandered down the path from my room, I passed a strangely shaped spider above my head, working on his cobweb. I paused to watch him for a few moments watching him, thinking to take his picture at some point so I could remember that I had seen such a strange little spaceship-shaped being. There was plenty of time. I have days ahead so no rush to do this when my stomach was reminding it had been many hours since I had eaten.

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While I was eating my meal, I could hear distant rumbles. Perhaps a storm was forming and teasing a neighbouring hillside? As darkness fell, the occasional distant shaft of light would seem to appear, but not for long enough to confirm a storm. Until gradually, the light show increased, and the thunder drew closer. A dramatic performance developed as the lightning threw its beams from different parts of the sky, communicating some message or argument and lighting up the hidden valleys and layers of hillside unseen in the light of day, silhouetting individual trees in shades of silver and sepia. The gentle breeze gathered speed and energy as it too joined the performance and promised more action. And then we heard that noise again. A few large raindrops, gathering speed until we felt the skies finally release some of that moisture it had been cradling and nurturing for weeks. The lights went out, and I could feel the valley smile as nature reminded us who is in charge and holds the real power. I don’t know how long I sat in my own silence, mesmerised by the storm, captivated at the component parts playing out their roles with passion and energy.

No wonder my flight had been so bumpy when the air had been so charged with energy.

Gradually the storm moved towards the next valley and I picked up my sodden shoes and walked up to my room. It was barely after 8 pm and I wanted to sleep. I read for a few minutes before sleep took over with a dream filled sleep.

I woke after around 12 hours after I had drifted off, with no need for middle of the night meditations to distract an overactive mind as I regularly do. I looked out of my window, to a day of promise and tranquility. I could hear the birds and crickets tempting me to rouse myself properly. I caught sight of the pool, its waters still and the sun low enough to throw a little shade.

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As I stepped towards the pool down the path, I glanced upwards at the place where the strangely shaped spider had been busy the evening before. He was gone. There was just one fine strand of fresh filament strung across the space between the branches. The little spider’s intricate web was no longer there, and nor was he.

While just a few branches away, I almost missed a massive, flamboyant spider whose web had survived the storm. Larger than a human head, he sat silently on his web, suspended from a nearby branch. I scurried onward, towards my swim under the watchful eye of one of the biggest spiders I have seen in my life.

Hillside Spider

Oh, I had indeed come to the right place for the cobwebs to be blown away and the mind and body to be refreshed.

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Realise – a review and a commitment

I have written in recent weeks, about my three words for the year. That has surprised me a little, as I usually revisit them later in the year to take the pulse on how they are working. But this year, there has been an unexpected nudge to check in early in the year.

Perhaps there is a greater need than ever for me to be guided by my words, and this is why prompts have come my way. And a lunar eclipse is a pretty impressive prompt!

It is especially timely for me to talk about my third word, realise. And I need to muster a little courage for this.

I have been writing this in my hideaway in the Laos hills, in the space where I found peace, inspiration and healing over the New Year. We have a week of leave over the Thingyan Water Festival and New Year, in Myannar, and I knew that I needed an escape from the intensity of recent weeks and months, and from the watery mayhem which takes over much of the region. As soon as the medical checks were over and Dr W2 and his flowery Songkran shirt had given me welcome news, I moved to firm up arrangements for a break I eagerly sought back in the hills near Luang Prabang.

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The perfect creative space.

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This is a very special space, not for everyone. If you are seeking entertainment and sophistication, gala dinners and spectacle then this is probably not for you. Entertainment is largely self made – there are treks to nearby villages, waterfalls and hillsides, a swimming pool and surroundings which draw serious numbers of butterflies which need to be watched as they go about their butterfly work. There are games such as scrabble, and puzzles. The food menu does not span a large number of pages, but the food is fresh, delicious and the vegetables grown in the organisc farm which is part of the project. Here there is no television, but there is a small library with books in a number of languages. Here there are no selfie sticks and gadgets are rare. People chat instead of gazing into smartphones while their thumbs do aerobics. In fact there is not even any wifi here so it is truly disconnected from the buzz of the outside and online world. And I find that enormously refreshing.

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This is a truly tranquil space, and I occupy my time by walking, swimming (the temperatures are much warmer now and the water welcoming), photographing butterflies, reading and writing. I have especially been writing, and writing in such an inspiring place, where the distractions are mainly in the form of butterflies.

And that is where realise comes in. I have promised to myself that I will deliver on my main writing project by the end of the year. This is where I need courage because if I share here what my plan is, then I have an additional responsibility to make it real and deliver.

So here goes. Deep breath………

I have alluded in passing to my writing goal. Publication of Dragonfruit last year was a major life achievement for me, in having some of my writing appear in a proper book. This has pushed me to take this a stage further and produce a book with my name on the front and that is what I have been working on in the Laos hills, in tea shops in Yangon and green and inspiring spaces such as Bago.

Now I want to share a little more detail as the work takes shape.

There are two key aspects to this memoir. Firstly, insights and accounts of life and work in the 2009/10 Myanmar when none of us had any inkling of the changes ahead are told through my first year there and accounts of ways of life which have evaporated and disappeared. And of course, the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in this setting.

My aim is to produce a memoir of (a little over) my first year in Myanmar. It will span from June 2009 when we were waiting for our paperwork, through settling in Myanmar when things were very different, travelling extensively through the country in my first three months before being diagnosed with breast cancer. The work then charts the experience of single-breasted, bald, wheelchair-using, frequent flier commuting between Yangon and Bangkok for treatment, in an environment where I did not speak the language, and there were considerable practical, logistical and paperwork challenges. The memoir takes us through to November 2010 and my first visit to Bangkok following treatment which is not for medical reasons, as the world watches the Lady, Aung San Suu Kyi being released from house arrest following the first elections in two decades in Myanmar.

Back when I was diagnosed in October 2009, I don’t think that anyone had any idea of the changes ahead either personally or contextually. This is a combined account of a country facing unexpected and enormous change, and that of an individual woman facing an unexpected journey. In addition to sharing the detail of the disease and the treatment, this memoir will delve into the emotional and psychological facets of a cancer diagnosis and the unexpected elements – special friendships formed through a common cancer experience, the world of internet cancer and social media and its role in 21st century cancer yet in an environment which was closed and enigmatic to the outside world. A real example of tropical cancer, and in fact cancer in the unknown and mysterious Myanmar/Burma.

Living in Myanmar (Burma) and being treated in Bangkok provided a background ranging from the amusing – (such as trying to find a prosthesis when the market is focused on perky boobs which are perhaps more targeted for Thai Lady Boys, or a wig when the colour options are black or black making a chemo pale foreigner look like a Goth or aging rock star) – to the heart rending (being on the other side of the planet from family, the shock and disbelief upon hearing the cancer word), and to the bizarre (undergoing radiation therapy while Bangkok was on the international stage during the “Red Shirt” protests in May 2010) when Bangkok erupted in violence and flames which caused additional stress and uncertainty and added an unexpected perspective to those days.

I have a working title for the memoir, which needs a little refining before I can share, but here is a clue…

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The commitment I have made to myself to realise, is to produce a draft manuscript for the end of the year. To be a maor step forward in making this real. 

LP butterflies 2The Laos hills and their butterflies have provided a particularly inspirational space to take this forward considerably away from the distractions of the outside world.

Return to Luang Prabang

Descending in to Luang Prabang reminded me vividly of flights into and within Nepal. Dramatic hill ranges, covered in verdant foliage, wispy bands of mist, as far as the eye can see. Holding my breath, afraid to look, as the hills are near enough to touch, yet unable to take my eyes away from the compelling scene. These Asian hills are iconic. I first saw these in China, rumpled layers of green folding into each other, steeply reaching skywards.

LPQ2Such was the scene just before the first days of 2015, as our little plane navigated carefully through the hills down onto Luang Prabang’s runway, the sun nestling on the hilltops, as passengers spilled out of our delayed flight into the new terminal building and to the “visa on arrival” queue.

It had been 13 years since I last visited Luang Prabang, in fact since I first visited Luang Prabang if truth be told, back when I was living and working in Nepal in January 2002.

Funnily enough, I travelled from Myanmar via Bangkok last time too, though my transportation from Bangkok was considerably different, and that I realise is really why it has taken me 13 years to come back.

Back in 2002, I took the overnight train from Bangkok’s Hualamphong train station up to Nong Khai on the Thai Lao border. This was my first experience of overnight Thai trains and they certainly provided a high benchmark to reach. Perfectly safe for a lone woman traveller, with each set of seats transforming as evening fell, into a couchette type of bed.  Crisp white sheets were provided by the train crew and each “bed” was separated by a little blue curtain. With my small bag with passport, money and the usual valuables attached to my wrist and secured under my pillow I felt perfectly safe and was able to sleep soundly.

I woke a little before we drew slowly into Nong Khai in the early morning sunshine and followed the band of folks heading over the Friendship Bridge into Laos, getting our visas at the booth on the Thai side of the bridge and catching one of the tuk tuks into Vientiane.

I spent the day exploring Vientiane and that evening met up with folks from the Laos office of the organisation I was working for then, included in a supper they were having near my guest house. I had been planning to travel onwards and was glad to have the chance to ask them critical advice for the next part of my trip. I planned to head the following day to languid Luang Prabang, with its old world charm, a gem situated at the confluence of the Mekong and the Nam Khan River in northern Laos. Surrounded by those dramatic green folding hills and renown for its gilded wats, saffron-clad monks, faded Indochinese villas, and exquisite Gallic cuisine it has almost mythical status. Luang Prabang is a unique place where time seems to stand still.

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LP blog 4LP blog 6LP blog 2I am a rather nervous bus traveller and did not relish the thought of ten hours of windiness, hairpin mountain roads and having to hold my breath too often, having left a similar scenario back in Nepal. Similarly, though, I was well used to mountain flights and knew that they too were precarious. So advice from my companions, long time Laos residents, was very welcome.

“Flying is the best way,” I was told. “If you fly into Luang Prabang, they only fly ATRs, so you’ll be fine. They fly Y7s and Y12s into the other small airports, and we are banned from travelling on them.”

I had no idea what an ATR or a Y any number was, but these guys clearly knew their stuff and their advice on the various types of aircraft was important.

“Yes, they don’t maintain the Y7s and Y12s. If they break down or develop a fault, they get repaired, but they are not maintained, so they are not considered safe to fly on” was the expansion.

Sounded wise to me. Armed with that information, I called into a ticketing agent beside the guest house the next morning, and booked a flight for that afternoon.

In my acquired wisdom, I checked with the agent “It’s an ATR?”

“Oh yes, Lao Aviation only fly ATRs into Luang Prabang”, she reassured me.

Happily I booked and paid for my ticket and returned to the guest house to pack my rucksack and prepare for my adventure to Luang Prabang. In a nice, safe, well maintained ATR. Whatever one of them was.

Just after lunchtime, I turned up at the airport, and checked in. All went smoothly and the check-in stewardess prepared my boarding pass.

“Oh, madam”, she looked up, “just one thing. Today this flight will be on the Y7. The ATR has a technical problem”.

My blood ran cold. This was my worst nightmare. I could not feign ignorance. Only the previous evening I had been very clearly told that the Ys were not safe. I knew, and everyone knew that I knew, that I would be flying against Embassy and organisational advice.

Tentatively I ventured, “but I have been advised not to fly in the Y7. I understand they are not maintained?”

“Yes, that’s right” she replied.

The knot in my stomach tightened. I had a choice to make. Fly in the Y7, which was surely destined to crash, and my family would be so cross with me as everyone knew I had been advised not to. Or don’t fly, stay in Vientiane. Or travel by nightmare ten hour hilly bus ride the following day.

“I am sorry,” I replied. “But I have been advised not to fly on the Y7. Please could you cancel my ticket and refund my payment?”

“Please wait ten minutes” she smiled at me.

Relieved instantly that I had made the right decision, I sat down with my disappointed backpack and prepared to wait, and possibly negotiate this refund. I was not in any rush.

So I was surprised when exactly ten minutes later, she was back with a clipboard. Quickest refund in history, I thought to myself.

“Madam” she smiled at me. “Now I can check you in. We have fixed the ATR!”

Suffice to say that I was convinced that flight would be my last and that I was forcing not just myself but a plane load of innocent others, onto an aircraft which only ten minutes before had been too broken to fly. My time was clearly up. We would all be going down together and it would be all my fault. For sure, my family would never speak to me again!

That flight, 13 years ago is one of those I recount as being one of the most frightening of my life. It was not rough, there was no turbulence and nothing at all untoward. It took off and landed without a hitch and whatever had been broken earlier had clearly not caused any further problems. But I was not to know that until we landed safely, and I spent the whole flight tense, gripping the arm rests and hearing every single engine noise and creak, expecting it to herald disaster. I had been convinced my time had come, but it had not. In no time I was on safe ground and ready for my Luang Prabang adventure, trying not to think of the return flight.  (Post Script: When I was “fact-checking” some of the details of this post, I discovered that 14 February 2002, only two weeks after my Laos flights, a Lao Aviation Y-12 crashed on the runway while taking off from Sam Neua Airport due to a wind gust; all 15 on board survived, but the aircraft was written off).

This flight 13 years later, into Luang Prabang was in fact much rougher in terms of turbulence. We seemed to encounter a few bumpy weather systems en route and it seemed to me that there were more cranks and clangs, and sideways and random shudderings than are usual on a flight, and certainly too many for my liking. But it too landed without incident into a very different Luang Prabang Airport, now considerably expanded in its status as an international airport.

LPQThe visa queue was long, but efficient and in no time I was through with my little travel bag looking for my tuk tuk driver, Mr Tupa to take me up to the getaway retreat in the hills. I could not see my name at all on the signs, but I did spot the logo of my place, with “Celita” underneath. I went up to the holder of the sign and said “Celita?   Philippa?” and was met with a smile of agreement. And you are Mr Tupa? I asked. YES! He beamed back at me!

A quick visit to the Ladies prior to the drive into the hills revealed something quite inexplicable. A number of young women with their suitcases open, pulling out different attire, leaning in their underwear against the cubicle doors and falling inside when they opened, giggling and regaining footing before throwing the travel clothes back into their backs, snapping them shut and returning to the arrivals area.

Mr Tupa led me over to his tuk tuk and off we went up into the hills, as the light rapidly faded from the sky, rattling over the dusty, bumpy track. Little lights of Luang Prabang town twinkling far below us, the waxing moon and emerging stars twinkling far above as we headed through the forests away from the 21st century and the last days of 2014. Already I was promising myself that I would not wait another 13 years until I returned to Luang Prabang.

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2015 – a gentle start

This afternoon I have returned to beautiful Luang Prabang from the nearby hills, where I spent New Year – completely offline.

This is a gentle start, and reintroduction to life in the 21st century, while I try and hold on to the peace and rest I experienced in those beautiful hills.

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I have spent 9 days, reading, writing, walking and breathing. Tomorrow I travel to Bangkok and on Thursday the next round of checks and monitoring awaits.  But in the meantime, this is at the back of my mind.

In the coming hours, I will share my 2015 words.  They are ready, they are already working their magic, but the backstory needs a little polishing.

In the meantime, I would like to wish kindness, peace, laughter and music to all for 2015 and beyond.

Winding down

I really don’t wander around Yangon’s downtown nearly enough. When I do, I remember how much I love it and how much it is worth braving the standstill traffic, the slithery pavements in rainy season, the burning heat in dry season and the uneven pavement traps after sunset. So the perfect time for a wander is late afternoon in the dry, slightly cooler season. Two days before Christmas………. and before I retreat into a much quieter space.

escape 2Last year I compared the thought of a break with jumping off a speeding roundabout.  The same still holds true, possibly even more so with building intensity through the year. Last year I retreated to Borneo for a quiet reflective New Year.

I spent a lovely, quiet, quirky Christmas in Yangon.  Starting the day with a long, luxurious swim and then Christmas Dinner in the company of friends, followed by a film shown on the hosts’ outdoor terrace under the stars.

A wonderful way of slowly winding down.

scape 3Boxing Day, 26 December saw me coaxing my long suffering travel bag to close, and heading yet again to Yangon Airport for a Bangkok flight. My next round of medical checks will be on 8 January so now I have some time to step right off that roundabout and wind right down.  I will fly this afternoon to Laos and spend the days before and after the New Year in a quiet, secluded place in the hills surrounded by jungle, waterfalls, butterflies and long walks.  This year I am truly stepping away from the 21st century for a little while as there is no internet, no distractions.

I trust that I will be in a relaxing and inspiring place physically as well as emotionally.  Perfect for walking, swimming if it is not too cold, reading, writing and thinking. And I am well equipped.

escapeI will refine my three words and share them when connectivity permits. They are nearly in place, but need those few days of quiet reflection before I fine tune and share.  Soon.

As 2015 approaches, I send wishes for the coming year and beyond, to be filled with light, sunshine, laughter, music and kindness for all.

Venturing in Vientiane

We are well overdue an update! With travel to Laos, intense work schedules, the major exciting launch of “How Does on Dress to buy Dragonfruit?” and that double bout of bronchitis has resulted in a gentle lull here. A few shorter posts are in the pipeline, and here is the first.  A few glimpses of my recent visit to Vientiane.

With storm warnings and alerts of likely flight delays, I decided to leave Yangon on an earlier flight than originally planned. Having been held above angry, sparky clouds on my previous flight into Bangkok, I opted to take a flight with a nice long connecting time and marginally less likely to be stormy.  Afternoons tend to see the skies darken dramatically, and I would rather be on the ground for that, thank you!

As luck would have it, the morning flight was blessed with sunny skies and very little turbulence and no delays. We rose up into the clouds over clear view of Yangon including Inya Lake, the winding river and in the distance the sun catching Shwe Dagon.

Leaving Yangon

Leaving Yangon

 

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The sun shining on Shwe Dagon

My waiting time in Suvanibhumi airport was thus maximised. I have no problem killing time there, especially with the peaceful massage room and had a relaxing foot massage.  In the departure lounge there were warm reunions with colleagues from the broader Asia region who were also travelling to Vientiane for the meeting before a late evening arrival in Vientiane.  A long day for what was actually a very short journey.

The meeting took place only a few days after the military took control in Thailand, and as we were just across the Mekong there were clear signs of the situation.

I will not repeat my bronchial woes, but suffice to say that this meant that my planned Lao explorations were seriously limited and so too are my photos, so here are a few:

Street scenes

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Rehydrating and resting with a coconut water rather in sync with the background architecture.

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Evening lights

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Special beauty treatments – face decorating anyone?

Face decorating :)

Face decorating 🙂

Confusion at the ATM – options to withdraw 100,000 or 500,000 Lao Kip – or a cool million?! Realising that 1,000,000 Kip is just over 120 US Dollars, the temptation to become a millionaire was too great!

ATM confusion

ATM confusion

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There were also a few opportunities to capture a few Laos shadow selfies to immortalise my presence there.

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Night market

Night market

And a London taxi beside a Laos tuk-tuk delivering passengers to the airport!

 

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My visit to Vientiane was sadly not enough to really explore, but it just means I need to go back and spend some leisurely and well time there.

Jumping Dragonfruit!

I have been somewhat under the radar the past couple of weeks.  A combo deluxe of lurgey (a bronchial bleurgh), intense work schedule and travel.  This evening I am peeking out of the void gently and gingerly.

Last Friday evening I arrived home, shook my sleeping travel bag and hastily threw in the essentials I would need to be away for 11 days. I am becoming so blasé about travel, I really do fear that I will land in Bangkok one of these days without the essentials.  Particularly bank cards which I do not use in Yangon.  I have even had nightmares about this, and have no idea how on earth I was deal with the situation if it did arise, so I send myself text messages and emails to remind me!

Early Saturday morning, I again sipped my departure cup of tea, zipped and closed the travel bag, checked ticket, passport and those essential bank cards, and waved goodbye to hubby and doglets.  This time I was to transit Bangkok and travel onwards to Vientiane, Laos. The distance is not great, but connections are not great either so it takes the best part of a day to get to Vientiane, so I was very glad to reach safely and without any interference in the form of storm clouds this time.

This is the first time I have been back to Vientiane since my first visit 12 years ago so I have been looking forward to the trip.  Unfortunately, some reprise or new lurgey descended not long after I arrived and all of my energy has gone into the day work and I have not yet had the strength or energy to visit the city and see how much it has changed.  So the photo below is not one of mine! It is a Lao tourism pic, just to give a flavour while I regroup enough to venture out and about.

Vientiane, Lao

While I have been ploughing on and trying to banish feeling rough, I have received something very exciting.  Something which made me squeal with excitement and not quite jump, but at least animate me!  The Dragonfruit Anthology is getting more real!  Our editor, Shannon Young, has received a REAL copy of the book, with REAL PAPER PAGES.  How exciting is that?! Our contributor copies will arrive soon, and then be sent on to us and then I will be able to hold the book in my own hands!

This is what it looks like!

The BOOK! Dragonfruit Angthology

The BOOK!
Dragonfruit Anthology

It is now only 11 days until 10 June, when our Dragonfruit Anthology (as we affectionately call our book) will be published!

I am not sure how many images I will be able to take of Vientiane, but I can guarantee one thing – I will be unbearable when I have my own copy in my hands and there will be MANY images of Dragonfruit!