2017 was probably my most intense year of travel ever: it started in Laos and Cambodia, and was followed by visits to Detroit and Texas, Portugal, Romania, Hong Kong, the Philippines, China, Florida, and Vietnam. Whew. Here’s an entry on a year of irreconcilable impressions.
During our two-day Mekong slow boat cruise from Thailand to Laos, I found myself hypnotized by waveless muddy waters and mountain jungles, and discovered that a slow boat rocks you to sleep like a hammock. Here’s an entry on a journey into the green heart of Laos.
Getting to Laos is half the fun. The southeast Asian country was virtually closed off to tourism until the late 90s, and is just opening to the world. What I had read about Laos said that things there move at a different pace: everything slows waaay down. So, we would too. We traveled from Thailand by plane, bus, taxi, foot, and finally, a 2-day slow boat cruise on the Mekong River to reach Luang Prabang, Laos.
An art deco bookstore with the most beautiful gilded staircase. A castle more colorful and crazy than Neuschwanstein. Rocky coasts and white beach sands and surf. Port wine. Grilled suckling pig and prawns bigger than your hand. Colorful tiled homes. The most elegant capital city in Europe. An 18th century Baroque library. Lighthouses at the ends of the Earth. Portugal is beautiful surprises.
During my last trip to Portugal, I stayed at a bona fide palace, complete with flying buttresses, a butler, a maze garden. It was hotter than the dickens, and one night while we were there, something tragic happened not far outside the castle walls while we were sleeping. Here’s a story about waking up to the smoke of the worst Portuguese wildfire in recent memory – and the false security of staying in a fortress.
It was pretty much the worse case scenario: no water, no phone reception, 100 degrees outside and no air conditioning, no emergency bell, no way to alert anyone, and getting hotter by the minute. Read on to find out how we survived this traumatic ordeal and my husband MacGuyvered a way out for us. I’ve been taking the stairs ever since.
Laos’s Bolaven Plateau is another world of waterfalls straight out of Jurassic Park, quiet village life, and the best coffee I’ve ever had. We drove into the plateau with a rented scooter that maxed out at about 30 km/hour, not really knowing where we were going or what we were going to see…and were rewarded with landscapes that reminded me of what the word “stunning” really means.
When I was in Laos last month, I drank A LOT of coffee. Well, I always drink a lot of coffee, so what I mean is that I drank a lot of really exceptional coffee. With the perfect geology and climate for coffee cultivation, Laos’s Bolaven Plateau produces some of the best coffee beans in the world.
I got a recipe for the perfect pour over from a barista and coffee expert Jackie at Jhai Coffee House in Paksong, and I’m sharing it with you here…it’s changed my mornings forever!
During the Vietnam War, there was this entire Secret War going on in Laos that I learned about while I visited what is one of the world’s most beautiful – and unfortunately, most heavily bombed – countries. It got me thinking about what it means to travel as an American to places like Laos, where they are still dealing with the legacy of destruction with millions of unexploded bombs littering the countryside. Especially at this fraught political moment, just weeks before Trump’s inauguration.
Coming from Detroit, the first major city in the world to go bankrupt, I was interested in how the statistics and stories about the Greek debt crisis matched up to the reality, and how people are really living with it. Here’s a story about Athens, absence, and unfinished conversations.