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The Rockaway Times
OnThe Road With Rover And Rosa
ByWild Rover
In the last installment I com-
pared Cambodia to Guatemala,
given both countries’ world-class
ruins and recent histories of strife.
Sticking with the analogy to Cen-
tral America, if Cambodia is Gua-
temala, then Laos is most defi-
nitely Costa Rica. Anyone who has
had the good fortune to visit Costa
Rica has heard the ubiquitous “La
Pura Vida” (The Pure Life) to con-
vey all kinds of positive vibes from
the mellow to the healthy to the
eco-friendly. In Laos, it is La Bud-
dha Vida with barefoot monks in
saffron robes replacing Costa Ri-
ca’s dread-locked surfers, but with
the same welcoming, yet laid back
vibes. Also like Costa Rica, Laos is
shockingly beautiful. Pale blue wa-
terfalls, lush limestone emerging
from the jungle cliffs, and golden
Buddhist temples all lining the roll-
ingMekongRiver. Itwasn’t evenon
our list to visit starting out, as we
didn’t know much more about the
country other than its role in the
“Secret War” during the Vietnam
conflict best captured in the icon-
ic Apocalypse Now. After hearing
several other travelers describe
it as the most beautiful country
in SE Asia, we decided to see for
ourselves, and Laos did not disap-
We flew into the capital of Vien-
tiane, before moving onto Luang
Prabang, which most people con-
sider the pearl of Laos. Located in
the north central part of the coun-
try, the entire town is a UNESCO
heritage site thanks to its beautiful
mix French colonial architecture
and ornate Buddhist temples. Al-
though located in a high elevation
part of the country, it has a beach
vibe since it sits on a natural pen-
insula perched on the banks of the
Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. We
stayed there for almost a week be-
cause it was the rare mix of easy to
navigate and culturally fascinating.
It is a very walkable town with just
the right amount of people, both
tourist and locals. Each morning
the young monks go out and re-
ceive alms in the formof sticky rice
and cookies from the locals, which
provide their meals for the day.
Each day at sunrise there is an in-
formal parade of monks in saffron
robes receiving ricedonations from
the local peoplewhodeposit hand-
fuls of rice into the monks’ baskets
before the town settles into its live-
ly, but laidback daily routine. Right
outside of town are waterfalls,
sunset cruises, and all kinds of
Eco-tours, which can be done in
a day or stretched into a mini va-
cation. It’s the type of place that if
you weren’t careful you could look
up and realize you’d been there for
two years without even realizing it.
The last night we sat in on a local
educational charity that encour-
ages tourists to come by so local
kids and young adults, including
monks, can practice their Eng-
lish. It’s a nightly session in a small
double room storefront, but it was
incredible. The students were so
eager just to talk, most of them
coming each night after a long day
at school or university. The high-
light for me as a washed up former
baller was a kid who was on his
way to basketball practice after the
session. Keep in mind this is rural
Laos. He devoured all the English
basketball terms and excitedly
scribbledall theEnglishwords from
arena to backboard to triple threat.
Best yet, when he was explaining
a word he wanted me to translate
he gets into his offensive stance to
act out the word. He’s tucking the
ball under his arm like a football,
so I spread the gospel of the Tri-
ple Threat and show him how he
should be standing when he has
the ball. Watching him see the ad-
vantage and scribbling the words
in his notebook was awesome. The
concept of recruiting tourists as im-
promptuEnglish teachers is fantas-
tic, especially when it’s such an ad-
vantage in earning power to speak
English even at a basic level. Both
students and “teachers” walked
away thrilled after nearly two hours
of teaching and connecting.
Last, but not least, Laos is home
to what is probably SE Asia’s best
beer: BeerLao. Unfortunately every
third backpacker, with all of the
annoying hipster-esque traits that
come with that title, is wearing a
BeerLao tank top, but don’t let that
ruin it for you. Go for the BeerLao
Dark, which is even better than the
Great people, great scenery, and
great beer. What are you waiting
for? Need more? No problem,
but you’ll have to wait for Part 2 for
(718) 758-7557
and ask for
or visit
Come in to try a
Elements class
and get
15% off
your first month’s membership.