Posted by: facetothewind | December 24, 2008

Kissmouth in Lao

Luang Prabang – a town more charming than any place I’ve been in Asia. Soft weather, friendly people, cheap everything, unbelievably beautiful silk sold on the street everywhere. It feels like Key West in Asia with its French colonial architecture and palm trees.

It’s pretty heavily populated with Western tourists…some Americans, but mostly English and Australians. All seem friendly and easy-going. We all seem to agree that this town will be ruined in a few years as it becomes discovered. We’ll always remember that quiet Christmas we spent in Lao like exiles from the consumer madness in our mother countries.

The monks of Luang Prabang move briskly about the town with a sense of purpose that no one else here seems to have. Their robes are orange flames that light up the old brick sidewalks.

The night time dining scene is pretty western with cocktail menus featuring mojitos and margaritas. Although Christmas seems like an afterthought, there are twinkle lights and Santa Claus faces here and there. Many of the Lao waiters wear Santa hats. Some guy on the street handed me a flyer inviting me to a party for kissmouth. I kept wondering what he was trying to say. “Tomorrow, I asked?” “YES, kissmouth tomorrow!” Like I should have known. I was definitely interested in a little kiss-mouth party. But, it wasn’t until much later that it dawned on me what he was trying to say. Oh, a Christmas party. My interest tanked. A Buddhist country is a great place to avoid kissmouth as most of us seem to be doing here. And so it passes this time almost unnoticed as we bop around temples and night markets eating noodles and curry.

Been traveling with a new friend, Diana. (She’s the woman with me at the end of the Mekong River video.) She’s an expat-American living in Pai, Thailand. We’ve been great companions for each other taking long, leisurely walks through the city’s adorable little streets and alleys. I will miss her tomorrow when she leaves.

I’m staying in a fleabag hotel that is $15 a night. The staff here is very sweet and hold English lessons in the lobby. They’re all so damn cute. I find myself often flirting with them just because they’re so friendly, which is confusing to a gay man. It’s amazing to me how you cannot get Lao or Thai people to muster up homophobia. You can flirt with a man, even hold his hand and tell him he is beautiful and he’ll smile and thank you without even averting his eyes. And if you ask, he will tell you he’s straight. Wow! It’s mind-blowing to be in a place that is largely uninfected with the disease of homophobia.

It couldn’t be better except if you were here.

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