Breakfast was nice and relaxing this morning sitting outside on the river with our coffee and eggs. Our guide met us after breakfast to show us around Luang Prabang which is well-known for its temples and monasteries, particularly the Wat Cham Si temple sitting at the top of a large hill in the center of town. Luang Prabang is a world heritage Unesco site and for good reason, it is full of culture and customs…every morning for example, after the bell rings throughout the city, hundreds of monks walk the streets and both locals and tourists place extra food in their bowls to feed them. Monks do not work, they study buddhism and therefore live with the most basic of accommodations…hard beds, basic foods etc.
As our guide led us from one temple to the next, he explained what the symbols meant and pointed out the differences in the body positions of each statue. There is so much symbolism within these statues which represents different moments in the life of Buddha. One shows a meditative state, one shows charity, compassion, protection…the list goes on and on. Even the amount of fingers the statue is holding up or the way it is holding its hands have symbolic meanings…for example each of the five fingers starting with the thumb represent sky, wind, fire, water and the earth. It was fascinating to learn about this culture in which we were not accustomed to in the US. We always had to take off our shoes to walk into each temple and we would stop and look at some of the stories drawn into their walls as our guide explained what we were viewing. It was really interesting to watch people on their knees praying and lighting candles for loved ones etc. The amount of elaborate work that has gone into each of these temples was very impressive and intriguing to learn about…between temples we also saw several monasteries with several monks walking around. The guide pointed out the slight differences in how the monks were wearing their uniforms…whether the shoulder was showing or the difference in how the rope was tied around their waist was a sign of how far along they were in their studies etc.
After visiting many many temples, we walked by a women who was frying long skinny black things in a pot sitting on the ground…we pointed and questioned what she was cooking and although she spoke no English, she smiled and handed us a free bag of it. The guide told us they were mushrooms…we put one into our mouth and were pleasantly surprised…they were crispy and salty…not a mushroom consistency. We thanked her and a few more steps down the sidewalk saw a big pile of coconuts waiting for someone to buy them. We couldn’t resist…they cut it open, placed a straw in it and we were sucking down the soothing coconut juice. The guide brought us to the market area to show us the various vendors selling their food…we saw all kinds of meats, veggies, fruits, snacks as well as crafts. The market was coming to a close since it was early afternoon and the guide told us he would see us tomorrow so we could enjoy the city on our own for the rest of the day.
There were tons of little boutique type shops specifically in silver jewelry and antiques. They are also big into haggling so we had fun finding our treasures and getting good prices for them. Giff found an antique silver bowl which is really ornate and very oriental in style…it is kind of heavy and something about it was really intriguing to Giff. We made a deal with the shop owner for the bowl and some jewelry and continued on our way.
After we had done our share of shopping, we had worked up an appetite and found a cute little place who pulled us in by cooking right on the sidewalk. We sat and ordered the chips they were making from scratch…peeling the potato and dropping the slices into the hot oil. We also ordered some of the pancakes which were Thai style…little balls filled with coconut cream and green onions. After dinner we walked around a bit more and then went back to our place to unwind and settle in for the evening.
Published by Brandey Kabat
What I like: Dark chocolate, yoga, fresh squeezed juice, laughing, hiking, wine, travel, food, lush products, being warm, having long hair, the ritual of drinking something hot first thing in the morning…
What I don’t like: When people smell their fingers, pushing elevator buttons, confrontational situations, not being able to fall asleep quickly at bedtime…
Most random job ever: Plastic surgery consultant
As for my love life: I met my husband mid way through my junior year in college, as soon as I laid my eyes on him I was attracted to him. In fact, I made the first move which was a bit out of character but there was something about him…probably the fact that he was smokin’ hot!!
Where from and where to: I grew up in NY, went to college at The Ohio State University and then headed to CA after graduation. My boyfriend (Giff) and I had a map, a borrowed van and used stuff from his mom’s basement aka a vacuum, silverware, old Christmas ornaments etc., and about $1000 each. We thought it would be a good idea to head straight to CA since neither of us had been. Being we didn’t know anyone there nor did we have a job or job interviews set up or a place to live…I would say we did it the hard way! However with a bit of help from Giff’s mom who flew out to put us up in a hotel, bought me a suit for interviewing and co-signed a lease to get us a place to live we eventually found jobs and an apartment and have been in CA for 10 years.
Our story: After moving out to CA and living together for about 3 years we got engaged. He popped the question while down on one knee on the beach at sunset after we finished our picnic he had packed of bread, cheese, shrimp cocktail and wine. He even had the ring in a box that had a light shining down on it when opened so as it was getting dark, this amazing man was asking me to be his wife as he handed me a huge rock…Yes! Yes! Yes!
In 2005 we were married (I am biased but our wedding was absolutely amazing). By the end of 2005 we were new home owners. 2006-2009- we were both happily married, attached to our 3 cats and were focused on building our careers.
Giff and I got pregnant mid year 2009 with our first baby but what should have been one of the highlights of our life was soon distracted by the news I received at the doctor’s office.
The lump in my breast that had been dismissed the year before as nothing was now being diagnosed by a different doctor as breast cancer. Thankfully Giff is a persistent person and when we went in for our ultrasound (to hear our baby’s heartbeat) he brought up the request for testing to be done on the lump rather than dismissing it based on feeling it.
The going gets rough: Things began to move so quickly at that point, it was hard to breathe. I was 30, pregnant with my first child and going into surgery to remove breast cancer. I was about to go through what would be the worst year of my life. The plan had been discussed, we were going with the most aggressive regimen possible- double mastectomy, port surgically placed in my chest, chemotherapy, drug therapy and radiation. We also had to terminate the pregnancy. This cancer was estrogen positive and the hormones were actually feeding the cancer. That little angel whom was the cause of our going into the doctor saved my life.
Giff was my rock through every step…interviewing a team of the best doctors, memorizing which medicines I needed to take and when, driving me to chemotherapy and sitting next to me while I was so scared, telling me I was beautiful when I was bald, and so many other things…words cannot express. When you say your vows, in sickness and in health…you would never guess sickness of this magnitude at this age would be in the near future. In addition to this hardship, Giff’s dad died of a complicated prostate cancer the day we came home from my surgery. I could not hold my husband as he mourned for his dad because of the pain I was in from the mastectomy. How did Giff handle all of this pain at one time? How was he so strong for me? He is amazing. Giff’s dad was one of those people whom you naturally wanted to be around…his smile was contagious, his love for life was invigorating and he listened so intently when you talked in a conversation with him. He made you feel special. We think about him often and will miss him so much.
My family and friends were also by my side…my mom flying out from NY several times to help us with cooking and cleaning and holding my hand. It must be one of the most awful things in the world to watch your baby girl be diagnosed with breast cancer. My girlfriends also flew out to take care of me and help with anything they could. Other friends living closer would come by just to sit and talk or watch movies. There were so many cards, letters, flowers, cookies, and other gifts that came from all over the country. It’s amazing to have such great people in my life. In addition to my amazing circle of friends and family, there were the strangers with whom crossed our path. Whether it was a letter in the mail from a breast cancer survivor, the anesthesiologist who called Giff during my surgery crying happy tears that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, or our fertility doctor who promised to watch over our frozen embryos as if they were her own. There were so many small gestures that made such a big impact on our lives.
Looking at the bright side: Thankfully this was caught in stage 1, had it been caught a year prior by the first doctor I had gone into about the lump, it may have been caught at stage 0. Please learn from my lesson…insist the lump be tested – a lump cannot be diagnosed by touch. They were able to cut all the cancer out and after I finish the entire regimen including a pill I take over the next 5 years, they said there is a 95% chance the cancer will never come back.
Our exciting future: We’ve decided to re-prioritize, we are taking 400 days starting February 7th of 2011 to travel the world! We will travel to new places, eat new foods, taste new wines and meet new people. We will focus on healing ourselves both physically and mentally. This will be one of the best years of our lives.
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One Reply to “Day 313 of 400: Luang Prabang – Laos”
Holy coconut batman that thing is huge! Also how can that raw meat sit outside like that without spoiling???