Today is our last morning in Luang Prabang…we packed our bags and enjoyed our breakfast on the river. We haven’t seen the most well-known temple in town, Phu Si Hill which sits on the top of a hill and gives views of the entire city.
We caught a tuk tuk to the center of town and saw the entrance to Phu Si Hill, it was directly across from the royal palace museum we visited yesterday. We climbed the stairs, paid a minimal entrance fee and climbed more stairs until we reached the top. There was a temple with various gold Buddha statues inside and people were praying and lighting candles/incense. Lighting incense is very popular amongst the Buddhist people at the dozens of temples/wats in Luang Prabang. Lighting incense is a gesture of respect to the Buddha…this ritual releases you from material desires and indicates thanks to the Buddha for all his blessings.
After taking our time looking at the views from the top of the hill, we found a path leading to a different area…we followed it and saw numerous Buddha statues with different hand gestures symbolizing different things. The most impressive statue was a gold Buddha laying down and was taller than Giff and I stacked on top of each other, it was huge. We continued following the paths around, stopping to take pictures of other temples, naga statues and of course saw multiple monks dressed in orange robes walking around as well.
It was getting late and we had to catch a late afternoon flight to Vietnam…before getting to the airport, we wanted to eat one more lunch made of local cuisine. We found, Tamarind ( www.tamarindlaos.com) a restaurant and cooking school. It was super hot outside so opted to eat indoors. I ordered a refreshing cucumber juice drink and Giff cracked open a Laos Beer which we paired with a starter made of local dried finger foods. It had those thin crispy mushrooms, dried rice cakes, fried seaweed and thinly sliced dry bananas. We also munched on a few dips…things like smoked eggplant and red pepper and savored an exotic healthy soup. Then…the fried bullfrog salad came out…yes bullfrog. This one was Giff’s pick, the plate had a bunch of mixed greens and sitting in the middle of it was chopped up fried frog. The pieces were so small and there were so many bones, it was actually a bit frustrating to eat…the way crab legs can be except bones were throughout the meat. I took a small bite and then watched Giff suck on the remaining pieces.
After lunch, our guide and driver picked us up and brought us the short distance to Luang Prabang airport. The airport was teeny tiny and we realized we were way too early for an on-time flight let alone the very delayed flight we were about to take. We sat around in the airport reading and writing until they finally boarded and we were off to Vietnam!
It was evening when we arrived in Vietnam and were greeted by our new local guide. He was the owner of the Vietnam tour company and was making sure our driver showed up to bring us from the airport to downtown Hanoi…which he did after waiting about 45 minutes.
We checked into our hotel which had a very spacious room and then walked a couple blocks to a restaurant the guide had recommended for dinner. As we walked in the restaurant…we noticed a bunch of shoes sitting by the stairs. We followed the tradition, took off our shoes and walked upstairs. The room was full of people…each were sitting on the floor with food set on a table which was just a flat surface on the floor. We looked at a menu which did include the English translation. We ordered two local beers, Bia Ha Noi and Saigon and asked the waiter his thoughts on what to order. He spoke minimal English and we spoke zero Vietnamese but ended up ordering spring rolls, beef rolls and pigeon as well as a side of veggies. Everything was pretty good and we got a kick out of sitting on the floor while we ate. The table next to us was full of teens who were using what they call a hot-pot to cook their food…similar to fondue style. They were nice and answered some of our questions since it was our first day in Vietnam.
After dinner, we walked back to our place and relaxed a bit before bed. Tomorrow our tour guide will pick us up early morning.
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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