Pousi Galore


This blog entry about the events of Sunday, December 05, 2004 was originally posted on December 11, 2004.

DAY 414:  I’ve been going through southeast Asia thus far with a sort of sardonic attitude; as nice as it is, “southeast Asia” has become a sort of cliché in my mind, although I have no right to be a cynic, it being my first time traveling through (the continental southeast Asia anyway).  My attitude comes from the fact that in the traveler circles I’m a part of, almost everyone talks about their “big trip” through southeast Asia, how they’re going to go, or have come back already. 

“I’m going to backpack through southeast Asia!” 
“So this one time, when I was traveling through southeast Asia…”

I swear, from the amount of times I heard people talk about “backpacking through southeast Asia,” I expect to look up “beaten path” in the dictionary and see a map of the region.

LAOS PERHAPS IS THE EXCEPTION TO ALL THIS; even Lonely Planet’s Lao guidebook’s tag-line is “Roads less traveled.”  Both Lara (Peru, Bolivia, Brazil) and Paul (Everest trail, Bangkok) told me, “Laos is what Thailand used to be twenty years ago.”  Both of them stressed that you should go to Laos now, before it becomes tainted with over-developed tourism like Thailand and soon, Vietnam. 

Luang Prabang, despite it being one of the main stops on the northern Laotian tourist trail, retains much of its virginity to mass tourism, even with the small mountain in the center named Mt. Pousi (spelled that way probably to keep the immature from snickering every time).  Luang Prabang is primarily a laid back little town and as you walk the street you see people just going about their day (picture above).  Even the familiar faces of travelers wandering along don’t look so much like “travelers” in a broad sense; for some reason, walking in Luang Prabang makes everyone look and feel like a local in a small community.

That’s just what I did that day:  just wander around the city aimlessly to see what the city had to offer, from the quiet streets to the local students’ art gallery.  The city was a relaxed hodge-podge of old and new, southeast Asian and French, from the architecture to the day-to-day life.  On one road a woman would be eating sticky rice out of a small bamboo basket; on another one was walking home with a fresh baked baguette.  On area would be full of motor scooters whizzing by; another would be the spot for old Lao men to play a game of bocce.

Architecture was also a blend of French and indigenous, the latter being a distinct style found in the city’s many wats, or temples.  Luang Prabang has over thirty all within the small central region — most done in the distinct Luang Prabang-style of five-tiered roofs.  So as not to get all “templed out,” I only saw a few of the them, and one in particular, the Wat Xient Thong (Temple of the Golden City) built by King Setthathirat in 1559, was the one that Let’s Go said was “widely regarded as the magnum opus of Lao religious architecture, boasting elaborate golden reliefs and a mosaic of the Buddhist Tree of Life.”  Inside was a golden Buddha.  On the temple grounds was a golden sub-temple, which housed King Sisavangvong’s golden funeral chariot used to carry his body for cremation in 1959.

AS I MENTIONED, in the center of town was the small mountain known as Mt. Pousi (pronounced “Mount Pussy,” hehehe), whose summit was accessible by 329 steps and a one dollar admission fee.  The short hike and small fee was worth it as the top not only had the Wat Chom Pousi and its towering golden stupa, but a spectacular 360° view of the city, from the Mekong River to the northwest, the smaller Nam Khan River to the east, the mountains and the valley town below.  It was there that I ran into Markus (the second one); later on that day across the street at the Royal Palace, I ran into the first one, who lent me his rental bike for a short while when he was in the Royal Palace museum.

I had been to the museum before him and saw what it had to offer.  The former home of the royal family until monarchy was done away with in 1975, the building now showcased different items left over from the royal times, from furniture and artwork.  (No photography was allowed.)

During the course of the day I ran into both Markuses and inevitably Huyb, who were all casually strolling like my neighbors in my new community.  With all the run-ins with foreigners I felt it best to do something more Lao other than having lap kai (Lao spicy chicken salad), and I did so that evening by going to the Laotian ballet in town for a performance of “The Golden Deer and The Abduction of Sida,” which, unless I had a program explaining the story, looked like a random display of men in funny masks prancing around:  Dragon-head Man, Hawk-head Man, Deer-head Man, Old-Face Man, plus the obligatory damsel in distress.  Laos developed its theater from the drama of ancient India and China and was ultimately fused with classical theater in the 16th and 17th centuries.  The result is a fluid dance of pronounced steps and graceful arm motions.  “The Golden Deer and The Abduction of Sida” told the story of how Thotsakan, the King of Giants, kidnapped and stole a babe named Sida with the help of his old-man disguise and his partner Malit, who distracted Sida’s bodyguards by prancing around as a deer. 

AS RELAXING A DAY IT WAS in the chill, unpretentious city of Luang Prabang, I went the extra mile and went for more relaxation at the Pousi Massage salon around sundown.  Pronounced out loud, the establishment sounds like either a place where horny women go or a prostitution front for guys.  I paid the $3 for the one-hour foot reflexology massage, and I was surprised when my masseuse unexpectedly started rolling my pants up and massaging me with oil in parts higher than my feet.  With her trained hands, she started touching and rubbing me in a place that was hard as bone…

...my kneecaps.

Next entry: More Misconceptions

Previous entry: Accents On The Mekong

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Comments for “Pousi Galore”

  • I laughed out loud at the last statement…..you should get quite a few of us on this one! Hey, how is the leg hole, all gone I hope.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/11  at  02:43 AM

  • FIRST!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/11  at  02:45 AM

  • Dangit.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/11  at  02:46 AM

  • Been a slient surfer for long..here’s a mythological detour.

    The “Sida” is in fact “Sita”. Diwali that you experienced in India is in infact to celebrate the return of lord Ram to his kingdom after rescuing Sita from the king of giants ( his kingdom being “lanka” A.K.A Sri Lanka ). Dang, my lankan friend is going to sue me.

    Great blog..amazing diligence at keeping it current and interesting.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/11  at  03:05 AM

  • Michelle not so fast…...sorry beat ya!LOL

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/11  at  03:12 AM

  • I want to go there!  Reminds me of the non-touristy parts of Thailand… lovely

    Posted by Liz  on  12/11  at  04:53 AM

  • ROSE:  The hole finally scabbed up; it’s on it’s way to becoming a really cool-looking scar now…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/11  at  10:49 AM

  • WHATSHISNAME:  Yes!  Another one from out of the darkness!  Welcome aboard… feels good, huh?

    Thanks for the kudos and the correction; I just report what I’m told or what I read.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/11  at  10:51 AM

  • Ahh, the old kneecap happy ending.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/11  at  07:25 PM

  • 329 steps for some cheap ass “pussy”....seems kinda long way…


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/12  at  01:45 AM

  • yes, but it was only a dollar

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/12  at  01:46 AM

  • tjw: You crack me up!

    It’s nice to have that relaxing small town feeling while traveling. Despite the fact that Kanchanaburi is firmly entrenched on the beaten path, I felt the same kinda thing when I went there.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/12  at  05:58 PM

  • well, i guess it is only appropriate to bangkok first and then pousi later.

    that’s a lot of gold items in the temples.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/12  at  05:59 PM

  • What more could a guy do? Once you [have been to] Bangkok, you must then [head to] Mount Pousi. I can’t believe you didn’t just go to this town for the sake of it’s funny name… or did you?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/15  at  03:34 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
More Misconceptions

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Accents On The Mekong


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