As soon as I wake up, I pack my things and go to my reserved hostel in the centre of the city. In Luang Prabang, the centre consists of a hill with a temple and the main road lined with stone houses left by the French colonial rulers. An ensemble, which in its entirety is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I feel right at home here. For ages, I have not seen such elegant houses. The proportions are familiar and have a harmonious appearance. With ease, I can imagine the French in the stifling heat: the long dresses of the women, the hats and umbrellas, the men's summer suits with everybody wearing hats. A costume party is taking place in my head. Even that can only be due to the merciless sun. The sweat drips from my forehead in the absence of a breeze. I'm denied the slightest relief. I feel like a salt pretzel that was dipped in lye and then put in the oven.
Chocolate cheesecake and a cappuccino in an air-conditioned café give me relief. That too is a nice little legacy of the former colonial rulers, at different corners, some croissants taste like they do in France. The night market is a series of small shops with a narrow alleyway full of Laotian barbeque. The food looks very similar to the Dai in China. There is the same fish prepared in the same way. Curries and rice with veggies in endless variations.
I feel comfortable here, if only because of the still visible French influence. I feel weird about that. In my eyes, this can not be anything but culturally insensitive. Less than a thousand kilometres away, in Bangkok, however, I learn the opposite. Even in Thailand, which was never a colony, the king builds the royal buildings after the European model. Maybe my European centred sense of beauty is not as colonial as I imagine.
To escape from the oven, Sebastian, Leo and I hire two scooters and head out to the countryside to see the much-praised waterfall. Sebastian and Leo are the only travellers I've met so far who travel the exact same way I do. Without plane and also from Germany. We get along well. For the first time we met on the border between Nepal and Tibet, the second time I spent two evenings with them in Jinghong, China and now in Luang Prabang our paths cross for the third time. The two are humans after my own heart. I'm surprised that we have so much in common because I was convinced that travelling alone influenced my experience much more than it actually does. Of course, that isn't entirely true, but some aspects concern all three of us. Where the two find their reason for travelling without aeroplane mostly in the environment, mine lies in my experience of the interconnecting cultures, but that's all. We rack our brains over the meaning of our travel documentation and online platforms. It's an incredible pleasure to be able to share with someone the headaches that a blog, an Instagram and a Facebook presence bring. We have the same problems and find different solutions to them. In some aspects, I know more, in others they do. The encounter with the Eins2Frei crew leads to a whole series of small changes on my blog. I simplify my page structure, change my tagline on Instagram, improve my SEO and formulate emails to German travel blogs and magazines. For me, a move that I have previously postponed to my time in Sydney. Finally, I will have time and space to handle such scary contacts. After all, I cannot write like this forever. I have to jump into the cold water. It can't get worse.
This afternoon, near Luang Prabang, we jump into the fresh water that is cascading down the mountain. It's turquoise green, the sun shines golden on us, the mosquitoes are on vacation, and the locals are friendly. In the photos it's heavenly. The reality is still disappointing because people and all the things that make tourist attractions unbearable are there.
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