The Laos Life

I’m sitting on the pool patio, sipping on ice cold water, soaking up the rays through the layer of thick, humid cloud that is concealing the sun. On the other side of the river the builders are blasting Laos pop music at max volume, I can hear the hammering of tools and the occasional outburst of laughter or shouting. The sounds seem to bounce around the hills in the distance, as if we are in a little box of Laos and the hills are the walls.

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Infinity

I’ve found myself back in Laos, this time in Vang Vieng, known for it’s party scene, drunken tubing and half naked tourists wandering confused in the streets after consuming mushroom shakes and taking too many shots at Sakura Bar,in the quest for a free t-shirt, labelled “drink triple, see double, act single”, rules which every bogan backpacker worth their salt will follow on their quest to find themselves in Southeast Asia.

I’m here in the quiet season, and I’m seeing a different side to Vang Vieng. Emphasis is on the beauty of the scenery, the tourists are mostly Korean who cruise down the river in their tubes, occasionally falling out and unable to get back in, they hold onto their tubes and scream with laughter as they bob around, lifejackets and armbands keeping them afloat, all the while holding their phones in waterproof casing and taking selfies with one hand, gripping for dear life with the other.

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Nam Song River 

I’m here for one month, teaching yoga for Yoga in Vang Vieng, based at the Silver Naga Hotel. Myself and my fellow teacher, the lovely Tye from Australia, take turns with our teaching days, me teaching both classes one day, and her the next, which means every second day is a day off! Living the dream? Ahhh yep.

It took a few days for me to settle in here, as I always do. I felt like I had stepped into a dream – after one month of quality, much needed family and recuperation time in the UK, I found myself back in sticky, sweaty southeast Asia with all its lovely sounds and smells and I had to break myself back in to the… different way of living here. My first night here I woke up in the middle of the night to thunder and lightning, very very frightening, and one of the hotel dogs scratching at the door trying to get in for a cuddle. However, I’m not living in a bamboo hut or showering in cold water every day, nor am I getting up at the crack of dawn and teaching all day. I remind myself daily of how incredibly lucky I am to be doing what I love while travelling the world, and I get to live in a beautiful hotel this time, which is the cherry on top.

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The doggy trying to cool his genitals on the floor

I’m up at 6.30am on teaching days, prepping the room and my class, I teach from 7.30-9.00am, have breakfast in the hotel (buffet awesomeness), chill by the pool, hang out in my room, explore the town, get a massage, go for a bike ride, practice my Laos language on the hotel staff (who just laugh at me, shaking their heads like “such a fool, at least she tries), visit a local cafe, plan classes, write my journal, chat to other guests, teach again at 5pm, then go for dinner and chill for the evening. On my days off – same same, except I attend the classes instead of teaching (or sleep in, haha…).

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One of my first days here I visited a cafe in the town for coffee and good internet, and got chatting to the owner, who offered me a job on the spot, “like a homestay! You come here, speak English with us and the customers, help us, eat with us, we speak Laos with you, you drink coffee??”. Obviously I said yes, we shook hands, and every day since I have wandered into Offbeat Cafe, bringing writing notebooks and coloured pens and Laos-English language books and we sit around miming things in attempt to make conversation. They laugh at my attempts at Laos language (my mouth just doesn’t make certain sounds), and they laugh at themselves when they try the English words. They call me their baby Laos, because I sound like a very special baby when I speak Laos, and they also call me “uaey” which means “big sister”, which makes me feel all happy. I call them “nongsau” which means “little sister”. There is Song and Prin, brother and sister who own the cafe, and the three young girls, Tame, Deuy and Daa. They are adorable and all wear their hair in the same high bun and their work t-shirt tied up in a fashionable way.

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Dinner Time!

I’m amazed at how eager they are to learn – when I was in school I don’t think my eyes lit up the way theirs do when the teacher walks into the room. They come running up to me, saying “Jao kin kao ya baw??” which means “have you had lunch??”, and they touch my arm and say “beautiful skin” and I’m like really cos I didn’t moisturise today hahahahaha and they look at me blankly but endearingly, like “she crazy, but we will allow it because she has the knowledge we require”.

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Munchkins.

Mealtimes are interesting. Sometimes I have lunch or dinner with them, and we sit around the table and eat with our hands. The first time I joined them, they put a box of sticky rice, a bowl of vegetables and a plate of meat on the table, pointed to me and said “eat!”. So I sat down, pulled the plate towards me and started to eat, and they started laughing hysterically, “NOOOOOO hhahahahhaah that bowl for EVERYONE!”. Needless to say I felt like a greedy little farang at that moment. Just goes to show that portion sizes in the western world are outrageous, that our normal evening meal would feed a family of four in Asia.

The next time we ate together, Song pulled out a plate of pastey stuff, called “jaeow”, gestured to the sticky rice and said “you eat!”.

Rosie: “what’s this? fish paste?” (It sure tasted fishy.)
Song: “no, no, no fish. Vegetable. And….”
Prin: “Vegetable aaaand…. and…. injection!” *flaps arms wildly*
Rosie: “INJECTION??!” *look of horror*
Prin: “Ahhhh…. Insects!”
Rosie: “mmmmm….”
Prin: *googling furiously…..* “CRICKETS!”

Welll. I ate no more cricket paste that evening, and awoke the next morning with a dubious sensation in the pit of my stomach. My body may not be ready for Laos cuisine in its entirety, but it sure is exciting!

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Green Cookies!

I’m off to swim in the infinity pool. Peace and love from Laos to you all.

La Kon! Goodbye!

p.s. six weeks until our Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand on the 4th of November. Wanna join us? There are still some spaces available. Email me at rosie.moreton@gmail.com to reserve your space, or book online at:

http://wholeandhappyretreat.eventbrite.com

See you there?

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A controversial hummus of the zucchini variety.

I know. I’m sorry. Perhaps you think I have lost the plot with this one…

It IS hummus, but instead of using chickpeas, I wanted to find something a wee bit lighter. We currently have zucchini coming out of our eyeholes, so I thought why not use this gigantic phallic vegetable for a new and exciting hummus-y paste?

I’m sure you can probably think of a few reasons why not…. But give it a go.

Its a bit runnier than your average hummus, due to the moisture content of the zucchini. I found that letting it sit overnight in the fridge thickened it up a bit, but if you want it less runny, try grating the zucchini first and squeezing the moisture out of it before blending with the other ingredients. You could also add a handful of nuts or seeds (cashew is always a goodie) to give it a bit more texture.

If you can’t tolerate or avoiding legumes, its a good option. Hummus purists may weep a tear or two, but I think its a tasty alternative.

Ingredients

2 medium zucchini (or just one big daddy), peeled and chopped, excess moisture squeezed out

1/2 cup tahini

3 garlic cloves (to keep the boys and girls away)

1-2 tbsp olive oil

juice of one lemon

1-2 tsp cumin (or other herbs and spices you like)

sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste

Method

Pop it all in your food processor and whiz away until it resembles hummus. Sprinkle some toasted seeds on top and serve with chopped veggies, or maybe a large hunk of steak, if that tickles your fancy.

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Balls.

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An enticing title, agreed? I shall try not to disappoint.

I made these balls on a lazy Sunday, when I felt like being a good wifey and making wholesome treats from scratch.

There are plenty of recipes for this kind of thing on the inter web, this is my take on them. If you can’t find/ can’t afford fresh medjool dates, just get the ordinary kind and soak them for a few hours to make them all nice and moist… Also, if you want to use different nuts, give it a go and find a combo that works for you 🙂

Balls Of Fun

Ingredients

2 cups walnuts (whole or pieces)

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup shredded/desiccated coconut

2/3 cup cacao powder (or just plain old cocoa powder will work too)

8 fresh dates, pitted and chopped up (or dried, just soak for a few hours first)

1/4 cup of water

pinch of sea salt

Method

  • Combine walnuts, sunflower seeds, dates and coconut in food processor. Pulse until combined.
  • Add cacao powder, salt, and water and process until mixture forms a dough.
  • Make the dough into wee balls by rolling between your palms. Or big balls. Whatever you’re into.
  • Pop them on a tray or container and chill to let them get hard.
  • Eat dem.

You likey?

Togs, Dogs, Not Many Jogs

One month in Achill and I’m not quite sure what I’ve achieved in that time… I’ve definitely put some new holes in my clothes. One large hole in my finger too, which will be a cute reminder of that time I was actually doing some work and I got all flustered and tore my index finger open on a door (don’t ask how).

This month has been a bit of a blur of dirty jokes, beaches, friendly faces, bonfires, parties, cheese with wine inside (I KNOW) and the occasional wander to the beach to reflect on all of the above. Mostly on the cheese.

I’m very balanced. ….

I drink red wine at night, and green tea in the morning.

I stay up late, and I sleep a bit later to compensate.

I go for walks…. To the pub.

I do yoga, then have a nap during savasana.

I eat a sausage, but I eat it with some vegetables.

I wash myself regularly, but not my hair…..

Achill island has a weird effect on most people that come here. Several people who have turned up to stay at the hostel have ended up staying for longer, because they love it so much and don’t want to go home. (Or maybe it’s because I am here, and I am like the sun).

At the moment we have a French language camp at the hostel, which comprises of 5 delightful Irish kids learning French in the morning then doing adventure activities in the afternoon. I tagged along on a kayaking excursion the other day, and enjoyed a tandem kayak session through the wilds of the bog and the never ending lake in Keel. We beached ourselves several times, which is obviously all part of the fun. You must thrust aggressively to shift the weight of the kayak, much to the delight of everyone around us.

Last week on my days off I cycled to the beach with a friend, went swimming, did yoga in the sand (easier said than done – I got sand EVERYWHERE), then went to The Cottage and ate some seafood which may have been some of the best I’ve ever tasted. All the seafood is local and we could not stop talking about dat mackerel, mmmhmmmmmm.

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Last Monday was bonfire night, which is an annual event involving everyone on the island hauling all of their rubbish and old furniture down to beach bonfires and setting them alight. Then we all stand around and drink things whilst watching shit burn. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and really brought out my inner cave woman. I sat on a couch that may or may not have been riddled with fleas, and witnessed some fisticuffs between a young boy and a drunkard who was insulted when told to “go home to his mammy”. Scandal at the bonfire. Things escalated when we began to drink whiskey from the bottle, and the next morning I found myself hanging out on the beach accompanied by several stray hounds and no toothbrush.

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I had the last two days off, so we took a trip to Westport to catch up with friends. I saw my friend Izzy who I HelpXed with in France (my naked yoga buddy) and we exchanged hair washing stories over a glass of red wine and some enthusiastic banjo playing. Her hair looks like Rapunzel’s, whereas mine looks more like “Rumpelstiltskin”, but I have resigned myself to this. Tuesday may have been the sunniest day I’ve ever experienced in Ireland, so we moved our beds outside and got a small bit naked in the sun, much to the delight of the male flatmates (both called Kevin, because that’s all that anyone is called here).

“Um, can we take photos?”

“……no.”

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Then we went to eat some salads and took a trip to the beach. Once in the water we decided to go topless and wear our brassieres over our shoulders as handbags. We frolicked for a while and it was remarkably warm amongst the seaweeds. We almost floated about on our backs then realised our flotation devices would emerge from the water, which might have been a shock for the small children nearby.

So I’ve gone a bit feral once more, and I very much enjoy it. Whilst talking to mother dearest the other week, we observed that both of her children have gone wild. All of the snapchats I receive from my brother are something along the lines of, “yo just slept in a container and ate carrots for dinner now I’m going into the mountains with my beard”, and I reply with “yo just poured vinegar on my hair now I’m off to the beach on my bike with no gears to do some yoga and swim naked with the tickly fish”.

Sorry mum.

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Seeking Balance (and Summertime)

Today is a great day.

I’ve just noticed that I have 100 followers on my sexy little blog!

Also, I have arrived back in Ireland, a place that makes my soul tremendously happy. I’m heading back to The Valley House for a summer of mighty, savage, marvellous craic (savage craic sounds a bit scary but people ACTUALLY SAY THAT. I know.)

The past week has been a quick catch up with family and friends, cups of tea and trips to garden centres, some excellent quality sausages at the birthday BBQ, and a trip up to London for some social activity. I was feeling a little over-healthed and under-partied, and was perhaps experiencing a sort of mid-youth crisis, hitting age 22 and having spent the past 6 months primarily doing yoga and eating nettles.

Which is very essential for ones spiritual, physical, and emotional development, but I also felt I needed to imbibe and party. It’s all about balance.

So we went out in Brick Lane, ate very cheap curry, scored some wine and then went off and found ourselves a party. It was great, but I couldn’t handle 2 nights in a row. Instead, we went to Hyde Park then I went on home to watch Sex and the City and eat some quinoa.

Hyde Park was lovely, the actual sun shined, and there were even some triathletes doing some world championship final thing. I mostly just noticed how wonderful their bums were.

 

 

 

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Braving flip flops
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Our picnic in Hyde Park
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Sunshine!
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A miraculous hound.

 

So now I’m off to Achill Island, writing from the rickety bus that arrived 30 minutes late at Knock Airport. I like Knock airport because it reminds me of Nelson airport back home – no security, one big room, old men discussing public transport.

I’m curious to see what becomes of the next 2 and a half months. I expect it to be different from last year, with some different people and some the same, but also I think I am quite different from how I was last year.

I sense it will be a test in balance- how to maintain daily yoga and meditation and consumption of greens, whilst working in a Backpackers and Pub where alcohol consumption and party time is a given.

Challenge accepted! I sure hope there’s sunshine, so I don’t have to do yoga in the pub. That would just be distracting, for all parties involved…

Chat soon old pals.