Globe-Trotting (LAOS): Home away from, well, EVERYTHING.

I don’t do hotel reviews because I’m no expert in the hospitality industry.  Thus, never mistake this post for a “review” as I only wish to share my wonderful experience at the Mekong Riverview with you.  🙂

My room can be found on the upper-left hand 

portion of the above photo.

The Mekong Riverview Hotel is located in what they refer to as “Old Town Luang Prabang” in the province of Luang Prabang, Laos.  As its name implies, yes, the hotel does have a commanding view of the famed Mekong River.

The hotel serves complimentary breakfast at a patio overlooking the Mekong too.  Now that’s starting your mornings right.  🙂

Note: I didn’t get the dishes pictured below per day.  I got all every single day!  😀

Omelette with mushroom and cheese and

sausages, ham, and bacon

They call this “Special” which is basically

pineapple crepe with honey and fried banana.

I love the Lao style fried banana. 

My sweet tooth was jumping for joy!  🙂

Some days, I opted for the simple banana crepe

with vanilla sauce, instead of the “Special”.

Washing everything down with Lao coffee

Since I canceled my plans to visit the Plain of Jars in Phonsavan, I spent a sufficient amount of time luxuriating in my room.  And by luxuriatinlg, I mean, reading books and mooching off the free WIFI.  😀

Mekong Riverview is famous for its Swedish beds.

With just a push of a few buttons, you can recline your mattress.  I never did this but I suppose it’s convenient for people who watch  TV (the plasma is hung on a wall facing the bed) or read books at a certain angle.

Sorry, no bathroom photos.  I don’t do that either.  I think it’s gross to post pictures of where I poop, er, “flip through magazines”.

If you examine the photo above, however, there are two doors on the left and right hand sides.  The left is where the rainshower (hot and cold!) and sink are.  The right is where the toilet is.

There’s a bevy of basic toiletries provided and replenished as your room is cleaned.  Three kinds of towels (i.e., bath, hand, and face), included.  There are robes, bedroom slippers, and hangers ready inside the wooden cabinet.  The refrigerator is stocked daily with six bottles of mineral water, a variety and cans of soda— all complimentary!  I got twice as much because my room is ideal for two and I was traveling alone.  🙂

My “Carrie Bradshaw” window where I wake up (and say goodnight) to the Mekong River.  The “traffic situation” during the Boun Ok Pansa was viewed from up here too.  😀

A selection of Laos travel books is made available by the hotel owner, Mr. Urban Paulsson, as you arrive in your room.  I think this is a very nice touch.  Not only do you experience the utmost comfort, you’re also gifted the opportunity of being educated.

My designated bicycle!  The hotel manager, Somchit, and his staff don’t even keep this anymore.  The wheeler is always parked out front so I can use it anytime I want.  🙂

For the elderly (and those who choose not to use the free bicycles), a golf cart driven by one of the hotel personnel can drop you off at Luang Prabang’s hub.  Tuktuks are on stand-by and for a fee to serve as your ride back to the hotel.  Most tourists, however, prefer the leisurely walk home.

Use of the golf cart or bicycles does not mean that Mekong Riverview is quite far from where the Luang Prabang action is.  Quite the contrary.  It is walking distance to the significant attractions such as the Wat Xieng Thong and the streets where the Alms Giving Ceremony takes place.

More than the food, comfort, and convenience, what made my stay at the hotel memorable was the gathering hosted by Mr. Urban Paulsson on my first night.  Wine was served for the guests and I was able to engage in delightful conversations with Westerners from Belgium, England, and America.  They are generations older than me and are professors, bankers, doctors, and retired U.S. army men.  From bucket lists to U.S. politics and, yes, even to Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law— it was a night where I felt my lightest.  And not because of the champagne either.  🙂

I’m sure there are a handful of cheaper alternatives for guesthouses in Luang Prabang but I’m blessed for the chance to live at the Mekong Riverview albeit temporarily.  Mr. Urban Paulsson is a hands-on owner and he personalizes the Laos experience of every visitor.  With that, there will always be a reason to go back.  🙂

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Globe-Trotting (LAOS): The Alms Giving Ceremony Experience

If you were to heed travelers’ advice, you would be standing along Sakkaline (main) Road at 5:30AM, waiting for the monks to emerge from their respective wats.

If you were me, however, you would have been out on the discreet Kounxoa Road at 4:30AM because no matter which side of the globe you’re in, you value punctuality.  😀

(In that sense, I’m not your ordinary Filipino who always manages to come in an hour after the scheduled appointment.  Hence, the phenomenon— “Filipino Time”.)

Of course, the streets were almost empty (and completely dark!) at 4:30AM where the only sounds you’ll hear are the slight breeze from the Mekong River and the occasional swish of a wooden broom.

(I ended up going back to bed.)

The seemingly obligatory TOMS shot as the women

lay their mats and arrange their alms

The Alms Giving Ceremony is an age-old custom still practiced in the town of Luang Prabang, Laos.  I’m not claiming expertise on Buddhism but here is what I gathered from reading literature and interviewing a few English-speaking Laos.  Please feel free to correct me as I may have misunderstood what I read/ heard.

(a) The alms symbolize a passing of nourishment to the giver’s departed family members.

(b) Generally, monks are not allowed to “kill” or cook food.

Traditionally, the alms are in the form of sticky rice.

Sticky rice is usually wrapped in banana leaves but

the taste must not be mistaken for the Filipino delicacy, Suman.

Economically, “modernized” varieties of alms have spread out such as biscuits.

And while there are a handful of men who participate in the giving process, the mats lined out on the street are generally occupied by women and children.

(A Lao matriarch was sitting right next to me when I took the above photos.  She was engaged in a congenial banter with the people across the street who I assume are immediate/ extended family.  I attempted to converse with her in English to no avail.  Unfortunately, my Lao is very, very limited to the touristy phrases.)

As a spectator, I learned that:

(a) The monks need “assistants” to carry their alms.  Sticky rice go into the bowls while biscuits go into a basket or a plastic bag.

Once the assistant’s basket/ plastic bag fills up, he runs to the wat to dump the goods in what I surmise to be the wat’s common storage (also in the form of a basket).

(b) You can stand on the steps of the Wat Xieng Thong for an “aerial view” of the ceremony.

Lastly,

(c) The ceremony is a sacred ritual, not a sporting event.  Never, EVER, point your cameras (whether with or without flash) directly to the monks’ faces.

(There is this one particular Asian guy who really annoyed me because he had paparazzi lens and yet stood right in front of the monks, the women, AND the children to take pictures. :()

Whatever type of camera you are using, please.  R.E.S.P.E.C.T.  Always position yourself on the other side of the street or from a considerable distance.

Out of all the things I’ve seen and heard in Luang Prabang, this, by far is a personal favorite.  I sincerely hope that tradition will win over the pressure of “modernization”.

Pic(ks) Before My Laos Trip: Move over, Fight Club.

Sorry to disappoint you but this week’s picks do not constitute a bevy of my travel essentials.  I’m just counting the hours before I take off to Luang Prabang, Laos.  🙂

#YES

I am convinced that James Franco Don Winslow is my soulmate.

(Move over, Fight Club.)

Which means, I hope they don’t turn this into a popcorn movie.  Especially since Blake Lively already plays Ophelia in the film release of Savages.  She can be “S” but definitely not “O”.

#BourgeoisProblems

One thing I never run out of is a stash of Lili & Nana wrapping paper.  This may sound such a cliche but more than receiving presents, I love giving them.  The thrill is not in finding the right gift but in choosing the perfect wrapper.

Sure, it will be ripped to shreds in a matter of seconds upon opening the gift.  No matter, I just love to have something pretty to look at before such devastating act happens.

My good friends, K and S, both suggested (albeit separately) that I should clothe my copy of Fifty Shades of Shit Grey so that I won’t feel ashamed to be out seen with pornography the book in public.  That’s not a bad idea.  However, pity my Lili & Nana.

#Afraid

On a recent trip to the toy department with my niece, I wandered off to check if they still have the toys my sister and I shared back in the day.

This generation’s version of Polly Pocket is a total nightmare!  I mean, really.  Where is the “pocket”?  The “pocket” is my personal favorite.  And check out Polly.  Her size, which has grown a bizillion times her original in the 90’s, reminds me of Madame Olympe Maxime of the wizarding school Beauxbatons in Harry Potter.

Pic(ks) of the Week: Clea is the new “Bella”.

Favorite Snack

(and Throwback)

One of my fondest childhood memories is waiting for our yayas to come home from their Saturday morning trip to the flea market because they always gave me any one of the following pasalubongs:

(a) puto; and

(b) Pom-Poms.

Most of the time, though, they’d be bringing home both.  🙂  “Puto” is self-explanatory.  “Pom-Poms”, on the other hand, may not be.  Anyway, these are a tinier version of the above photo and can be bought retail in sari-sari stores or wholesale in flea markets.  In the 80’s retail price would be less than or equal to PHP1.00.  A fraction of PHP1.00, wholesale.

So you can probably imagine my delight, when, after almost two decades I found a GINORMOUS replica of Pom-Poms!  😀  This is brandless and sold at the co-op store in the office for PHP35.00.  Steep, for a child in the 80’s.  Reasonable,  for a full-fledged taxpayer.  😀

Favorite LOL Moment

Photo Credit: Click here.

Confession: I don’t regularly go through my Fezbook news feed.  But when I do, I am always amused at the magnanimity of:

(a) garbage (i.e., camwhore photos); and

(b) fodder— such as the above meme.

This could easily be me, you know.  If I was born with Latin blood and starred as the ultimate kontrabida in my own show.  😀

(Thanks to my friend, M, for sharing this!  :))

Favorite Trainwreck

I swear, this is the last celebrity-penned fiction I’ll read.  For now.  Only because Hilary Duff’s writing has turned my brain into mush.  I didn’t think there could be anything worse than the Kardashians and Snooki’s novels but apparently, this is. I don’t even want to go to Rio and Tokyo anymore because the author ghostwriter ruined those for me.  😀

However, if Hilary Duff’s bullshit heroine, Clea, becomes the new “Bella”, I’ll be on the front row.  Laughing my ass off, of course.  In trainwrecks, I am resilient.  😀

Pic(ks) of the Week: “We are infinite”. That’s right, I went there. :D

Favorite Movie

By now, I’m sure every pretentious Filipino teenager (or yuppie) has tweeted the wisdom, “We are infinite”.  That would be quite all right if:

(a) they knew what it implies; and

(b) they have actually read the novel before seeing the movie.

(Some may have also reenacted— or are planning to reenact— the tunnel scene although I can’t imagine how considering Manila is infamous for its traffic.  :D)

I was sitting next to a padre de familia at the theater so it would be terribly awkward if I bawled.  Instead, I managed to sneak in a few sniffles when:

(a) Charlie drank his meds with an RC cola;

(b) Charlie phoned his sister when he “crashed”; and

(c) Charlie opened up to his shrink about Aunt Helen.

P.S. There should have been scenes where Mr. Anderson gives Charlie copies of The Stranger (Albert Camus) and The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand).  Man, I love those books.

P.P.S. I’m pleased that the movie poster is of the same shade as the original book cover.

Favorite Starbucks

Those that are elusive . . .

Spotted during one of my afternoon strolls in Paris

This is where I wrote and licked stamps on postcards in London

Those that are empty . . .

Sunday morning, waiting for Alabang Town Center to open

. . . and those that get your name right (on the first try and with a smile).

Saturday brunch with a friend at 6750

Favorite Brunch

American Apple Pie . . .

. . . and Meat Lasagna.

Yezzz, in that order.  Dessert always has to come first.  😀

I’ve never really woken up to catch the Salcedo Market even though I should because it’s just in my neighborhood.  The market begins at 7:00AM and ends at 2:00PM.  I drag my lazy bones out of bed at 4:00PM.  Batugan, much?

(When I was born, my mother says it took a week before I finally opened my eyes.  They thought I was blind.  Turns out, I was sleeping the entire time.  :D)

During the second half of September, however, I find myself up and about by 9:00AM.  For no particular reason.  Thus, I’ve been frequenting the market albeit still in my pajamas.  You can get me out of bed in what I consider an “ungodly hour” on a Saturday but you cannot take me out of my PJs.  😀

Among all the food stalls at Salcedo Market, Tita Ope’s dishes are my personal favorites.  The Apple Pie costs PHP120.00 while the Meat Lasagna is priced at PHP170.00.  The phrase “Just like Nana used to make” comes to mind with every single bite.  Nothing beats the taste of homemade.  🙂

Jotski and Paul, this is for YOU.

My first fifteen frames of lomography went to bust.  This is the 16th and FINAL one.  I’m so happy I got a composition right.

I took this at Salcedo Park, a block away from where I live now.   Trivia: my ex lives on the building behind the tree.  Haha!  I spent an entire summer at his place when we were still together.   Funny I don’t bump into him anymore since I started living in Makati.  🙂 🙂 🙂

Anyway, this lomo is dedicated to you both.   You’re artists yourselves and I think you can appreciate the passion that goes with producing brilliant art.  Well, hindi pa naman yan “brilliant” but I’m hoping I’ll be a certified lomographer someday.  Bwahahaha.  Libre naman ang mangarap.  😀

***

Posted on: March 15, 2008

Multiply ID: thebelljar

Pic(ks) of the Week: In Praise of Twitter’s Brainchild— the Hashtag.

This week, I’m putting a lil’ twist on this “segment” of my blog in praise of Twitter’s brainchild— the Hashtag.  🙂

#YES

Photo Credit: Click here.

Age?  Perhaps 10 or 11.  Film?  Angels in the Outfield.  Character?  An orphan named Roger.  Media?  Betamax, VHS, AND Laser Disc (yup, all three). 

My first real love.

Then he took on that hit TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun and graced the covers of teenybopper magazines I lost interest.  😀

In his recent stint as “Magic Mike” on SNL, Joseph Gordon-Levitt could’ve kicked Channing Tatum’s butt if he was even considered for that role (which, obviously, he isn’t).

#BourgeoisProblems

Generally, I don’t enjoy travelling in the Philippines.  Or with Filipinos.  “Auto-Racism” ba ang tawag doon?  😀  I find that there are so few destinations in this country with a real sense of heritage.  And what little heritage left is seemingly corrupt.  😦

There are only three places in the Philippines I’d like to see in my lifetime— (a) Sulu, (b) Batanes, and (c) Vigan.  The third, which I was priviliged to visit last month, fell short of my expectations.  The famed Calle Crisologo (in above photo) is one capitalist enterprise in the guise of a World Heritage Site.  Tsk.

#AlamNa

It’s no secret that my current obsession are novels (purportedly) written by A to D list celebrities.  🙂

I distinctly remember the first time I laid my hands on a copy of this book.  I was on my weekly bookrun (i.e., a term I use to refer to regular trips to the bookstore) and it was on the half-off bin.  In the literary world, clearly, the pop superstar known as Britney Spears is not a best-seller.

Ten years later, I was clamoring for a copy of my own if only to satiate my appetite for all things campy.  😀  After several inquiries and much to my disappointment, I learned that suppliers of bookstores operating here in Manila no longer carry A Mother’s Love.  It was only through my fairy godshopper House of Flair that I was able to secure this novel on my shelf.  🙂

You don’t need to know the story.  I don’t think you care enough to hear it either.  🙂  Suffice it to say that I combed through the book in two hours because the plot is, essentially, “gripping”.  There is one particular striking detail that made me flip through page after page after page…  🙂

#SiraanNgBuhay

Pictured above is one of Ilocos’ pride delicacy— the Bagnet, specifically, as it is served in Vigan’s Cafe Leona.  My cooking skills are limited to popping things on the microwave so all I can tell you is that this dish is from a pig and it’s full of fat.  😀

I think the proper way to eat Bagnet is with soy sauce or vinegar (please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) but I dip mine in tomato ketchup.

#Afraid

As a child, I looked forward to being invited to classmates’ bornday parties at McDonald’s because there’s always a puppet show and a “surprise guest”— Grimace.  It’s hilarious that my niece doesn’t feel the same way.  Although if it were Jollibee, I doubt that she’d be as scared shitless.  😀

(I no longer keep track if bourgeois society has resolved the mystery of what Grimace is supposed to be.  Growing up “elite educated”, I shamefully admit that I participated in such a debate with friends :D).

Pic(ks) of the Week: Once Upon A Time, I Actually Dreamed Of Becoming A Sociologist. (I Wish I Still Do.)

Please click here for the House Rules.  🙂

Favorite Scare

I can take one.

But I wasn’t prepared for two.

There may have been a bizillion others.  I was absolutely shaking in my TOMS.  😀

I’ve never cultivated an affection for animals unless they’re depicted in cartoons.  I have the most irrational fear of CATS and BIRDS.  Cats are too judgmental.  And the only objects I’m thrilled to see in flight are airplanes, balloons, and kites.  In that order.  🙂

I’m okay with dogs but only because it’s fun naming them.  Our last family dog was a spitz I christened Marx.  Yezzz, as in the Karl Marx.  If our yayas wouldn’t have a hard time pronouncing the name, my other choices were to call him “Weber” or “Durkheim”.  Once upon a time, I actually dreamed of becoming a sociologist.  (I wish I still do.  :()

P.S.  Marx died this year.  He’s been with us since 2001.

Favorite Writer

I am convinced that James Franco is my soulmate.

Reading novels (allegedly) penned by celebrities is my newest hobby.  I refer to those books “Celebrity Trash Reads” and to date, I have page-turned from Britney Spears to the Kardashians and Snooki.  Kadiri, I know.  😀

I don’t really expect “depth” from a celebrity author even if he is one of the brightest movie stars.  Well, after reading James Franco’s collection of short stories, I now love him more as a writer than as an actor.  His anti-heroes are original (and fucked up) as Holden Caulfield and Howard Roark.

“Lockheed”, “April in Three Parts”, and “American History”— I think your inner teenager will cry.

Favorite Footwear

When you live a stone’s throw away from where your employer, the office becomes an extension of your home.  I wear ballet flats to and from work.  Most of the time, even during.  I always intend to change into heels as soon as I reach my desk but these “house shoes” are just too comfy to slip out of.

Solemate is an increasingly popular brand available in SM and retails at PHP299.75.  If you’re lucky as I was, the shoe department offers a Buy One, Get One promo and you’ll only end up paying PHP499.75 for two pairs.  🙂

Pic(ks) of the Week: Let It Be.

You know the rules.  🙂

Favorite QWERTY

Sure, it’s a waste of paper.  But there’s nothing like hearing your thoughts in sync with the beat of a typewriter.  I was lucky to have grown up with two.  However, this isn’t one of them.  This antiquated writing machine can be found at the Crisologo Museum in Vigan where memorabilia of the famed patriarch of the Crisologo clan (and author of the bill establishing Philippines’ Social Security System) are housed.

Favorite “Couture”

The article of clothing pictured above is an authentic tribal raincoat stored for safekeeping at the Burgos Museum, also in Vigan.  It has a very anti-fashion blogger feel to it, don’t you think?  😀

Favorite Wisdom

I’m about to hit the big 3-0 and I’d like to say that the mid-quarter life crisis is over but it never really ends.  Else, I’m just way too existential for my own good.  🙂

There was a bowl of candy in one of the trainings I attended for work and believe it or not, I randomly picked this out of a handful.  My reaction, of course, was— WTF.  😀

Favorite “Obligation”

Twister Fries make me dizzy.  But I feel gastronomically obligated to eat as much as I can if and when it suddenly pops up on the menu.  😀

Favorite Book

(I Can’t Afford)

This costs as much as my electricity, cable, and water bills combined.  So for that, wag na.  😀

(Dear, Fully Booked— any chance this will end up on your half-off bin?  Call me.)

Pic(ks) of the Week: I’m Not Ready To Share This To The Masses.

House Rules on this “segment” of my blog can be found here.

Favorite BFFs

I don’t have a “barkada”.  Geez, that word makes me shudder.  😀  And even though I was part of one many times in the past, I never liked belonging in a specific clique because I’ve always treated myself as an outsider.

I do, however, have friends— here, there, and everywhere.  That, I like.  🙂  Take these girls.  I didn’t grow up with them.  I’ve grown with and because of them.  All of us in one place seven years since we’ve all been together is like coming across that childhood fairytale you used to read ten times over.  You just know that it will end happily ever after.  🙂

Favorite Time of Day

I love the rain.  But only when I’m not traveling.  And only when I want some peace and quiet in Makati.  This was taken one gloomy afternoon at the Ayala Triangle.  There were a lot of tables inside Banapple but I opted to stay outside.  Nothing beats the sound of pitter-patter when you’re reading a good book (ahem, James Franco’s Palo Alto— fucked up!  *masigabong palakpakan*).

Favorite Throwback

This is what I look like.  Well, back in 2006 anyway.  😀  The photo was taken at the ancient kingdom of Ayudhaya on Christmas Eve.  Multiply’s shutting down and I am forced to “harvest” all the travel photos I stored back in the day.

Favorite Bargain

It’s no secret that I’m a GINORMOUS fan of Miley Cyrus.  Well, Hannah Montana (I’m 29.  And you?).

Since the show ended in the United States and even more so now that she will be Mrs. Liam Hemsworth, I’ve been scouring all bookstores here in Manila for a copy of the autobiography she released when she was only sixteen.  Kacheapan of me, I know.  😀

This book is cheap too.  Thank you, National Bookstore.

Favorite Cupcake

Out of all the things I did, saw, and ate in Ilocos, this takes the cake.  Pun intended.  I want to say that I wish Leila’s Cafe would open here in Manila but then again, it’s better if it doesn’t.  I’m not ready to share this to the masses.  Haha!  😀