I always envisioned crashing a wedding one day but never thought that day would come so soon in a foreign country 8,000 miles away from the United States. After freshening up and putting on my only black dress I had with a scarf to cover up my shoulders, our group of 7 white tourists jumped in the back of a pickup truck with a bottle of Smirnoff and 12 big bottles of BeerLao to head to the wedding with D1. When we asked D1 what we were supposed to bring, he said for a traditional Laos wedding, the guests are supposed to bring their own alcohol to consume. Once we arrived, we were immediately greeted by the bride and groom and we handed all of our beverages to him as our “gift”. They led us to our seats and placed the beer and vodka around the table and started dishing out drinks to everyone. I thought this was one way to get the party started…even though it was around 5pm when we arrived and the wedding had been going on since 10am that morning. Immediately we noticed how out of place we were in this crowd (no surprise there) but it seemed like everyone’s heads were towards our table, staring, laughing, pointing at us. After we all congratulated the groom and started drinking our BeerLao, guests started to come up to us asking for pictures and have a drink with us. In no time, we were one of them enjoying this special moment. The women and men are dressed in very colorful, conservative clothes with the tables and plastic chairs facing the dance floor and band (1 person who sings and plays the keyboard).
After a couple of drinks, we started to feel the liquid courage and made our way to the dance floor with D1 and his friends. Well let me warn you, this is not like an American dancefloor with the music pumping and fists flying in the air as the groom wildly chugs his drinks with his groomsmen….this was anything but. Everyone formed a circle, males were on the inside of the circle while their female dance partners were on the outside in front of them. There was absolutely no touching allowed and you basically had to move your hands in little circles slowly while walking around in a circle. Sometimes when the music changed slightly, the guys would instruct the women switch places with them for a minute and after the time was up we would have to go back to the outside of the circle. I must admit, I was getting good at dancing in Laos because after every song as we were taking our seats, a new guest came up and asked for a dance. After 10 songs and 10 dance partners, I needed to take a break to grab something to eat and grab a beer or three. As we were sitting down and recuperating from the crazy dancing under the hot sun eating our dishes of rice, the groom and bride came around with a bottle of Johnny Walker and for a donation of 10,000 kip ($1.23) they would take a shot with you. Obviously, we all wished them good luck and took a shot with them. The groom and bride then made their way to every other table to collect good wishes and lots of kips!
After another couple of dances, we decided to go to the playground behind the band and play with the kids. Naturally, we started to play “stay away from Ana and run as fast as possible until she is out of breath”. I swear these kids were Olympics runners back in their other life because I was dying after a couple rounds of this game. Also I was running in my sandals that provided cushion on my feet while all the kids were running around barefoot on very rough rocks – I don’t know how they did it!! I think the kids started to get the hint that I was absolutely breathless with little energy left (as well as being very tipsy) and gave me a break after a little while. Their energy and giggles were my favorite part of that day. They were so incredibly happy while running around, giving me high fives and flexing even though from these pictures you can see how impoverished they are. After the game of stay away and giving me lots of high fives, we decided to go back to the dance floor and start dancing to close out the wedding reception.
As we were departing to head home after an exhausting day and night with the locals, the cutest and funniest thing happened. After we were all in the back of the pickup truck, the kids all gathered flowers from the lawn and handed us handfuls of them as our truck departed. After handing all the flowers to us, they started chasing the truck down the road as we all waved goodbye…as you watch the video below watch for the little boy in yellow who takes a tumble while running after the truck! The Gibbon Experience was incredible but attending the Laos wedding with D1 was an immersive cultural experience that allowed us to connect with the locals and have them teach us their ways as well as share such an important day with them.
I woke up ready to continue my journey through Laos with a 12-hour bus ride to Luang Prabang which left at approximately 10am…oh how I had no idea what I was about to experience. As soon as we got to the bus, I noticed we had what was called a sleeper bus. A sleeper bus is where there are twin size beds on the top and bottom instead of seats where two people are expected to “sleep” together in. As soon as I found my “bed” for the 12-hour journey ahead of me, I noticed these beds were made for the Laos and Thai people, meaning they were 5 ft long! If I was even going to attempt to sleep on this bus, my feet would either be 6 inches over into the other bed in front of me or I had to curl them up. Soon after spacing out my backpack and snacks around me, a little Thai women climbed into the twin sized bed with me – thinking back I guess it could have been worse if it were a big, sweaty man next to me. Of course, I was the only tourist on the bus again and decided to make myself as comfortable as I could by semi-spooning this little Thai lady and start to ready my book. As with all bus journeys, we stopped every hour for people to use the bathrooms and buy insects to eat off the side of the road.
Around 6 hours into the very bumpy and curvy ride to Luang Prabang, I started to smell smoke. Within 10 minutes the entire back of the bus was smoking…oh great this is going to be a long journey. I woke up the Thai lady next to me and pointed out at the smoke and she promptly when back to sleep like it was nothing. So I decided to make my way to the front of the bus to tell the driver that the bus was smoking out of the back wheels and we needed to stop. Of course, he didn’t understand me so I went back to my twin bed and prayed to god that this bus wouldn’t catch on fire in the middle of Laos where I had absolutely no cellular service and no one to speak English with. After another 10 minutes we pulled over and I ran out of the bus. Now it was really smoking. It seemed like we pulled over next to a hose? For 20 minutes the driver hosed down the back tires and engine, then we were back on our way…or so I thought. Every 2 hours our bus had to pull over to hose down the tires or maybe it was the engine because it was constantly smoking. For the next 10 hours I feared that my twin size bed with my little Thai buddy would catch on fire above the back tires. After 16 hours, 15 stops to hose down the bus’s engine and two very cramped legs we arrived in Luang Prabang!! After a nice mile and a half walk with my backpack on at 3am to find my hostel, I had finally arrived in Luang Prabang safe and sound in my own hostel bed!