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A Laotian adventure - Anna Brech

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I love a good beach as much as the next person, but I know a holiday has been really amazing when I can remember it by sensation.

The trip I took to Laos with one of my oldest friends a few years ago is one such trip.  Every detail of the journey stands out to me, as if in technicolour.

I remember the heat hitting me like soup as we touched down in Bangkok and the salty tang of the evening air as we weaved through the crowded streets by tuk-tuk (unoriginal, but it had to be done). The stale whirl of the broken fan on the bus we took up to the Laos border, the slightly rotten whiff of the river and the yells of “taxi, taxi, good price!” from boats taking us across.

That first, delicious sip of an ice-cold Beer Lao on a hot, humid evening with flies all around and the promise of adventure in the air. And the mushy goodness of a banana pancake cooked fresh on the street the day after.

I could never forget the bum-numbing bus journey where every precarious turn round around a mountain bend sent our pulses racing, while all around us people stayed coolly impassive. The crickets chirruping as we trekked through the jungle to a remote mountain village, where potent caskets of rice wine offered by hospitable locals sent our throats raw, as our eyes streamed from the campfire.

Those first tentative steps on a makeshift log across a lake that seemed about 20 metres deep (but in reality, was about two). The splashes of colour that adorned the beautiful city of Luang Prabang, from the glorious bougainvillea bushes to orange glow of the monks’ robes (and the sound of temple bells going off at 4am).

And that unbearably boiling night train back to Thailand, when a cockroach crawled over my pillow and we really only got through it with endless beer and games of cards.

This kind of visceral memory is, for me, what a true journey is all about.

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