Back in London

I’m back in London… arrived late last night (including one hour standing in the queue at Immigration, thank you UK) and back in the office today. Everything seems slightly surreal but my first meeting isn’t until 2pm so in the meantime I’m catching up on email (work and I guess some personal at lunch), RSS feeds, mailing lists, etc. I’ll save the forums for later.
Everything seems so green in London now! The trees are suddenly covered in new leaves and the shrubs have started flowering… After a lovely walk through the park, the bus ride to work was uneventful, no shrunken-headed cross-dressing Laotian variety shows blasting from the TV while I’m trying to sleep.
The weather seems nice and cool after Vientiane/Paxse, where it was 37-41 over the past few days. No more $1 meals – it’s going to be strange cooking for myself again, I’ll have to think of exciting treats I’ve missed while away. I think I’ll go on a mission for some nice cheese tonight because I dreamt about it one night I was away. Surprisingly, I’m not sick of noodles though I never want to see that funny textured protein stuff Thai Airlines serve in the veggie meals ever again.
So, some rambling thoughts for a quick catch-up… the second kayaking trip didn’t go quite as planned because there was a really strong wind blowing up the river. We battled it for a few hours then gave up, deflated the kayaks and got a boat down the Mekong to Don Deng. Crashed out for a while then watched the sun set over the mountains behind Champassak. The next day we got a longtail ferry (not a fairy) with the bikes across the river to Champassak and cycled to Wat Phou.
Champassak is meant to be the next backpacker town, but I hope it doesn’t go the same way as Vang Viang. Vang Viang left me quite depressed about the impact of travel – apparently it only took a few years for the whole town to change into some kind of backpacker hell. The main tourist street of Luang Prabang was a bit like a mini Khao San Road, which was weird because the food was much better (and cheaper) at the restaurants along the river. I guess there’s no reason I should expect every backpacker to resist the call of food and TV from home in the interests of avoiding negative impact on the towns they visit, but it’s a shame because it makes travelling seem like a destructive act.
Wat Phou was amazing. There was no-one else there when we got to the first palaces, and it was so peaceful and beautiful. It’s hard to believe it was all hidden in the jungle for so long. The new-ish museum was quite good, with panels explaining who the different deities were and what they meant, so that you had some context for what you would see on the site. After the crowds at Angkor Wat, the quiet and the chance to look around without battling through masses of people was particularly special.
Vientiane seemed chaotic and bustling after Paxse, which was amusing because it seemed so quiet and small when I first arrived. It was really hot so we didn’t race around, but it’s not like you have to rush around to see everything anyway.