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We arrived 2 hours early at the airport for our morning flight back to Hanoi, Vietnam only to find out that our flight was delayed. We debated for a good minute about going back into town to sightsee, but between catching a ride back and the possibly of not getting back in time for our flight, we ended up waiting at the airport for another 8 hours. Unlike other international airports, you can not check in until the hour before your flight depart from the Vientiane airport. The airport was small and did not offer too many options for entertainment, but I had fun watching random people interacting until it was time to check in. 🙂

My parents and I went shopping at the famous open market (Talaso) in Vientiane on our last day in the country. Everything was so cheap, and I admitted, I ate almost 5lbs of Lychee AND 5lb Logans by myself. Ah, the trip was worth it just getting to eat those fresh fruits.

That evening, my cousins took us to explore an area in the city that was built by Japan along the Mekong River and right across from the Thailand border. It had a modern feel compared to the rest of the developing city and provided a space for walkers and joggers. It felt wierd to be standing on a boardwalk that looked so similar to Santa Cruz, CA yet was a world’s apart from California.

We left the Hmong villages on our 18th day and spent the day touring the Laos National Zoo, a 1.5 – 2 hours drive south of the capitol. It was definitely not what I expected and the animals looked so mal-nourished and sad, but I’m surprised by the number of animals they had there, especially crocodiles and alligators. There was also a really, really ugly camel that stuck out its tongue every time we walked by and a dancing elephant.

While we were living in the refugee camps in Thailand, my aunt left the family and got married. I was too young to remember her but my family spoke of “the aunt who got left behind” all the time growing up. My aunt and I met for the first time. She lived two hours east of Nong-Hai Village. Her house was nested between two hills, the north side led to a Laos Village and the south side led to a Hmong Village, and the closest market was an hour car ride away. Apparently, she had just moved to this part of town and was currently the only resident on the block.

This morning at 4am, we caught the first bus out of Nasavang Village and headed to Nong-Hai, a Hmong Village about a 4 hours drive south of Nasavang, where my mom’s sister lived. Unlike Nasavang where villagers were extremely mal-nourished due to limited access to food, Nong-Hai had tons of food markets and people actually looked healthier. Nong- Hai was also one of the only village in the surrounding areas with a post office.

Every year, the villagers took a trip to the biggest cave resting along the hills in Nasavang to gather soil to start their crops. We were so fortune to be able to visit the cave and observed the daily struggle that these villagers had to go through to just find soil for their crops.

Sadly, the path was too steep and I never made it to the cave but I did cheered everyone else on from the halfway point. 🙂

My uncles disappeared for a day and when my parents asked where they went, nobody said a thing. We later discovered that they went to find a cow to sacrifice for a soul calling “hu plig” ceremony for my parents, and I. In Hmong, a “hu plig” ceremony calls on the spirits to be in good health. My uncles hosted the ceremony to make sure our spirits will be in good health for the rest of our trip.

The view of the house as folks gathered at the house to prep the meat.

The men prepping the meat:

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