Taking Pictures of Strangers While Traveling

Flower Lady in Vientiane

Flower Lady in Vientiane

This is one of my favorite pictures from my trip to Southeast Asia.

Unedited, unfiltered and no cropping.

The glowing offering of marigold flowers, a halo of rusty umbrella spokes and the two o’clock, Beer Laos drinking, family social hour frame the flower lady perfectly. Her face radiates serenity and pride even on a balmy day on the side of a polluted bus station road in the capital city of Laos, Vientiane.

I always hesitate to ask locals for photos when traveling. One, because I’m shy. Two, because the last thing I want to do is make strangers feel like I’m on a cultural safari and “oh wouldn’t you mind being my next subject?”

But they are by far my favorite photos. Glimpses of culture diversity and universality muddled into 5 x 8 inch reason to travel. And so I muster my sweetest girl-next-door-who-lives-out-of-a-dirty-backpack smile and point to my camera, begging for a photo of a busy Laotian flower lady. Her family giggles and claps at the novelty of a falang wanting a photo of their daily routine. The flower lady gives a small smile before confidently grabbing a bouquet of white daisies and freakin’ works it, giving the camera all she’s got.

Because that’s what makes a damn good picture.

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5 Reasons Why I Love Luang Prabang, Laos

With a laid back, we-be-chillin’-monks style Luang Prabang, Laos is my favorite place we’ve visited so far. The locals greet you with a playful smiles and a simple welcome song of “Sabaidee!”

young-monks-luang-prabang

The first thing you notice are the monks. Just a glimpse of their regal orange robes makes me giggle with joy. It’s akin to seeing a rock star teddy bear that does yoga. Every time I see one I clap my hands together like Oprah on her birthday and whisper to anyone that will listen,

“The monks are coming!”

(Play it cool Meg, play it cool.)

They are everywhere. Piling into tuk-tuks, lounging in wats or just calmly walking down the street with shaved heads and eyebrows.

The main attraction in Luang Prabang is watching the morning alms at an eye opening hour of 5:30am. Rain or shine, the locals prepare sticky rice and bananas as an offering to the monks. Orange centipedes of monks quietly walk through the streets barefoot to accept their daily meals.

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Other great things to do in Luang Prabang:

1. Koung Si Waterfall: Ice cream blue pools and grottoes that spill down from the main waterfall, creating perfect swimming holes and rocks to perch on while singing themes from the Little Mermaid. (See reliving childhood.)

koung-si-falls-laos

2. Visit Wats (aka Temples): Walking barefoot into a golden, red and emerald green temple fills you with inner peace. The silent gold Buddha with a right hand facing upwards asks you for a simple smile.

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3. Ride and Wash Elephants: Luang Prabang is one of the best places to visit elephants in Southeast Asia, right after Thailand. We did our research and paid a little more for the sustainable tour – Elephant Village.

My Mahout

My Mahout

It was amazing.

Elephants are hairy and huge. It’s mixture of joy, fear and deep respect (especially when they start running – apparently they do not like cars). All the elephants were being rented from logging camps as a way to spare them from hard labor and raise awareness about the fact that these pachyderms are going extinct. The elephants were all 30 – 40 years old and are extremely food oriented.

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Elephant seeking banana.

4. Night Market: Best place to buy hippie shorts/pants, cool jewelry as well as fresh fruit shakes and $1.50 dinner buffets.

night-market-laos

Yummy

5. Utopia Bar and Bowling: You will do this, I promise. Grab a drink at the somewhat hard to find Utopia bar. Sit on Thai triangle pillows, play volleyball and then grab a tuk-tuk to late night bowling at around midnight. It’s the only thing open and you get to bowl in bare feet.