... On An Empty Stomach
18.05.2008 - 18.05.2008 33 °C
Tan decided she wanted to cycle around town. I, being the scaredy cat that I am, decided I prefered to go around with my two feet. (No, actually, I got knocked down by a car once when on a bike in SG, so no more cycling on the roads for me... Yes Mum, I got knocked down before...)
Before I start talking about the day, let me just say that I decided that it might be interesting to see what it would be like to try and survive on USD 2.00 for a day. OK, I cheated, I used the USD 1 = 10,000 kip exchange rate, but nonetheless, it's still 20,000 kip for a whole day. In this case, USD 2.00 included water, food and transport. Tan thought I was mad, but she only found out at the end of the day.
OK, back to Luang Prabang.
Despite a more touristy feel than in Vientiane, Luang Prabang is still pretty much a nice place to be. People are still friendly, and not touty either. Walking through the streets, many wats could be spotted, some really nice, and others, kind of rundown. In most of them, monks could be seen going about their daily activities.
I managed to get into the Luang Prabang National Museum, and I thought it was pretty interesting. Think Versailles in France, but Asianized and filled with Buddhist instead of Christian symbols and relics. Not that big, but nonetheless, by Asian standards, definitely a Versailles. Unfortunately, they didn't allow any photography, so I can't show any photos.
Then it was on to the Culture and Ethnography Centre. I must say, it was the first time I saw a place that proudly displayed the diversity of the cultures and ethnic groups that existed in a multi-ethnic society. The exhibition showcased the different minority groups existing in Laos, as well as their various unique traditions, dressings and even tools.
By this time (about 4pm), I was starving, having only had a bottle of water, which already costed me 3,000 kip. I basically figured, better to sleep with a full stomach then to eat lunch, and find myself awake all night later because of the hunger pangs.
I met Tan at this really cool bookshop / library / book rental / exchange place. Basically the idea was that, since there's no national library in Laos, the place was there to encourage Lao people to read. So while foreigners like us paid to rent the books (by the number of hours, or for a full day), Lao people got to borrow the books for free! Cool huh. We decided to just hang out there and grab a book to read.
While reading, I realized that the words on the pages were dancing around. Pretty fun actually, chasing the words. But then finally the brain kicked in, and I realized that I it was the effects of the hunger. So no choice, I had to order something from the cafe, or risk fainting on the way back to the guesthouse. That one salad alone blew my USD 2. Sigh...
Nonetheless, the experience was pretty good for understanding, to a small extent, how it's like to be poor. You walk pass people eating their nice meals, and you realize that you can't eat it, because you can't afford it. On top of that, all I did was walk around town. For a person who really has to survive on USD 2 a day, they have to earn the money first. That means work, i.e. physical labour. Anybody wants to try it??? I'm going to try it again in Vietnam.