“Get caught in the rain did you?” My hostel pals laughed as I rounded the corner, drenched from head to toe, giggling like a child. I’d just had a refreshing slap in the face, in a very unexpected way.
“I’ll get you a towel.”
At the end of my time in Myanmar, I’d been spending a lot of time travelling with one person and the time came for us to part ways. That always sucks. The friendships and relationships you make on the road are so intense and unparalleled to any other it’s amazing, but this makes for much more painful goodbyes.
After we parted, I fell into a bit of a slump. I made some more friends, but I wasn’t really myself and I wasn’t sure why. I was doing lots of amazing things, seeing incredible places, but I was never really present. I couldn’t fully appreciate what was around me and the awareness of this only frustrated me more. But I’m a big believer in the universe and its ways of shaking you up when you need it, and at just the right time, it did just that.
Luang Prabang in Laos has one of the best food street alleyways I’ve ever come across. The veggie section leaves nothing to be desired, spring rolls and noodles and tofu and stir fries and rice and curries… The simplicity of wooden benches crammed under corrugated tin, mixed with the hustle of people clambering through and the sounds of woks and smells of chilli and steam just make it one of the best places to sit and get lost. And gain a few pounds. I’d made it my mission, as it was my last evening in Luang Prabang, to head down to the alley for dinner. It was only a ten/fifteen minute walk from the Sokdee Guesthouse I was staying at, and a slight drizzle of rain wasn’t enough to deter me. So off I went.
As I got through the street market, the rain had gotten a lot heavier. Vendors were frantically packing up stock and leaving the street bare, knowing more than I did of what was to follow. I carried on, pausing under an umbrella for a moment and pressing on. The rain wasn’t too bad.
Finally the alleyway was before me, so I competed with too many to make my way down the narrow path to the veggie stall of dreams, filled up my buffet bowl, handed it over to be heated and paid my 15,000 kip (that’s just under £1.50). I sat alone on a picnic style bench with my food, avoiding endless streams of water leaking through the tin roof, as the rain picked up its tempo. It was seriously raining now. Monsoon raining.
The sound was so intense on the tin roof I could feel it in my very skin. So much water came through that the food vendors had to start placing strategic buckets, which filled in less than a minute and then had to be poured out across the floor – much to the constant “lift your feet!” panic of us diners. I’d started chatting with another Londoner who had sat with me, and we joked as Londoners do about the weather and how insane the rain was. We sat for a while after finishing, thinking that perhaps the rain would subside a little so we could make the mad dash back to dry comfort, but of course, it didn’t. It got worse. So much worse that a huge piece of tin from the roof couldn’t take it anymore, and surrendered with a mighty crash to the ground.
We looked at each other almost simultaneously at this point. It was time to go.
After getting a plastic bag from a kind man to wrap my handbag in, I took off my shoes, and we walked.
Out of the cover of the alleyway, the rain had come up past my ankles, right on the street where the glorious market is usually in full swing. Within a millisecond I was drenched to the point where I might as well have jumped in a swimming pool. My strap dress was stuck to my body, my hair to my face, my shoes in my hand and a carrier bag for a handbag. I looked quite a treat. My London friend sprinted off in his direction, and I carried on for the next 10 minutes alone, like a drowned rat, so the saying goes.
And then something strange happened. I laughed.
I laughed almost uncontrollably, like a child. Giggling to myself at the hilarity of the situation. At the faces of onlookers hiding in shop fronts and restaurants. At the fact that I was barefoot, alone, after sunset, in Laos, with monsoon rain pounding on my skin. At that moment I felt like a child, I felt more free than I ever have in my life. A situation where normally we’d be cursing at our misfortune, I was having the time of my life. In that very instant, I got my fun back.
I was me again.