Better late than never. Here is the last blog post of my travels in Asia. I have now been back in the United States for about a month, but started writing this in the Shanghai airport on my way back home.
After a short stay in Bangkok, Matt and I headed to Thakhek, Laos for two weeks of climbing resort life. It felt funny to retrace my steps from a year before. I remember feeling so nervous that first time catching the bus to cross the Mekong River into a new country. After four months of travel in Asia it felt easy and straightforward, especially after dealing with cross country travel in China.
On our flight out of Bangkok, we met two other climbers from France. Chloe and Felecian would end up being some of our favorite people at the Climbers Home. After we all figured out we were headed to the same place we shared taxi and tuk tuk rides. Arriving back at the Green Climbers Home felt like a sort of homecoming to me. After all, this is the place that inspired this crazy trip in the first place. It felt like an appropriate last stop on my Asia adventure.
The next two weeks were spent living the easy life of the Climbers Home. Lazy breakfast was followed by morning climbing. When the sun hit the morning cliffs we would all head back to camp for lunch and a siesta. Maybe we would head out for some evening pitches before sunset. Then it was time for dinner and plenty of Beer Lao before heading to bed early. Early on in our stay we found out that Felecian is a real life professional magician. Some evenings he would entertain Camp 2 with mind blowing impromptu magic shows. I still have no idea how he always finds my card in the deck. We also ran into a bunch of friends from Yangshuo and Li Ming. No matter where you are, the climbing world is small.
I jumped back on some old projects and decided to focus my efforts on my favorite 7a called Schwitzerland, which translates to “sweat land” in German. It is a beautiful climb with some powerful and technical moves, but very safe falls. My Yangshuo climbing buddy Caitlin would approve! Matt proceeded to onsight pretty much all of my old projects and then seemed very content to be my belay slave. Thanks boyfriend!
On our first rest day, Matt and I headed into town with some new friends Jace and Alex. We spent the afternoon hanging out by the Mekong River and ate a delicious Thai family style dinner. After dark we found a little old tuk tuk driver to drive us the 15 kilometers back to camp who turned out to be the best driver in all of Thakhek. As we rolled out of town he revved the engine and started hauling ass past all the other traffic on the road. He flew through a roundabout causing his passengers to hold on for dear life and started cackling when he saw our expressions in the rear view mirror. As we flew down the highway with our laughing Lao driver I looked out the back of the tuk tuk to see bright stars above us in the sky. Its funny, but I realized that some of the happiest moments of my life have been on that stretch of highway between Thakhek and the Green Climbers Home. There is a sense of freedom in driving out into the limestone karsts at night. As Matt and I always like to say, it feels like you are getting away with something.
Back at camp we started climbing with some amazing people from Portland named Chris and Tamara. We spent a couple mornings working on Schwitzerland together and they finally convinced Matt to try some routes at the famous Roof. Sometime during our last week Chris and Tamara were introduced to the game Settlers of Catan. Chris became instantly addicted and there were a couple of days where we all played multiple games. Many mornings and evenings were spent trying to build a civilization with wheat, wood, ore, sheep and bricks. Perhaps my proudest accomplishment of this trip was actually winning a game of Catan! It has never happened before and might never happen again.
Another afternoon we hitchhiked into town with Tamara and Chris in order to get pizza at an expat run restaurant. I had been there last year and the pizza turned out to be just as good as I remembered! We also had time to visit the market to pick up plenty of fresh fruit and stopped on the highway on our way back to purchase watermelons. I do love fruit in Southeast Asia. It will be one of the things I will miss the most.
On our last full day I finally redpointed Schwitzerland! Last year when I left the Green Climbers Home I had just fallen off the same route and did not feel ready to leave. As we woke up on our final morning this time, I had a deep sense of contentment and completion. I finally felt really ready to go home. We said our goodbyes to new friends and caught a tuk tuk to the bus station. Matt and I parted ways in the Don Mueng airport. He was headed for Korea and Japan while I was headed to a hostel for a night of sleep before catching my flight to Albuquerque. I felt strange to watch my travel buddy walk away and catch a taxi by myself.
As always, the ending of something is bitter sweet. I’m sure I will start work again and wish I had never left Asia. But as I boarded my flight the next morning I felt ready for what comes next. After all, the adventure isn’t over. I remember talking to my dear friend Becca before leaving on this trip. I was unhappy with life in Flagstaff and I remember saying that I wanted a life of big adventure. She told me that maybe I don’t need big adventures to make life meaningful, but I can be happy with the little adventures that happen every day. I certainly don’t regret uprooting everything for an epic journey, but I think I’m ready to let the little adventures happen. Weekend trips, coffee dates, family gatherings, walks with Juniper and movie nights.
Goodbye Asia. It has been a wild ride!