But perhaps my favourite Lost in Translation phenomenon can be found in Luang Prabang; a city literally centred around its beloved Phousi mountain. Home to a thriving Buddhist Monastry (or 'monkery' as my 9 year old son calls it) and spectacular 360 degree views, the mountain has inspired numerous business names, from Phousi market to Phousi guesthouse. This, of course, isn't the slightest bit funny when you read it in the Lonely Planet, but can be quite amusing when someone suggests giving you a Phousi massage. It is at this point it can be very important to understand that the letter 'h' in this oft used word, is silent.
Seriously, One month in and we're all travelling brilliantly (if i say so myself).
We've gone cast fishing with locals in tiny Laos villages (wonderful), and ten pin bowling after midnight with swarms of backpackers (patchy), stayed in tropical bungalows and tiny spider filled huts. We've bathed with buffaloes, skipped over snakes and met a bunch of fabulous people along the way - travellers and locals alike.
If you ever do make it to Laos, you MUST get to Luang Prabang for Laos New Year in APril. Just trust me. (For $2.50 per person Seng Phet guesthouse offers comfortable beds, and fun staff - that means you, Phat!). Then jump in a truck/bus and head straight up to Muong Kaou, (spoil yourself at the the Riverside Bungalows for $30 bucks, or Sunshine guesthouse for $3 - the view is the same), then hop in a boat upstream to Muong Nuoi, a village devoid of cars and motorbikes, and running electricity only two hours per day. (We highly recommend staying with the adorable family who run Niksa's Bungalow.)
Ban Na village is an hours walk from here through tropical forest and hazy rice fields. The cave along the way is surrounded by crystal clear water you wont be able to resist, unless you happen to be a monk and are scared off by the awesomeness of approaching women. (The whole monk\female aversion is selective at best - i've been leered, giggled and waved at by groups of young novices just as i would at any western construction site..the difference, it seems, is the presence of a Senior Monk to keep a lid on things.)
Sadly we had to leave Laos after three weeks, and headed over to Chiang Mai, and up to Maddie's beloved Chiang Dao Lodge at Ban Ba Bong near Chiang Dao. ITs a bit of a anti-climax heading back into Thailand with its noise, smelly streets and aggressive touts, but at least we were spared that up at Tim and Steve's Lodge. Unfortunatley we havent been spared a nasty bout of gastro that has hit us all over the past few days since we have been back in Bangkok, and are desparately trying to shake it before our flight to London tonight.
I guess that's that all i have time to write before my internet access expires, and we still have to pack to make the plane in time. Apologies for lack of personal emails, but am thinking of you all heaps and looking forward to catching up with our friends in Europe.
( And for the record, phousi massage is fabulous).