After having travelled only using means of land transport, it somewhat felt entirely wrong to just hop on an airplane and fly all the way back to Helsinki. Some strange kind of reality was calling me back, a parallel world that naturally just kept on turning around its own axis – of course it wouldn’t stand still just because I had left! But yet I couldn’t help myself but feel bewildered by the fact that I was greeted by snowflakes and a magical late-winter sunrise – hadn’t we left in mid-summer with all leaves in different shades of green?


“Sai cos’è bello, qui? Guarda: noi camminiamo, lasciamo tutte quelle orme sulla sabbia, e loro restano lì, precise, ordinate. Ma domani, ti alzerai, guarderai questa grande spiaggia e non ci sarà più nulla, un’orma, un segno qualsiasi, niente. Il mare cancella, di notte. La marea nasconde. È come se non fosse mai passato nessuno. È come se noi non fossimo mai esistiti. Se c’è un luogo, al mondo, in cui puoi pensare di essere nulla, quel luogo è qui. Non è più terra, non è ancora mare. Non è vita falsa, non è vita vera. È tempo. Tempo che passa. E basta.”

Alessandro Baricco, Oceano Mare

Sometimes, crossing borders changes things quite miraculously – while Laos and Thailand share many things (such as the language coming from the same family), they couldn’t be more different: after a dusty 40-min-ride on a Songthiaw (an open bus with two long benches facing each other), we got to the Thanaleng train station, the one and only in Laos. To finally enter a train again after 5 months of staying in a country without train tracks was – amazing. Definitely my favourite means of transport (next to my own feet).The Thai night train to Bangkok felt like a luxury hotel, the cities we passed were huge and full of lights and life, reminding me of Western metropolises (only bigger). Somewhat it felt like Thailand was even more developed than many European countries, which was really confusing since it is Laos’ neighbour, one of the world’s least developed countries. But in Laos, they did not have a problem with stray dogs! (maybe the Vietnamese took care of that : ))

Grilled fish, last bag of sticky rice; Vientiane, Laos.

Vegetable sandwiches; Nong Khai train station, Thailand.

Rice with vegetables; train station restaurant, Bangkok.

Our first Pad Thai, street stall, Prachuap Kiri Khan.

Our first yellow curry, rice, salad; Ko Tao island.

Long live the fruit shake! Watermelonshake, carrot juice; Ko Tao.

Snorkeling lunch box: rice, fried egg, curry; boat around Ko Tao.

Best Thai food ever! – Seafood salad, Pad Thai, rice, …; Ko Tao.

Escaped the tourist island, finally back to Thailand: Sweet sticky rice, joghurt, fried things; breakfast booth, Surat Thani bus station.

Orange curry, seafood salad; street restaurant, Trang.

Heavenly fish in lemon sauce, sticky rice (!!); Pakmeng beach restaurant.

Fried rice with crab; seafood restaurant Hat Yao.

Banana pancakes, Nescafé; our home restaurant, Hat Yao.

Sweet sticky rice with coconut; street vendor, Luang Prabang.

Mekong fish with sticky rice; food stall, Luang Prabang.

Sweet sticky rice cooked in bamboo; bus to Phonsavan.

Fried veggies on rice (Latna phak), Yam salad; Simmaly restaurant, Phonsavan.

Vegetable sandwiches (to be continued in endless variations); our terrace, Phonsavan.

BBQ & grilled fish to welcome back Mr. Njai; Jars Café, Phonsavan.

Boiled dark corn (no, it’s not rotten); day market, Phonsavan.

Strange little glibbery pancakes; Phonsavan fresh market.

Our traditional weekend pancake breakfast; our terrace, Phonsavan.

Home-made pizza (before being drowned in ketchup); Jars Café, Phonsavan.

Noodle soup; Simmaly, Phonsavan.

Hmong Wedding feast (I had the rice); village out of Phonsavan.

Lao Wedding feast; the couple’s backyard, Phonsavan.

Papayasalad with sticky rice; street restaurant, Vientiane.

Rice with omelett; street restaurant, Nong Khai, Thailand (to renew my visa).

I stopped taking food pictures as soon as it became clear it would go on like this for the next few months (sandwiches, noodle soup, rice with veggies, sandwiches, noodle soup, rice with veggies, …) The photos are really about the places and memories that are different from the everyday – which was in Phonsavan for five rather unexpected months, except for some small escapades to Sayabouly, Luang Prabang, and Vientiane. Delicious!

Our last trip up on our favourite hill with the best melancholic view on Phonsavan, slightly hungover after the big Goodbye party the night before. It was pleasantly windy that day, with the sound of the wind resembling the distant call of the ocean. Thailand, here we come!

Runway -not runaway- is the name of the newest local disco where we went the other night. Finally, we managed to go out with our colleages Dachang and Thoummy to celebrate, say too early goodbyes, and cheer about new jobs and things to come. On our way, we met Adam from England, a nice guy traveling Laos and other Asian countries. Crazy dance night!

‘Our’ new jackfruit tree by night

Next morning – nice view!

A little more than a week ago, we had to move out of our house in Phonsavan. Our dear colleage Andy had offered us to stay in his house for the remaining two weeks in Laos, so we gladly accepted his offer. Packing our stuff that we had gathered in the past months felt like taking the first step away from here – it’s been almost five months in Laos and seven months of being gone altogether (which now seems like such a short time to me!). Can’t wait to hit the road again.

The other day, I had to get out to get some fresh air and walked up a hill where I had been biking with Tabea at the beginning of our stay. A horde of cows was grazing on the top of the hill, their bells peacefully sounding through the air. I sat down to absorb the sounds and the atmosphere. Gee, I will miss this place!