Jan 30, 2015

Goodbye Nong Khai ~

I’ve never been in tears to leave a place before; the week spent at Mut Mee Guesthouse in Nong Khai, Thailand has by far been the best travel experience I’ve ever had. This blog post is dedicated to my friends Jenn & Harry, who encouraged me to visit Nong Khai, start cycle touring, play ukulele, and a mass of other new interests – I can’t thank them enough.

The open-air garden at Mut Mee is special all by itself: it overlooks the Mekong River, with lounge chairs and shared tables underneath the thatched canopies. There's a restaurant, book shop, yoga/meditation studio, and bike rental all on-site. And it’s $6 USD per night for a beautiful single room. No, I didn’t forget a zero – that’s six dollars.

The people make the place though, and that’s why Mut Mee is truly special. The guesthouse is so genuine that it attracts like-minded individuals. Never in my travels have I stayed at a place with so many incredible people all gathered together, and returning guests at that! I aim to be one, too.

Nong Khai is a countryside town, so it doesn’t take long to walk from one place to another. Soon we were well-acquainted with the best places for coconut soup, generous dishes of fresh vegetables on rice, and Thai tea. We met other regulars at these places, and our friends grew. We talked about our travels, our insights, music, food, and yoga... we became a community.

As Jenn, Harry, and I we were discussing cycle touring at the iced chocolate cafe, a couple we befriended there said they had a bike they wanted to sell for a very reasonable price. It was in good condition, came with a few bells and whistles, and would I be interested?

I’m just agape at how the universe provides.

I bought the bike from them. Now I had no reason not to go cycle touring! A whole new world was opened up to me. Harry & Jenn gave me their unneeded bike bags and gear, demonstrated how to repair a flat tire, and even helped me clamp everything down so the bike was weighted evenly.

All these things coalesced at the perfect time, much the way the people at Mut Mee all came together at a specific place and time – separate threads that weave a pattern in an infinite tapestry; this is the spirit of the meaning behind “Mut Mee” in Thai. It’s like compounding miracles.

I know it will never happen again like this; that even when I return to Mut Mee, these people in this place belong to this time; it’s what makes every moment so valuable, and why it's important to appreciate it as it's happening.

Jenn, Harry, Ray, Diane, Ine, Andy, Tommy, Julian, Pao, Ben, Desi, TJ, Xavier, Duke, Fernando, Petra, Simeon, Amy, CJ, Connor, Catherine, “Grandad”, Pancho & Beatrix, the French couple, the Spanish-French couple, the bookshop lady, the coconut soup lady, the vegetarian restaurant lady, the iced chocolate guy, the back kitchen ladies… so much light and love - thank you from my heart!!

When it was time to leave, I looked out over the Mekong to Laos — a country beyond everything that I know. I felt like Sam following Frodo beyond the farthest step he'd ever taken from the Shire. And, like Sam, I’m not alone: after I checked out, Jenn & Harry cycled with me to the bridge that joins the border between the two countries.

Saying goodbye to them was hard – we’d been together  4 weeks (only two of which we spoke to one another, after the silent meditation retreat). After a big group hug, I crossed the bridge over the Mekong River and into Laos. I’ve heard from others what’s beyond this point, and now I go to experience it for myself. After passing immigration, I cycled 26 km to Vientiane and straight into the next adventure…


NOTE: The internet is a luxurious commodity Lao’s small villages go without — I don’t know when I’ll be able to update again, but I’ll keep you posted as I can. In the meantime, imagine me the redheaded Mad Max of the dusty Laotion roads.


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