<< Read Part 8

 

After a 2-day slow ride along the Mekong, only interrupted by a night spent in a tiny village on the riverfront, I entered Luang Prabang: a small river port (listed as UNESCO World Heritage). It's a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and many branches of the river. I was still feeling like an imposter and voyeur. I wandered down the streets of Luang Prabang under the scorching sun, wondering if I could join a project and feel useful.

Two days later, after applying for some volunteer work, I went to the North East of the country to explore some cute villages.

At the end of my first day, I was surprised to receive an email that read: "YES, please come as soon as possible". It came from a Dutch couple, owners of the "Kuang Si Butterfly Park", in the middle of the jungle near the Kuang Si waterfall.

I was very excited at the idea of volunteering in a botanical garden / butterfly park. I had a strong urge to experience life differently in this country and I was really tired of being a tourist. I wasn't going to live with Laotians but I hoped to get rid of the "tourist" label, which might give me the chance to relate with people differently than from a client perspective, especially with merchants used to dealing with tourists 8 months a year...

I survived the minibus ride (Laos' roads!) and I arrived at the Butterfly Park a few days later, a little sore but happy (and relieved!) to start this brand new little chapter. I didn't expect to be so amazed!

My guide Ineke helped me with my bags, handed me the map of the park and encouraged me to tour the place alone for a first time and take the time to absorb the vibe and observe everything. My training as a guide would be starting the next day!

I wandered down the walkways lined with nectar flowers and orchids, then went through the thick plastic blinds and entered the butterfly house. I discovered a gorgeous garden full of exotic flowers and plants but most importantly, so many butterflies of all shapes and colors waltzing around surrounded me. It was just beautiful! I wished someone had filmed my reaction!

 

In the following weeks, I had the daily pleasure to witness the pure expression of wonder on the visitors' faces as they slowly entered the butterfly house and looked around with their eyes wide open. Everyone smiled as they contemplated these gracious and delicate creatures! It was absolutely magical and I was going to stay here three weeks!

Three weeks during which I learned (almost) everything about this animal's life cycle, from the egg to the caterpillar to the chrysalis to the butterfly and so on! Nearly everyday, I witnessed butterflies getting out of their chrysalis. I regularly saw a praying mantis trying to catch and eat butterflies. I observed impressive spiders and various insects. I sweated a lot (as spring progressed, it got warmer and more humid). Twice a day, I would go swim in a beautiful large private pond of the Kuang Si waterfall. I put my feet in a pond full of small fish eating organic matter (OUCH!). I played card games with my colleagues, ate and chatted about life with the owners Ineke and Olaf, a couple of expats from the Netherlands who came to Laos to start this project: their unconventional life experience was super interesting.

 

Sadly, I didn't make much contact with Laotians: the language barrier was hard to overcome! I got to share a few laughs, lots of smiles, some "sabaidi!" and "kop chai lai lai" with Laotians working in the park but nothing more seemed possible. It was a little frustrating but it's also part of the journey. :P Ineke and Olaf, amazingly nice and friendly, went through it too: they told me that it took between 6 months to a year before they could speak the language a little and start making friends among the locals. Nevertheless, it was always a sweet contact. During my stay in this corner of the world where the climate and the landscape are so different from Quebec, time seemed to go extremely slowly... Especially here in Laos, a mostly rural country.

This slowness made me realize how easy it is to stay calm and go with the flow. I think the heat is partly responsible for this state of mind. It's wonderful: the years of intense agitation of the everyday life in Montreal felt very very far away from me (PHEW!). Slow mood, slow life!

I eventually left Laos (after a month, how time flies!) and slowly went back to Thailand (it took me 4 days!). I didn't stay in Laos very long because I was offered a new volunteering opportunity in the Gulf of Thailand and I was really looking forward to start! I would be heading to the Koh Phangan island to work in a "Healing and Awakening Center", which would bring me closer to my greatest calling in life: healing through self-work. Plus, it was located right by the sea, so I was already sold! :D

 

This blog series is almost over! Don't miss the conclusion of Véro's journey next month!

 

<< Read Part 8   Read Part 10 >>

 


 

Many of you have met Véronique Laplante during her 3 years and more as Lotus Palm administrator and massage therapist. She is a dear member of the Lotus Palm family and we follow her journey with great pride and love.

She has graciously agreed to share with us her thoughts, experiences and photos while she is traveling through Southeast Asia.

We will publish her story over the next few months. Follow the guide!