Finding romance in Vang Vieng

June 30, 2015

To put this in a little context, we’d been dating for almost eleven years (since we were in high school) and we were in no rush to get married.  I especially wasn’t all that keen to get married, it was always Guy who felt more strongly about it (he’s a romantic at heart).

I’ve written before about how unhappy I was living in Vientiane – and when Guy came he was just a huge ray of sunshine.  I’d spent three months looking forward to him coming and I was so pleased when he finally arrived.  We spent a wonderful week in Vientiane in a bubble of happiness.  We ate and drank and rode our motorbike. One Saturday morning he came into one of my classes where my teenagers wasted no time grilling him on such important questions as “when are you going to marry Pippa?” and “when are you going to give Pippa babies?” – his reaction was priceless! After class we caught a bus a few hours north to Vang Vieng.

As I stepped off the bus, I took a deep breath of fresh sweet air and couldn’t remember feeling happier or more at peace. We were together again, we were travelling,  we were out of Vientiane, and we were in such a beautiful place.

We dropped our things off at the guesthouse and then strolled along the streets hand in hand soaking in the gorgeous scenery.   After a while we popped into a funky little bar with the typical little tree houses to lounge in.  We were the only people there which suited us perfectly;  the music was good, the cushions were comfortable and the beer was cold.  Guy ordered some “magic garlic bread” (not something we would normally do but when in Laos…) which arrived within a few minutes.  We nibbled away at it, drank some more Beerlao and chatted happily for about an hour.  At this stage we decided to explore some of the town as we weren’t feeling any of the magical effects of the bread.  But, when I tried to stand up I found myself unable to feel my legs – and when I looked over at Guy I noticed that the music had begun to float in front of my eyes.

We sat chatting for a few minutes and soon Guy started to feel the effects too.  We watched the music dance in front of us as we discussed the mysteries of the universe.  I’m not sure how much time passed but the sky slowly darkened outside as Guy reached his hand across the table to hold mine.  He opened his mouth to speak, closed it, opened it again and started to say something but got choked up.  Finally he looked at me and asked “will you marry me?”.  I said yes.

We lay cuddled together for only a minute or so before I started getting paranoid.  I became convinced that the staff would steal my bag (not that there was much in there to steal) so I insisted we leave.  Seeing my panic-stricken face Guy quickly obliged and we started walking back toward our guesthouse. The walk was only about fifteen minutes long but it felt like we were walking for days.  Not walking in fact – I swear I floated home on golden orbs of light.

My paranoia didn’t end after leaving the bar.  In the distance I saw three guys walking towards us chatting and I instantly became convinced that they were going to attack us (?). I can only describe it as a scene from a movie as time slowed down completely and the few seconds that it took for us to walk past (completely unnoticed by them) seemed to last for minutes getting slower and slower until finally they had gone and time sped back up to normal again. My heart was pounding in my chest!

At some point on the way home I remembered that Guy had proposed – or at least I thought I remembered that – things were more than a little fuzzy.  I swung between thinking I’d imagined it and that he’d been joking.  Finally for whatever reason (?!?) I decided an aggressive approach was best so I told him that we weren’t really engaged, that I knew he hadn’t really meant it and there was no ring so it wasn’t real anyway.  Or at least that’s what I think I told him.  I’m not sure what he heard but he got pretty upset.  When we eventually got back to the guesthouse we were walking in a strained silence.

He opened the door and told me to sit on the bed (where I was heading anyway because the walls were not staying in place).  I closed my eyes for a few moments trying to remember what we were fighting about and when I opened them he was kneeling in front of me with a jewellery box in his hand.  I said yes (again).

[Later he told me that he had been thinking about proposing for a while, and that one day when I was at work he’d been driving around downtown Vientiane on the motorbike and had seen a jewellery store so had gone it to have a look.  He found what he thought was the perfect ring so bought it but had no plans to use it.  He said that he hadn’t planned on doing it that night, and certainly not in a bar – but the moment struck him as perfect (though he’d left the ring at home so was unprepared).]

the traveling anthropologistIn the morning we felt surprisingly clear-headed and oh so happy

The next day passed in a blur of happiness.  We couldn’t stop grinning at each other like a couple of love-sick kids.  We hired a motorbike and spent the afternoon at the Blue lagoon.  That night we ended up at the Irish bar where we were serenaded by the Irish bartender, and then congratulated by everyone in the place.  A table of young Indian men repeatedly came up to us and shook Guy’s hand, apparently quite delighted on our behalf.

This remains one of my favorite memories ever.  I love that it was so authentically us.  We’ve never done things conventionally, we fight all the time and we love having adventures – and if this doesn’t qualify as a romantic adventure then I don’t know what does.  I love that it was spontaneous and unexpected (it remains the only time Guy has ever managed to surprise me) and I love that it’s a story we tell with laughter in our voices. I also love that I have such a positive memory when thinking of Laos.  I surprised myself with how excited I felt to be engaged, and although we currently have no wedding plans I’m sure I’ll be even more delighted when that day comes. 🙂

p.s I’m happy that this story has a happy ending (a very happy ending in fact) but when in Vang Vieng, or anywhere in Laos please exercise caution when buying any drugs, or drug related food items.  Not everyone is as friendly and honest as our barman was!


  • Reply Karyn Jane July 13, 2015 at 10:15 am

    What a beautiful story! Congratulations! (And I’m glad you pulled up ok after your magic garlic bread, lol.)

    I just recently got married myself – it’s such a blessing to be with somebody you love so much that you know you want to spend the rest of your life with them. 🙂
    Karyn Jane recently posted…I Got Married! (& I Hope Soon Everyone Else Can Too)My Profile

    • Reply July 15, 2015 at 9:28 am

      Hi Karyn,

      Congratulations!!! I just read your post and I loved it, I loved how you made it work for you rather than following convention – and it sounds like a fantastic day! :). Thank you for your kind words, it is so special.

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