Feeling the Flow in Luang Prabang, Laos

With just hours to go before leaving Luang Prabang, I sit down to sketch beneath the awning of a sidewalk café. My subject is a temple, one which a local woman tells me is called Wat Thoung Sad. It has a layered roof, each square section slightly curved and fitted neatly into the next, and a few towering coconut trees beside it.

Almost instantly, I can tell the temple on the page will be what I hope to portray of the temple before me. It’s difficult to say how I know this – rather, it’s something you can feel: this thing called flow. Every line takes on a life of its own, and yet magically connects to every other line. For once, each curved edge of the roof, each individual vein of a banana leaf, comes out exactly as I’d pictured it – and more so.

Then, in the chatter of tourists behind me, I hear “arigato gozaimasu.” It has been only five days since I last heard the phrase, and even spoke it myself – Japanese for “thank you very much” – but here in Laos, which I reached via Bangkok, it feels like it belongs to a different journey altogether.

I turn around and see four Japanese friends ready to leave.

Konnichiwa,” I say to them. “I’ve just been sketching your country!”

They are from various parts of Japan – Kyoto, Chiba, cities in the far north I’ve never heard of – and I’m delighted to flip back a few pages and share my sketches with them: scenes from Tokyo, Kōyasan, and Shodoshima Island.

As they say goodbye, I reach back into my brain and pull back one last phrase from Japan, my favorite: “Hajimemashite,” the equivalent for “It’s nice to meet you,” used when meeting someone for the first time.

To feel the flow of this sketch was more than enough today – but to feel a sense of flow between each part of my journey only increases my gratitude in Luang Prabang.


Don George, Editor

Don George is Editor in Chief of Wanderlust: Literary Journeys for the Discerning Traveler. He has been Travel Editor for Salon.com and the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, as well as Global Travel Editor for Lonely Planet Publications. Don has published eight books, including Travel Writing, A Moveable Feast, The Kindness of Strangers, and Tales from Nowhere. E-mail him at [email protected]


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