Photo: Classic scenery surrounds Vang Vieng.

Laos forum

Handstanding in Laos and Cambodia + bathing in sweet water?

Posted by carmenfeetup on 19/6/2015 at 10:28

Hello everybody!

Thanks to your amazing site and forum I found out about lot's of things to be well prepared for my trip to Laos and Cambodia..starting next week.
I just have two questions left.

1) I understand that in Laos and Cambodia a like, feet belong on the floor and lower than the rest and also that in some cases we should avoid having feet pointing towards boudha figures/sculptures... but I love to handsand. I handstand everywhere I go, I've been doing this since 2005 and have over 200 handstands in front of various landmarks and curiosities of the world.
Will it be ok for me to handstand in Laos and Cambodia if I ask permission? and to who?

2) I just came back from Air France Vaccination Centre in Paris and have been given a leaflet saying not to bath in sweet water... is it really that risky to do? Did you guys ever bath in the Mekong and in Luan Prabang?

Thanks for your replies and advice, as much as I can deal with not bathing I'd be really sad not to do any handstands...

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Posted by exacto on 19/6/2015 at 17:07

I wonder if by sweet water you mean fresh water, like in rivers and streams. I personally would not choose to swim or bathe in the Mekong River, but plenty of locals do it all the time. I did wind up swimming in the Mekong the last time I was down near Pakse and did not have a problem. But it was because the river boat I was on crashed into the rocks and we had to wade to shore - not exactly by choice.

There are the waterfalls near Luang Prabang. I don't know what the latest recommendation is, but I've been swimming there a few times and loved it. Again, no problems.

As for handstands, I would say go ahead but be as discreet as you can. Don't do your handstands on Buddhist temple grounds or near monks for example, but as long as you aren't drawing too much attention to yourself, I think you would be fine. The locals don't expect us to understand or follow all of their cultural rules and norms, so as long as you are not going out of your way to be odd, you should be okay.

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Posted by MADMAC on 20/6/2015 at 03:51

Suess Wasser - German for fresh water. Literally translates to "Sweet water". Not sure of this guys origin, but strikes me as quite the coincidence. Exacto I think you've got it.

I too have swum the Mekong. It's muddy, technically swimmable.

Hand stands?? Sounds weird to me. But harmless enough. Again, I wouldn't be doing it just anywhere. But discreetly, shouldn't be a problem.

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Posted by carmenfeetup on 20/6/2015 at 04:28

Thanks for your replies, Yes sorry I'm french and live close to the german boarder so have lots of german influence...but my mum speaks english. In french we say "eau douce" which would translate as soft water and google gave me sweet water ^^ sorry.

Madmac here is my collection of handstands: https://www.facebook.com/carmen.urban.948/media_set?set=a.463346850728.239220.744635728&type=3
:)

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Posted by MADMAC on 20/6/2015 at 06:06

Like I said, it's a little weird, but doesn't hurt anyone. Shouldn't be a big deal. You certainly did hand stands all over the place.

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Posted by busylizzy on 20/6/2015 at 15:01

Just don't do the handstands in the nude. Seems to be the trend in Asia at the moment...

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Posted by MADMAC on 21/6/2015 at 05:51

She could do them nude if she did them in front of my house and I was the photographer...

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Posted by SBE on 21/6/2015 at 10:43

I think the leaflet you got might be a warning about bilharzia. Its life cycle requires the presence of fresh water snails and human fecal contamination so the Mekong is probably quite a high risk area. I had to swim in the Mekong once because of a boat sinking too ... no ill effects AFAIK but it's not a river I'd choose to swim in.

The Nam Kheng near Luang Prabang might be better though I haven't been there since 2001 and it could have changed for the worse. The water looked clean enough then and it was quite fast flowing, which is supposed to reduce the risk of catching bilharzia.

It was a hot day and I would have loved to go for swim in the Nam Kheng but I didn't because some monks showed up in tuk tuks to go tubing... it would probably have been culturally insensitive of me to go swimming near a bunch of stark naked monks.

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Posted by MADMAC on 21/6/2015 at 20:44

"...it would probably have been culturally insensitive of me to go swimming near a bunch of stark naked monks."

Depends on the monks. In Yaso we had one who habitually showed up at my house to drink my beer and smoke cigarettes. My wife used to chastise him, but to no avail. I didn't mind. No skin off my back.

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Posted by TerroirTravel on 24/6/2015 at 00:22

Hi, I just wanted to pop in and tell you that I checked out your handstand album, and it's really cool! What the others said- probably don't do it in sacred spots/temples, and be discreet, but I have no doubt you'll have opportunities for some good shots. Enjoy!

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Posted by carmenfeetup on 29/6/2015 at 07:56

Thanks for all u're advice so far went for a swim in some caves and waterfall of Vang vieng and I seem just fine :) I've done 2 handstands but in front of natural places ... so far so good

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Posted by MADMAC on 29/6/2015 at 10:45

OK I have to ask, how did you get started with this? What made you want to do handstands all the time?

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Posted by SoManyMiles on 29/6/2015 at 23:45 TF writer

Please do not do handstands in the wats. And the temple is not just the building, it includes the grounds around it, the monastery, the drum temple…all considered sacred. Considering there are 36 wats in Luang Prabang and plenty more historically significant spots, proceed with caution. People don't realise that places such as Mt Phousi (a popular spot for sunset) is a temple and they sit there chugging beer. I have seen far too many photos of half-naked people do yoga poses in temples in that town. What are they thinking?

As for swimming in fresh water, there are always risks, not only parasites, bacteria, but getting swept away in rainy season especially in rainy season. Locals use the Mekong and other rivers to bathe and cool off. I only swim in rivers in the countryside, away from urban areas. All of Luang Prabang's grey water (and probably more) flows directly out to the Mekong.

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Posted by carmenfeetup on 1/7/2015 at 08:53

Thanks SoManyMiles I did indeed go to Mount Phusi and I wouldn't have dared handstand there...however it was quite shocking to see people climbing on the base of the stupa to get the best sunset shot whilst ironically they don't even know how to use a camera. I couldn't help but tell one guy that it's a sacered place and shouldn't climb but he pretended not to hear.I told another to at least take is empty beer bottle with him... and had I been in a bad mood I think I would have gone to a few girls and told them to dress up a little... oh well I'm sorry people are that way.

As for the handstand mania it all started because I used to do artistic gymnastics and then I met this guy who jumped everywhere he went so I decided to handstand everywhere I went. And nowadays I find it much more interesting than doing a stupid selfie as when I am alone I actually have to speak to somebody and get him to understand what kind of picture I want and how I want him take the shot so sometimes it can take a few tryst. Fortunately this time I'm in good company with someone who's used to taking those shots for me...

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