My friend Diz once used to talk about her eccentric Eastern European Grandpa, a wild bloke whose youthful facial attributes and demeanour belied his considerable age. His rejuvenation secret was allegedly a morning ritual in which he’d spin the bejeezus out of his entire body in a direction to counter that of the earth’s rotation, and thus, in some strange metaphysical counteraction, undo some of the hard years that the earth had spun onto him. A few years back during a time when I was particularly open to all things esoteric, I attempted the crazy old bastard’s formula with minimal success. In an age where new exercise regimes hit the Danoz commercials faster than you can say ‘where’s my goddam steak knives’, I was compelled to employ a zippy, uber-trendy monicker for this exciting new wave of morning spinning. And so, I became a pioneer in the art of ‘Monk-acise’.

Abdominators, Abeliminators, colonic irrigation. Like all great things, Monkacise was short lived and failed to gain the high profile exposure it deserved. But I just couldn’t understand why. There would be cheap rip offs and profiteering mimicks, but only I, with the exception perhaps of Diz’ mad bastard Grandpa and legit Buddhist monks, understood the true glory and majesty of the art of Monkacise. And it’s only up until now that I stand directly inside Buddha’s backyard that I understand where I went wrong.

Seven legit monks burned into Spicy Laos hostel yesterday on a re-route from their customary arvo trail back to the local Wat. What? Wat. What? Yes. Wat. (Wat means temple) In a hostel lounge room that normally contains a massive big screen tele, a tiered couch apparatus repleat with Western loafers like myself, I was taken aback to see instead a room full o’ Buddhism and a considerable ritual-piece in the middle of 7 brightly dressed chanting party animal monks. After sitting around chanting in unison and looking fairly disinterested in the process - some appearing barely conscious - they blessed the place with water and a huge leaf before downing a toast - some opting for water, some of the older ones taking their chances with a rare bottle of Fanta (possibly to colour co-ordinate with their fluro robes in case they spilt it down their chin). Looking like they’d been given open tab at the local tavern, the monks got stuck right in to the orange fizz. With no further adieu, the deed was done. Wham, Bam, Blessed, thanks very much for the fanta, we’ve got more mindfulness and vipassana and not having sex to get back to. No spinning, no whirling, no Macarena, no jazz hands, nothing. I began to presume that these Monks were fanta slurpin’ usurpin’ imposters. Refraining from forced removal of their prosthetic face masks a la ‘Old Man Willickers from the Amusement park’ in an episode of Scooby Doo, I let the monks walk off into the sunset and digest their Fanta in peace. But I wasn’t happy. Where was the Monkacise, the real art, the furious, arm flailin’ spinnin action? Had I wasted all those mornings getting nauseously dizzy for no bloody reason at all. Was I even further away from enlightenment as a result of my erroneous method? If real monks weren’t savvy with the true art of Monkacise that I knew, then the whole goddam operation was a foolish brag destined to fail from the outset. How bloody foolish I’d been!

The gatecrashin’ monks might have won that round, but the party had only just begun. Forging strong bonds with the family that lives below in the wooden house outside the hostel, we were treated to a really special night of celebration, joining the local Laos folk in a sumptuous Laos barbeque feast, drunken dancing to bad music and plenty of rounds of Lao whiskey. The Lao’s like to ferment their own brand of rice wine, which they then manipulate into a seriously potent concoction mixed with herbs, spices, and something they like to call Lao Viagra. The stuff is strong enough to tear anyone a new one, and just as suitable to run a medium sized tuk tuk for at least a day. So we ate, drank, laughed and danced with this Laos family and their friends, so beautifully friendly, feeling every bit a part of their family for the night. A beefy Laos bloke who called himself ‘Superman’ took me under his wing and ensured I was constantly filled with either Beerlao, Lao whiskey, and often handfed me fresh meat from the barbeque skewers. And to top it all off, Superman fed me barbequed frog head and a bowl of roasted insects, not to mention a whole stick of buffalo skin. I managed to keep it all down as well. These Laos know how to party.

Tomorrow is my last day in Luang Prabang and I’m rapped that I decided to stay as long as I did. Sometimes you’ve got to wait around for the gold moments to present themselves, and they usually do in the end. You learn new things every day, especially on the travel route - as it turns out, what I knew to be revolutionary Monkacise is nothing short of a sham. All you really gotta do to find Enlightenment and a fresh wrinkle-free face is sit on your arse, crash a few parties and get high on Fanta.

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