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The People - Maly and Ann

There were many trips that led up to the around the world tour with End Of All Roads. It was on one of those trips in Laos that the idea for our lap around the planet was born and on that trip, we met Maly. We had an excruciating day of riding that we got stuck in the middle of nowhere. We were riding from Vientiane Laos to The Plain Of Jars. We knew it’d be a long day but we had no idea how long it was going to be. We came to a spot on our trail that was covered by a large landslide. The slide had stacked debris across the trail and it looked as tall as a building. We scratched our heads for a while deciding if we should turn around or try to negotiate our way up the slide and down the other side. We decided to chance it and go over the slide. Even though we were several hours into our day, this is where our day really began. After crossing the first slide, we were committed to only direction on the trail because we could not go back the way we came from, due to the way the debris was spread out. It was up and over with no return, so off we went down the trail that was going to take us toward the Plain of Jars. The day was filled with multiple landslides, running out of water, Dan taking a tumble down a cliff that would make Wylie Coyote proud, armed rebel encounters, heat exhaustion and push us to the end of our mental and physical abilities. Why do I mention all of that? Because at the end of that day, when we finally reached a guesthouse, we were in an elevator and this tiny cute Lao girl says in perfect English with an American accent “I really like your GoPro. Did you buy that here?” We thought we must be hallucinating because nobody in this remote part of Laos would speak English that good, and after the day we had, we thought its possible that just might be hallucinating. That girl in the elevator was Maly.

We had a nice exchange in the lobby and Maly invited us to have a beer across the street at the Bamboozled Bar, which was lined with undetonated missile shell casings at the entrance. We were both extremely beat up from the long day and how do we convey that to Maly, so we agreed to a beer or two. I could barely lift my head at the table but I was mesmerized by Maly and her story.

Maly was a young girl in Laos that was forced to leave her country after the Vietnam war. There was political divide in Laos after the American war with Vietnam and Malys family had supported a side that was being persecuted and systematically killed in retaliation after the war and the Americans were gone. Malys father gathered his wife and children and made it as far as the Mekong River. The Mekong is not the kind of river you swim across. Malys father made a deal with one of the only locals that had a boat to take them across but in exchange he had to leave all of his land and possessions to the boat driver. Maly was only 5 years old and she says she remembers getting to the other side of the river with only the clothes on your back and the desperation and determination of her father. Her family made it to America and her father became a very successful farmer in California. As I sat and listened to her story, I realized this is the kind of story that America was built on, meaning people fleeing persecution for one reason or another. Maly said that because she was a refugee, she and all of her siblings had a pressure on her to do well in her career, be successful and to give back. She has succeeded in doing all of those things as well as her siblings have also.

Maly had not been back to Laos since being a small child and 30+ years later, there she was sitting at Bamboozled with Bob and myself. When we told her where we had been in Laos, she said “you must be mistaken, because I’m not even allowed in that part of Laos, no foreigners are allowed there and it’s not accessible.” We pulled out a map and showed her where we went and she could not believe that we made it through that region of the country and now she was really curious and wanted to hear our tales of travelling through the region because she was born in that area and wanted to return there but it was forbidden.

Little did I know that through our 2-beer conversation, that a lengthy friendship was born. I kept in touch with Maly and as I began my around the

world tour from San Diego, I stopped to see her in San Francisco. Maly had a friend in Half Moon Bay that owned a spectacular waterfront boutique hotel named, The Oceanfront Hotel. Ann was the owner and I spent a couple of days with Ann and Maly which was fantastic, until I had a medical issue come up that put me back in San Diego and on a surgery table. One month later I returned and we picked up right where we left off. I tend to mesh well with people that have either suffered a tremendous hardship in their life which caused a grand appreciation for the little things, or those people that have travelled extensively and have a appreciation for the subtleties of the world, both Maly and Ann met that criteria and I could have spent weeks talking to them.

Which leads me to Ann of The Oceanfront Hotel in Half Moon Bay. Ann was 15 at the end of the Vietnam war and was able to hop on a plane as a refuge only to land in California. She was very good academically and especially at math. She suffered through the challenges of arriving in a new land with no friends, only a couple of family members and trying to learn a new language. She learned English and made a career for herself. She eventually married a German/American doctor and had a son who is now in his early twenties.

I had only met Ann one time through our mutual friend Maly, and she instantly treated me as an old friend. After I returned from my surgery (see above story) Ann picked me up at the airport and took me back to her Oceanfront Hotel and uncovered my motorcycle which she had generously stored for a month, since I had to leave in a hurry with a medical condition. That night I went to dinner with Ann and her husband who had a friend visiting from Switzerland (pictured here). I was treated to a magnificent wine cellar and a great meal.

This trip is about many things. It was here at the early stages of the trip that I was quickly reminded of the generosity of the world and the kindness that is too often forgotten in times like we are living in now. I can’t say thanks enough about Ann and her family for opening her place and treating me like family! Anyone in the San Francisco area looking for a gorgeous spot should check it out at www.landisshores.com 1-650-726-6642.

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