A Quick Update from Laos – It’s Been Awhile

Wow, you wouldn’t believe how busy I’ve been! So busy, in fact, that I haven’t had time to update the blog.  And today is a designated “Rest Day” to rest up from our adventures before a big travel day tomorrow.  I’ve got a hammock with my name on it at the “Relax Bars” across the river, so I’ll try to cover a lot of ground here…

Hello Laos!

A couple of weeks ago, we left Thailand for Laos.  We were lucky enough to make it to our destination in Luang Nam Tha the same day without staying overnight in the border town.  It made for a long day of travel, but we got there.  Luang Nam Tha town makes Pi look like a bustling metropolis.  It’s basically one stretch of street a few hundred meters long, with some restaurants, stores and tour companies.  But people don’t come here for the town.  They come for the trekking in the local NPA (National Protected Area, i.e. jungle) and visits with the 20 or so jungle tribes in the area.

The first day we rode around on bicycles, saw the local village and market.  Some pretty good views, but nothing too special.

The next day I lay in bed all day with a wrenched gut.  Not too pretty (I won’t supply photos).  Luckily, our guesthouse had TV with HBO! A small consolation for a really crappy day.  So far, not too impressed with Laos.  Neither of us had felt sick in all the time in Thailand, and now the second day in Laos…

The next day I was feeling semi-functional, so we took a motorbike to some waterfalls.  They were a tad underwhelming, but what made it were these little boys playing in the water.

They were maybe 6 years old, playing all by themselves in the water, catching fish with their spears and climbing the rock face.  No adult supervision, no problem.  I remember when I was a kid…

We checked out a temple – the town’s prize temple – which was kinda…disappointing.  Nice view of the town from the hill, but after the White Temple in Chiang Rai, this was a joke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jungle Trek to Mountaintop Village

The next two days were our trek in the jungle.  We had wanted to do one day of kayaking with an overnight at a village and a day of trekking.  Since no one else signed up for this “best of both worlds” tour, we settled for a 2-day trek.  The “easy” first day ended up being a vertical climb up the mountain.  The reward was a stay at a village at the top of a mountain with 360-degree stunning views.  The people of the village weren’t too excited to see us and we didn’t get that warm welcoming feeling from them.  The kids were cool, but the adults – meh!

We were supposed to get the “Lahu Tribe Experience” but it was more like the “Lahu People Staring At You” tour.  No welcoming ceremony, no questions answered, no welcoming us into their homes or explaining how they survive or helping them do their chores.  Just people staring at us.  And it’s not like they don’t have several tours a week here.  One fellow trekker saved the day, by bringing balloons that he made into animals, which delighted the kids and grandmas for awhile. (See Fahrin’s account here).

Our guide sucked.  He didn’t prepare us for anything.  He didn’t tell us that the Lahu tribe people don’t speak Lao, so our efforts to say ‘hi’ in Lao (Sabai dee) met with blank stares.  He didn’t tell us where the toilets were (there were none, but he didn’t tell us the protocol) or that the pigs would practically bowl us over to eat our crap.  The stars at night were mind-blowing, but the tour company, nor the village, gets the credit for that.

The trek the next day was a long, hard downhill…trek.  No inspiring views along the way.  Just hard trekking for 6 hours.  The only saving grace was that we were under the jungle canopy for most of the time, unlike another trek a couple of Germans told us about.  They had a much richer village experience, but had to trek for 6 hours in the blazing sun to get back.

Water bottle soccer with village kids

Nong Khiaw – The Beautiful Little Village

Next was the tiny little village of Nong Khiaw, nestled in the river valley between two mountains/karsts.  Simply a gorgeous place.  So laid back, quiet, peaceful.  I could’ve stayed there for several days.

The one guided tour we wanted to do (kayaking to the waterfall) wasn’t being offered, so we figured we’d check out the waterfall and some caves on our own.  So we rented bikes and set out on our way.  We found the caves, which were quite impressive – one large and one small.  These caves were where the local people hid out during military invasions, including the Indochina war in the 1970’s.  The smaller cave was where the bank was set up, and the larger cave had government “offices” and the hospital.

We managed to find A waterfall, but not THE waterfall.  This was a much smaller waterfall.  But instead of hanging out with a bunch of ‘falang’ (i.e. foreigners), we got to hang with some local kids.  There were a few young boys swimming when we got there, having a blast, floating with the current on bamboo and hunting for minnows.

Then school let out and about 30 five-year-olds ran down the hill, stripped naked and got in the water all at once.  The came and teacher yelled at them to get out, but there were kids playing the whole time we were there, for several hours.  I busted out the cookies and one kid managed to sneak two, which gave them all a huge prolonged laugh.  Made me smile.

 

 

 

 

The Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

The next day we took the slow boat to Luang Prabang.  Good thing we chose to shell out an extra 50,000 kip ($6) each for a chartered boat with 6 other people, instead of being rammed in on the public boat.  Spectacular views of the karsts, river and villages along the way, but those tiny little chairs get really uncomfortable after awhile.  At least we were able to move around, and we probably saved at least an hour compared to the public boat.

More updates coming soon…I promise!

 

 

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