19.01.2010 - 09.02.2010
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I know I'm not updating the blog as often as I should. My apologies for that. Lately it's getting harder and harder to find internet connection and the time to upload photos and write entries is even more scarce. By the way, if you want to be notified by e-mail every time I add a new entry, please subscribe. You can do it by clicking in the subscribe link on the top right corner of the blog. We greatly appreciate your comments and that you are following us in our adventure throughout Asia.
Our time in Laos has done nothing but surprise us. Starting by the lovely and laid back two-day boat ride to Luang Prabang from the Thai border. In that time of the year the Mekong River doesn't have much water which allowed us to see beautiful rock formations mirrored in the water. During the ride we enjoyed of the company of some fellow travellers while forest carpeted hills and simple villagers/fishers life were displayed in front of our eyes. Upon our arrival the city welcomed us with a wonderful sunset.
Luang Prabang is very beautiful. It is bigger than it seems with manyl markets, food stalls, rice plantations, many many Buddhist temples and Stupas, as well as a big crowd of young Buddhist students dressed in bright orange. On our first day there we went to see one of the nicest waterfalls, if not the nicest, we have seen so far in South East Asia: Kuang Xi. It was more than a simple waterfall, it had many terraces that formed natural swimming pools which were connected by small water falls. It reminded us of Semuc Champey in Guatemala.
We wanted to skip the crowds that gather in Kuang Xi everyday, so we climbed up above it. We found a 3km trail that took us to a cave and a blue water spring lagoon. It looked like a small oasis. That made our day since we had the place all for ourselves... yeah we travellers can be very selfish sometimes . The spring was so clear that we could see small silver fish swimming peacefully. The cave was not too big and it had a few Buddha idols inside. We got a bit scared since we didn't have any torches with us, so we chickened out in a short time.
After three days in Luang Prabang we took a mini bus to Vang Vieng. We had already been warned about the kind of tourists that go to this part of Laos. They normally go there to go tubing and/while getting drunk. Since we have something similar in Texas and were not up for getting wasted we decided to stay outside of town and do some volunteer work instead. Great call!
So, we walked about 3kms under the rain to get to the organic farm where we found out that they didn't really need more volunteers. Thank God we met there Sengkeo, a local guy who had started a community project in a village near by. We ended up not only joining him in his project at Nathong Village but we also spent a few "extra" days in his guesthouse located also away from the craziness that rules Vang Vieng.
In Nathong we stayed for about a week doing construction work: weaving bamboo mats and making mud bricks, as well as teaching English to the local children. The children were amazing. The girls I used to teach came before and after class hours. They invited me to play with them running around, going to the blue lagoon and to a cave . It was so much fun!
In Nathong I also helped a little bit in the kitchen thus I learned how to make spring rolls and a few other dishes. This gave me the opportunity to learn some Lao language. It is not as hard as I thought even though it is a tonal language. What a wonderful time we had there. We met amazing people with whom we developed a good friendship. We spent all day long (or many hours of the day) working together, we shared all meals and chatted around camp fires at night.
We were also invited to a local party in a village near by (I don't remember the name). There we got to dance, drink and eat with the locals. Apparently this was a fund raising party to build a temple, but it looked more like a fair. There were many games, different dishes available and some religious rituals going on. We had so much fun at the party that we ended up going to the Blue lagoon at about 2 am. I guess we were being so loud that the guard had to call Sengkeo by phone to tell us to leave otherwise we would be arrested. Anyways... you can see the pics to get an idea of how much we enjoyed our time in Nathong. Everybody in the volunteering family was so beautiful, fun and lovely. We are going to miss them all!!!
Our next stop in Laos was Phonsavan. It was a quiet town with friendly people. We only stayed for a couple of nights. That was enough time to see the "mysterious" Plain of Jars and some war crap that was left after the Second Indochina War. The Jars are funerary relics that are dated a thousand years old (or more ?).
That is the first theory, the second is that ancient people used the jars to put food and drinks for the dead.
I think both theories may apply since the Jars could easily serve both purposes. This was confirmed by our Chinese guide who said that people from China used to do the same in ancient times. We left Phonsavan with a nice memory of the market ladies, the Jars and 1-liter of Lao lao (rice whiskey) that we bought at a Whiskey village.
After Phonsavan we were ready to try something different in our trip. We decided to stop in a small village called Neun Nua, located at an intersection road between two touristy destinations. It was a great idea! not just because we were the only westerners there but the laid back atmosphere of the town and the hospitality of the people made up for an unforgettable stay. While we were there a big group of local children came to play with us. They took us for a swim in the river and to show us their playing "secret" spots. I taught them how to take pictures and took many photographs of them. They went crazy in front of the camera.
The next morning we hit the road around midday as we kept asking ourselves if we should have stayed longer in the village... but we had to continue our journey. This time we would try hitchhiking. It was also quite an adventure, because we didn't know that there were very little cars running on that road. So we ended up walking, carrying our heavy bag packs, for about 3 hours. Nevertheless we had a great time. We got 2 lifts. The first time by a Chinese which only gave us a 15 mins ride up until an intersection road and invited us to China. From the intersection we walked 2 more hours to the next town where we got our second lift. This truck was carrying construction and pluming stuff. We jumped in at the back of the truck with the load. Due to the very hilly and curvy road the driver could not go any faster than 30kms per hour. It took us a little over 2 hours to cover only 50 kms. The scenery and the villages we saw could not be any better. The locals we saw on the way greeted us: Sabai Di! as we passed by. We loved the experience.
We arrived at Vieng Thong at sunset time. This village wasn't as pretty as Nam Nuen but we still got pretty good views of the rice fields, rivers and some hot springs that were near by. The next morning we took a bus to Nhong Khew where we spent one night and a day. This touristy town is located in the middle of an incredible karst landscape. Really impressive. The town was divided by a bridge. On one end you could find a very touristy village with overpriced services, on the other (where we stayed) you there was a more typical Lao village. Yet, it was very noisy, therefore we left the next day. We took a boat to Muang Ngoi Neua where we stayed for a couple of days. It was very beautiful... there we chilled out in hammocks and went hiking to nearby villages.
From Muang Ngoi Neua we took a 4 hour boat ride to Mhuang Kua. The scenery was lovely and the company even better. We were joined by a Chinese girl who took amazing pictures and had biked from Lhasa to Kathmandu in the past. Right after our arrival, when I was looking for a place to eat, a group of guys greeted me and invited me to join them for a few beer laos.. I couldn't say no, so I brought Jay over, who was changing money at the time, and we chatted with them for several ours. These guys where consultants for the Vietnam-Lao road project. The chief spoke Russian so I got to practice a little. They made us try different kinds of local drinks. Man! they really wanted us to get drunk!
We didn't think we needed to stay any longer than a day in this town. There was too much noise due to the road/bridge work so we took a bus the next morning to Udomxai.
We are currently in Luang Nam Tha, not to far from the Chinese border. God willing tomorrow we will be crossing the border at Boten...
Love y'all and God Bless!