Sunday, 25 September 2011

Northern Laos (2nd - 6th September)

We are traveling by bus, boat and tuck tuck using an open ticket with a company called 'Stray Asia'. The ticket is for one month meaning we will see the whole country from North to South. The bus also has a reputation for attracting the more adventurous travelers and local guides who take you further off the beaten track.
After spending a few days in Luang Prebang we travelled to the Thailand / Laos border to Huay Xai. Here we spent one night before we travelled to Luang Namther. This is quiet place, surrounded by endless paddy fields and rolling green hills. We explored the area by mountain bike, riding through paddy fields and remote villages. A former communist strong point during the Vietnam war that got bombed to bits by the US., It was also a key player in the infamous 'Golden Triangle', the trade of opium and weapons during the Indochinese wars. Its a beautiful place very peaceful and tranquil.

Our next destination was Nong Khiaw. On our way we stopped at a remote  mountain village and visited a local tribe. There are variety of ethic groups in Laos; the Lao Loum who live near the flood plains of the Mekong river; Lao Thoeng, Lao Tai and Lao Soung who live in the upland valleys and highest elevations predominately in the North and central Laos. The tribes we visited still cling on to animistic believes that proceed Buddhism, they have their own way of life which is mystical and very spiritual. They don't often see westerns but they were welcoming, shy and very curious. This was especially true of the children. They follow you around at arms length, walking behind you, the number of children growing ,until they become more confident and get a little more engaging. They love to play just like all children and their innocence, happy nature in the presence of such poverty is really touching.
The Village
Their confidence and curiosity grows
I was standing up when this young child pulled a tiny seat out for me to sit on.   

We traveled to Nong Khiaw a quiet, scenic place on the west bank of the Nam Ou river. For sheer breathtaking beauty this was one of the best place in Laos. We stayed on the river next to the bridge, surrounded by giant limestone cliffs, with low clouds that hung over the peaks. Its a mesmerizing view. We went into the village, as we wanted to engage with the locals, and thats exactly what happened. A group of young lads sitting down offered me and Laura a seat. Intrigued we sat down. There was a small BBQ on the go and few bottles of Beerlao on the table. Well its Laos culture to offer the guest a drink, as they believe it gets rid of bad spirits. However here the favorite tipple is a full bottle of Lao Lao white whiskey, which must all be consumed before you leave. You drink the whiskey neat and in one go, its very strong and its got a kick like a mule. But it hits the spot. We ate snails wrapped up in herbs dipped in hot chili and washed it down with plenty of  Lao Lao just as the sun was going down behind the cliffs. After one hour and after a full bottle of whiskey we walked, I mean wobbled home on unsteady legs. Great night.

More Lao Lao whiskey anyone

On top of the Bridge Nong Khiaw

Nong Khiaw

The next day we got on the slow boat Luang Prabang visiting the Thamting cave which has over two thousand Budda images inside dating back over six hundred years. 

Slow Boat to Luang Prabang

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