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Sabadii Laos (Lao)

Dear all!

Yes, I found another opportunity to bring you an update this time about my Laos experiences. Beautiful Laos... I had such great experiences in this amazing country, met predominantly friendly people, tried gorgeous national dishes, seen magnificant scenic views while roadtripping, travelled with beautiful people, and drank a lot of Lao Lao (yes, I was truly integrating here 

Laughing
). One of my first observations was the typical everyday life of a Lao. I entered the country in the north (new border crossing) and this part of the country is more remote and less visited by tourist than any other region. The villages were therefore less structured in quare like streets but just constructed where ever it suited best, houses were made of wood only and build on poles, virtually every villager spend their days outside the house, hence why the houses are also quite small, no asphalt just dirt roads, all women are wearing sarongs as a skirt with either a short sleeved blouse or a shirt, amnd there are little if any cars on the road and not that many motorbikes either (Vietnam is truly THE motorbike country of mainland south-east asia). Most people in these villages work in the fields during the day and walk back around 4PM so that they can bath themselves in the river and still have dinner while it is still light outside. It amazes me how these people do the same thing everyday, walk about an hour or so to the field, plant for instance the rice, walk an hour back and prepare themselves for the night. I alsno noticed that when girls enter that next stage in their lives that they bath with a sarong, a typical Lao custom that I, during my trekking, was told to do the same when washing myself.

I entered the country during rainy season and I experienced the first signs on the first day already. Around noon we arrived at this village where a lot of cars in front of us were parked in a row. We got off the bus to check out what was going on to find out that the road ahead was completely flooded. To make matters worse, the rescuing jeep got stuck in the middle of this newly formed river! This was of course a great happening for the locals and they all came out to view the rescuing attempts at the river side. Meanwhile, the children saw the flood as a great opportunity to go out and play in the river. So nice to see how they all react to such a situation. Eventually, about 15 local men got out of their trousers and pushed the rescuing car out of the water in their underpants, but then it wouldn't start anymore! So all the people were waiting for something. I was told that they were waiting for the river to be less fierce so the cars could try to cross the river. After two hours the trucks in line took on the challenge and managed to reach the other side and they were cheered to by all the locals. We of course cheered as well and hoping that our bus would soon do the same. Eventually, after 4,5 hours of waiting the chauffeur did and also arranged another 15 passengers to join us to Muang Khua. Welcome to Laos way of life...

The first village was quite boring and me and Mirjam and Jeroen - who I met on the bus - agreed to leave the following morning for Muang Ngoi Neuea, a peaceful layback rivertown that can only be reached by boat. A Swiss Daniel joined us on our trip. This town is so great! The prices were quite low due to low season and I booked a private bungalow with river view for only 3 euros! Whoohoo! Thats the big advantage of travelling during low season

Laughing
. Because the town cannot be reached with any kind of vehicle, were the roads unpaved, and were the streets small. There were some 'hilltribe villages' (I dislike referring to them like that as the only difference is that they can self support them almost completely, but they are a tourist attraction too where this name has been created) in the surrounding area and Daniel and I decided to walk to them the next day. This was a beautiful road leading towards the villagers. First, you would still be walking on a small path but later on this path continued through the rice paddies! The village itself was very nice to visit. I looked like any other village with people who are bathing themselves, preparing dinner, children playing, etc. but there was something magical to it too. Daniel approached the children playing and they immediately involved him in their game and accepted him taking picture of them. They were even excited about being photographed and only wanted more! At first, I was a bit reluctant but later on I joined them as well. This was a special experience!

After Muang Ngoi I had to travel to Luang Prabang as there was no ATM in the nearest 100km. This was a very interesting experience. Up until now I didn't take local transport and now I travelled with a sawntheaw (sentouw in Dutch), which is a pick-up truck with a rooftop and two benches along the side for 4 hours. To be more precise, with me 18 others, three bags of rice, a huge box filled up with fish (I found out later as we stopped at a local BBQ to sell the fish). To make it more comfortable, they placed plastic chairs in the middle so that the remaing people could sit as well. Ain't that nice... ha ha! This is where I met Doron, Israeli, with whom I spend some days in Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang is a beautiful, but touristy town famous for its night market. I loved strolling down looking at all the fabrics, bags, silk, handicrafts, etc. and so made me wanna spend all of my money here! The market start around 5PM and the sales(wo)men all come out with their bags (all same, same, perhaps government supported???) to build up their stall, putting down all their merchandise in such a neat and precise order so that it looks even more attractive and doing this everyday!! Gosh, I wouldn't wanna switch with their lives. You can also have dinner for 5000kip (8500kip = 1USD) and have meat on a stick for 10.000kip. Fruitshakes are also only 5000kip and the sandwiches in the morning too. How I loved eating in this town! They even had Nutella!!! hmmmmm.... I didn't just do shopping and eating, I rented a bycicle too with Mike, a Canadian I met here.

Together with him I also went up to Luang Nam Tha to do some trekking and rent motorbikes. This what we did the first day while arranging a group to do the trekking. Eventually we got together a group of 7 people, which made it both more fun and cheaper for us! The trekking was amazing and the group was very nice too. We immediately got along. The trekking was a ecotourism based which means that they do not pollute in any kind of way the environment and that the 'hilltribe villages' are not visited more than 2 times a month. So when it was time to have lunch banana tree leefs were collected to use as table cloth and plate and we could start eating with our hands! That's an interesting thing btw, the Lao don't eat with the chopsticks that very much, but rather with a spoon and fork or, when it involves sticky rice (me like so much!), with the hands. The village was truly enchanting, so very cute but also interesting to see how one survives while living so remote. Most of them have never seen any other town in their lives. But the influence of modern live was even visible on this small village (one motorbike was spotted and some houses rent a solar penal). The trekking was truly an amazing experience and afterwards we all went out to have dinner and drinks together. The only downside was leeches. I got so lucky by not getting any leeches as the only one of the group, but when we got back in Nam Tha and I took of my shoes a big fat leech fell out of my trousers!! EEEEEEEWWWWW! I was totally grosed out and I didn't dare to take any other step and be confronted with more blood filled leeches. Luckily, this was the only one. He didn't survive....  Next day we didn't wanna go back to Luang Prabang yet and me, Mike, Lars, and Dave (from the trekking group) decided to motorbike up to the chinese border, which gave us some of the most beautiful scenic views I had seen up until then. Yes, Laos is so amazingly beautiful.

Back in Luang Prabang Mike and I signed up for a mahout course. In this course you learn what its like to be a mahout trainer, someone who takes care of the elephant. We heard some great stories about this course hence we were convinced it was worth the money. Well, although it is amazing and it sure ain't a rip off I wouldn't recommend it to every traveler. Its quite touristy and the elephant really don't listen, ha ha! But the bathing of the elephant was a unique experience! After this it was already time to say goodbye to Mike. He was planning to go to Vietnam and me and Lars decided to go roadtripping on a motorbike in the south. For this we skipped Vang Vieng and went straight to Vientiane to arranged the motorbike at PVO cafe, the only place who would allow us to drop the motorbikes in Pakse. Now I know I'll soo get comments on this decision from everyone who visited Laos as Vang Vieng is the party place in Laos. Well, I don't care!

Wink

The experience of riding almost 1000km on a motorbike was so very awesome! We took a detour through 'the loop' as described in the lonely planet and this was so amazing, the views were almost intoxicating. Thats such beauty can still be found. What made this trip even more special is that lars and I hardly met any foreigners and the locals hardly spoke English which made it more adventeruous. During this trip we also visited the 7km long cave which can be accessed by boat and again we were the only tourist (okay, that one tourist we met on the way back we just block out of our memories, we were alone...) which made it more special. Unfortunately, the third day of our trip we had to motorbike on a dirt road and after 70km I fell off. I still got very lucky, it could have gotten so much worse but I wasn't able to climb back on the motorbike. We stopped a pickup truck and they brought me to the closest medical booth. There they took out all the stones and cleaned the wounds. Lars convinced me that it was all steril and hygienic but all that I could see were the tens of thousands of mosquitos staring at me from the walls! Ha ha, Laotian version of cleaniness I assume. Later on, I saw that chickens and a dog were walking in and out again too! There they arranged a pick up truck to bring us and our motorbikes to the nearest town with a hospital, Ta Kaek, were they cleaned the wound again and stichted my knee without anaestetics!!! I feel so brave and cool now looking back but back then I was only glad Lars was there with me making sure everything went okay. Nice little detail: total costs 15 euros! Only 15 euros!

Lars decided to do the last part on the motorbike but I couldn't bent my knee so I decided to take the local bus. Again, so hylarious. You can take the motorbike literally on the bus. The expression sky is the limit is so easily used in the western countries but so very applicable here in Asia and Laos. They will try everything to help you out. This time the motorbike went on top of the bus, but later when I was taking the bus back up the put the motorbike even in the bus! There are so many examples of how everything is possible here, its really an eye opener how flexible they are, a completely different mentality than we from 'the west'. If you wanna see pics of this trip surf to http://www.larsvdberg.nl/ (sorry uploading is not going very quickly and I have everything on Cds/DVDs which are not allowed in most internet cafes).

I'll round up my story here, otherwise it is really getting too long, but the last week Lars and I spend exploring the surrounding of Pakse, visiting the ruins in Champasak and chilled a few days on Don Det (4000 islands). Unfortunately, we had to skip the bolaven plateau because of my knee injurie. Then it was also time to say our goodbyes as Lars was heading to Cambodia and me to Bangkok. My last few days I spend in Savanakhet to arrange my Thai visa. This was my first 'me' time on this trip and I truly needed it to arrange practical matters, think things through and enjoy all those precious moments here in Laos with the nice people I met. It has all been a great experience.

--Suzanne

p.s. I'm in Thailand now and Ingeborg has arrived save and sound. The stiches have been taken out and the wound is almost completely healed. Next update will be about Thailand and general impressions so far.

Reacties

Reacties

Charlie

Hey lieverd!!

Dus de bovenstaande verhalen was nog zonder Ingeborg? Wat zijn leech.... bloedzuigers? Wat ontzettend ranzig zeg! hhahaha zo zie je maar weer.
Heel veel plezier met Ingeborg! en ik spreek je snel weer. Als je een nieuw mobiel nr hebt dan hoor ik het wel. Dikke kus!

Irma

SOOOESAN!!

Ik was er ook eindelijk, zo ontzettend leuk om het allemaal te lezen. Dacht ook leuk als je eens wat van mij leest hahahha.

We houden mekaar op de hoogte, tot gauw. Pas goed op jezelf.
Dikke knuf IRMOIIIII...

pappa

wat een groot verhaal en dat Engels is toch pittig te lezen. Hoe gaat het verder? I love you

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