|View of Nong Kiaw from a nearby summit.|
I quickly abandoned the idea of biking/camping my way back to China due to the landmines, which really restricted me during my stay. I'm in no hurry to die or lose my feet, so instead I am saving that adventure for Taiwan.
From Luangprabang, most people head south to a little place called Vang Vieng. Vang Vieng is a town basicalyl built for tourists, and the sole attraction is floating down the river in inflatable tubes and drinking an irresponsible amount of alcohol. All along the river are bars which throw out ropes to the floaters and pull them in. The dark side of the story is that many people die from drowning or breaking their necks after drunkenly swinging off a rope into a submerged boulder.
Being surrounded by a bunch of loud drunks getting their dumbasses killed did not sound like my idea of fun, so I found an alternative in a small town called Nong Kiaw.
|Typical karst mountains that are spread all across Laos.|
I arrived in the afternoon after one crazy tuk-tuk drive, and decided I wanted to do a homestay instead of staying in an overpriced bungalow. I spent a good while walking door to door carrying all my gear asking people if I could sleep in their house that night, and not a single person would let me.
It was not long before someone called a man over to help translate what all the villagers were telling me. A lot of the villagers would be happy to host me, and in fact they host Lao people on their way through all the time. So why are they all refusing me? Well, there's a law against it. In order to host a fallang (foreigner), you have to have a permit and pay a due to the government. This is enforced by the local police, who actually make rounds at night through the village to make sure nobody is harboring a foreigner.
The translator says maybe I can make an appeal to the village chief, and takes me on his motorcycle to his house. The guy tells the chief that I want to stay with locals instead of alone in a bungalow, and asks if there is anything he could do for me. The chief says I can stay with him, if I want. I accept! Even though he is the chief, he has to make a call to a police friend to get clearance, which he is given. That night, I use a mosquito net for the first time. Pretty nifty!
Near the village are a few caves used as bases of operation during the war. The entrances to one of them was really high off the ground, which makes you wonder how the soldiers used to get inside. Today, there's a large staircase built to the entrance. Inside, the original furniture used by the Lao government can be seen. hiking near mines and bombs
|Rickety bamboo ladder.|
|A map a local drew for me to hike to the summit of a nearby karst (where I took the lead picture). The "boom" marks the area littered with US bombs which have not been detonated yet...|
I spent an evening exploring the next village, and I gave out some candy to some kids playing there.One of them asked "waterfall?" and I said "where?" (it was clear he was asking me if I had been to the waterfall, and I asked him for directions). He motioned for me to follow, and started walking out of the village. His 2 friends (or maybe brothers?) followed along. And thus the 3 year old "Ni" became my guide.
Ni led me to a small dirt path that wound through the hills, and pretty soon the little ones got riled up and started running up and down the hills. I took off my flip flops and started running to keep up. After a while of this, we went off the trail and scrambled down on our butts down the side of the hill to a little stream which had a waterfall. We jumped in and goofed around for a few minutes, but after the initial excitement of being in the water there was a sort of pause where we were not sure how to interact. I was a 22 year old amongst toddlers, and the only English Ni knew was apparently "hello", "my name is Ni", "Waterfall?", and "Yes!" (later, I found out he knew another word: "money"...).
I started to play some water games, splashing around and turning my closed fists into water guns to squirt streams of water. I taught them how to seal the water in your hands and squirt it really far. Then I started making all sorts of fart noises using my hands and mouth, which really excited them, since I think none of them had ever seen that before. Being a product of the US public education system, I am a vast repository of useless knowledge, including all sorts of ways of making all sorts of immature fart noises.
After I taught them how to make a bunch of the sound effects, we ran back to the village barefoot making race car and fart noises along the way. I think it was inevitable that Richturd Fecal's legacy for the future generations of Laos is fart noises.
View more pictures here.