Still writing from Luang Prabang- sweating buckets in an internet cafe.
The last two days were something else! What a great adventure we had on our trek to the village. Both Ashley and I started out feeling much less than 100%, and wondered if we should be going ahead with the weekend plan...6 hours trekking, 2 hours kayaking, 40 kilometers of biking. And a whole lot of Laos sunshine/sizzling heat! The tour group, Green Adventure Laos, suggested we shorten our trek to 3 hours so we decided to give it a go. We were joined by another Canadian teacher and our excellent guide, Sittha.
The trek up the mountain was awesome, but very very tiring by the time we were on the steep climb up, right under the sun. We waded through streams up to our knees, and the most memorable part was spending time with the farmers in the rice paddies. We waded in and helped out with a few bushels. It was one of the many moments I've had on this trip where a reality hit home...the life of a farmer in Asia. My feet slithered into the hot, hot muddy water and it felt unimaginable that this was their everyday life. Makes a very comfortable Canadian wonder (there would be more wondering on this day). On the way up, we also saw a young dad, mom and baby feasting? on rat. They love to eat rat in the village...sorry, I didn't have the chance. :)
After tackling the mountain (this felt like no small feat!) we were very pleased to arrive in our village. I had suspicions that it would be some fake village set up for tourists. Ha! This was definitely the real deal. It was such an interesting spot to hang out in for the day. The village was bustling with tons of kids, which made it an instant hit in my books...especially for taking pictures! Most of the little kids didn't wear clothes, and neither did the Grandmas. I had a National Geographic/am I dreaming? moment when a shirtless and saggy-boobed elderly woman came up to me and grabbed the flubber on my arms...measuring it like she had one of those fancy fat calipers. She laughed and laughed. She had those long ears because of her drooping, heavy earrings. Where the heck am I?! There was no electricity in the village. Most of the men cared for the children, strapped to their backs. The entire village was also an animal farm, and I had almost written an entire script for the next Disney movie- that was fun.
As mentioned in the previous post, Southeast Asia loves to describe things and places as "same, same...but different". While gawking at the different-ness of this village, I also smiled many times over at the same-ness of this village and life as I know it. Some examples? Little boys making farting noises with their arms stuck in their armpits. Kids using the international decision-making strategy: rock, paper, scissors. Crying babies up late into the night. Kids creating forts. Men making opium and smoking it and then offering it to the tourists...oh wait, maybe not so same-same!!!! (And NO, we didn't say yes to that offer, though apparently many other backpackers are eager to try it out)
We slept in something like a storage space you might see on a farm. It was fine, though we didn't sleep all that well (our place at the refugee camp was actually more comfortable). Between the crying baby next door, the roosters, and a heavy storm, it didn't make for a great night. Anyway, we woke up, ate some breakfast and started our day. Trekking down the mountain first- took about an hour and a half. I forgot to mention how BEAUTIFUL this place was! Green mountains spotted with trees, rice paddies, all resting in the clouds. We trekked down and then kayaked along the chocolatey river for another hour and a half. We ate some lunch, and then finished our adventure with a 40 kilometer bike ride back to town. HOOFTA! This was a great experience for me- I have never biked that far before, especially not in the plus 35 degree temperatures. It was a really good challenge and I will definitely sleep well tonight!!!
So, that was our adventure! It's time for bed, and then tomorrow is a traveling day- saying goodbye to Laos and hello to Cambodia!