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Stuff to look at from Laos….

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Morning Alms, in Luang Prabang

Well, technically this first one below isn’t in Laos, but it’s damn near close enough. This is Bec with Sayan, the greatest, friendliest guesthouse/restaurant owner you could ever hope to meet, who runs the Easy Restaurant/Guesthouse in Chiang Khong, in the northeast of Thailand where most people cross the Mekong from Thailand into Laos. This was taken at immigration, after Sayan had given us a lift down there. Best. Guy. Ever.

After we left Sayan we had the Gibbon Experience, which you’ve seen. Following that it was on to Nong Khiaw, from where we took the wettest boat ride down to Luang Prabang. No photos of the boat ride, but here’s a couple of shots that show the beauty of Nong Khiaw.
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Luang Prabang, the town of a thousand monks. Here’s some shots from the morning alms giving, where each morning the monks walk through the town and accept offerings of food from the locals. It is quite a moving thing to see, and whilst I tried to respectfully keep my distance when taking photos, there were always folks getting way too close to the ceremony with their huge cameras.
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Taking a boat ride (the best way to get around in Laos) from Luang Prabang out to a small waterfall nearby.

After Luang Prabang, it was back up north to the village of Muang Ngoi, a single-road village on the Nam Ou river reachable only by boat. It was from here that we walked a few hours through rice patties to the tiny village of Ban Na, and passed on the way a cave from whence a stream popped up out of the rock. Along with the rice patties, we also had to walk along a muddy, leech infested track through the jungle/forest. First off, Muang Ngoi….
The view from our riverside bungalow… and then looking back to our bungalow from the boat as we left
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A kataw match (like volleyball, but played using the rules of soccer, ie – no hands, only feet and heads) in the main street…
Kataw match

The main street…
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Gran Mama….. The place we stayed at was run by Mama, who looked after us like her own kids (hence the title). This is Mama’s mama – Gran Mama….

And some shots from the walk to Ban Na…
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Aren’t photos sooooo much cooler than words. Words are like myspace – old and crap. Photos are like facebook – all new and shiny. Ooh yeah.

Muang Ngoi: United Nations Chillout

Friday, August 24th, 2007

When travelling around Southeast Asia, there’s a fairly well-worn path that most people take. And it is far too easy to follow that path from the comfort of a tourist-only mini-bus getting you from one destination to the next. It tends to shut you off from the country, and it’s easy to feel as though you’re on some sort of school excursion. This is something Bec and I encountered on our last visit, and was at it’s worst on the trip from Luang Prabang south to Vang Vieng and onto the Laos capital of Vientiane.

In order to avoid feeling like lambs this time, we opted to head north from Luang Prabang to the village of Muang Ngoi. We hadn’t heard of the place on our last trip to Laos, and didn’t know anyone who’d been there. Our guidebook gave it a brief mention as a village that could only be reached by boat, so it sounded as though it would be nice and relaxed after the hectic shopping in Luang Prabang. Plus it was pretty much on the way to the Vietnam border crossing closest to Hanoi, which was where we eventually wanted to go. To get to Muang Ngoi, we had to return to the village of Nong Khiaw on the Nam Ou river, from where we could get a boat an hour up river to Muang Ngoi.

Even given that this destination was not on the most common tourist trail, we still had the option of geting a tourist bus or a local bus. Eager to avoid the mini bus, we opted for the local bus. We booked a ticket in town the night before we left, and headed out to the bus station (a patch of dirt on the outskirts of town) early the next morning. Our tuk-tuk driver pulled up next to the bus going to Nong Khiaw; it was a mini bus, and half the people in there had white faces. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

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