Wow~ Here I am in Laos and it is beautiful!
I spent 1 week in Pai, northern Thailand, with Becky and some friends from Bangkok. The countryside was filled with lush green tropical forests and patchwork farms. I motorbiked throughout the town and mountainside with Gar, and went to a restored Chinese Village to have jasmine tea and small sweet and sour dried fruits that could have come straight out of my grandma’s pantry! The scenery was awesome and the villagers spoke Chinese, so I was slightly embarrassed that I hadn’t brushed up on my skills before I left home. Our motorbike adventures uncovered lots of rice paddies, a steep waterfall, a narrow and sandy canyon with lots of awing drop offs, and riverside swim spots (that were along bamboo bridges where a farming gave me funny looks as he carried his rice across the water).
Pai was great and had everything including; 1) the site for my future farm, 2) walkable size and community feel, 3) baked goods, aka CAKE! but was lacking in the same way all of Asia has thus far, the tex-mex scene is below par. Still, an amazing town!
I then headed off to Huay Xia via Chiang Kong, and at 9am Saturday morning I was in LAOS. All of a sudden the land was filled with mud huts and mangy dogs. Just kidding, the mangy dogs were in Thailand too and the mud huts are in any small village (including jazzed up ones in the Chinese Village that you could rent like a hotel!), but Huay Xia seemed a bit boring at first to me, so I made the best of it by having hand gesture conversations with my Laos guesthouse owner for over 4 hours.
Saturday I spent the afternoon on an unintentionally private tour of the area surrounding Huay Xia with Tid. She brought me to a REALLY rural village with about 12 huts and 1 well. The residents didn’t speak much Lao, but I saw their homes and their different dye making. We also went and saw whiskey lao making (wow that stuff is crazy strong!) which is distilled from rice, and rice noodle making (this part of the tour came with a bonus noodle soup meal where I learned the complicated but fun method of adding spicy chile paste, sugar, salt, vinegar, and fish oil to my soup to create the perfect broth). We hit up the Chinese market for some cheap shopping (I bought 1 hello kitty pen, about 10 cents) and visited a school, but kids were on weekend holiday so no action there. Sunday I spent wandering Huay Xia with my guesthouse owner, Non. She spoke 0 words of English and my Lao is coming along slowly, so we mostly wandered and bought fruit and noodles and she would stop, point to something, say the name in Lao, motion for me to write it down, and then I would take notes that look something like this;
sii da – means tree, or bush, or trash in a bush, or green
but we had a great time. Then back at the guest house she sent me out to buy a ton of Beer Lao and she proceeded to get drunk on the rooftop terrace, while getting a kick out of my attempts to speak Lao. It was great.
Then we took the Long boat ride. This was an exciting trip down the Mekong that consisted of fidgeting on a mini-wood bench packed with 100 other tourists in a lovely long creaky boat for 6 hours. And the only snacks we brought were bananas. But really, the ride wasn’t too painful on my bum and the views were phenomenal. Hillsides and small riverside villages were great to watch from the pleasant sunny (yet breezy!) boat side. Day 2 was even better as our boat was much less crowded and there was a great Lao family with a young boy that entertained me for 2 of the 9 hours.
And now here I am in Lam Pra Bahng. This city is BEAUTIFUL, its a UNESCO world heritage site so apparently I’m not the first person to think that, but still… It is filled with old French-style buildings and has a great feel, plus amazing market food. I just ate some sticky rice toasted with egg all over it, and tonight I plan on hitting the food market stalls to find some traditional river seaweed dipped in a chile and buffalo skin sauce. It should be good!