I’m in Laos. I’m trying to think of some words to describe you all I have experienced in the past few days I’ve been here but since I’m not a writer I find it very hard. I’m sitting in a bus to Vientiaine and I’m playing a game with a five year old girl. She is waving at me and when I wave back she finds it terribly amusing. She becomes shy and she presses her face against her mother, takes a quick peek at me and giggles. Then she waves again. She is part of the reason I have fallen in love with Laos.
I’m sleepy and I linger to this morning when I woke up to the sounds of life. I heard people talking and I felt the floor moving when they were walking on the wooden floor. I opened my eyes to check the time and since it was only 4.40 am and still dark I decided to go back to sleep. When I wake up again the sun has risen and it’s 6.30. I hear a sound of splashing water and I know someone is taking a “shower”. I know this because the day before I was shown how it’s done. First you get into a tube like sarong and then you take a soap and bucket and start splashing. Sounds easy but for a city girl a bucket shower with clothes on is not simple thing to do. Once you’re done you just slip into another sarong and pull off the wet one. I decide to get up and notice someone staring at me. The pair of brown eyes belong to a five year old boy who is trying to take a peek through a pink mosquito net of the “falang” (foreigner) who is staying at their home.
I get dressed and climb down from the house which is built on 3-4 meter long stilts to use the bathroom which is behind the garden. I take in the scenery. It was dark when I arrived the day before so I didn’t really see that I was in a small village by an impressive mountain, in the middle of fields in a small group of houses. There are cows, water buffaloes, chicken and few dogs walking around all free. When I climb back to the house the breakfast is ready and the young lady of the house carries a tray for me like she did the day before with my dinner. She places it on a sitting mat. There are no furniture in the house, just tv and a fridge. The mattress where I was sleeping with the pink mosquito net hanging over it is on the far corner of the living room floor. If you can call it a living “room”. It is more like a big verandah and I felt like sleeping outside. But I slept very well as I was tired of the long travel the day before.
I arrived the night before from Savannakhet where I had spent two nights planning what to do in Laos. I met some people to spend my time with and we shared a memorable moment in a fancy restaurant by the Mekong River looking at the sunset over Thailand and sharing a plate of fried crickets for appetizer. Later on we had a very nice dinner at the food market in a local style where you cook your veggies, noodles and in our case seafood in a pot filled with some sort of veggie stock. The food was very tasty with garlic, all sorts of herbs, chili and peanut sauce. We ended the evening sipping Beer Lao until 1.30 am which made it hard for me to get up early enough to get to the bus station before 8.30 where I got the bus to Tha Khaek. The bus was much bigger than a minibus but smaller then a normal bus and it was packed. People sitting on top of each other I was happy to have a single window seat. On the bumpy road I paid attention to a weird sound every now and then. It almost sounded like a chicken but could have easily been just a squeak from the bus. 100km trip took 3.5 hours and when I was ready to jump out I saw a woman with a plastic bag a chicken inside only its head peeking out.
I wasn’t completely sure where to go next so I was happy when I was offered a ride directly to Kong Lo which was my final destination. I had expected to have to change busses for at least 3 times on the way. So I hopped on a back of a pickup truck my backpack on the roof and began a journey that turned out to be 5 hours. Travelling with local people, some boxes, spare tires, motorbike, watermelons and at the end two big ducks stuffed to a bag and a chicken with its chicks in a basket. It was already dark when we finally arrived to Kong Lo and the driver took me to this home stay where I could stay overnight. On my whole trip hardly anyone spoke a word of English but everywhere I went I felt very welcomed.
In the morning I went to the Kong Lo cave which is the reason I came to this village in the first place. The cave is 7.5km long and a small river is running through it. I meet a couple to share the three seat boat with and we take the amazing drive through the dark cave. With our flashlights we can see the impressive stalactites in this huge sometimes 100m high cave.
So here I am finally in the bus on my way to the capital half asleep writing a story in my head wondering if I can remember any of it when I have the change to write it down and thinking if my time to come in Laos will be as good and rewarding as the past few days.