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Beyond Our Conestoga

An unexpected Wonderful thing.

LAOS | Saturday, 6 March 2010 | Views [531] | Comments [1]

We are currently in the 4,000 Islands region of Southern Laos. We have been on Don Khon island for 2 1/2 days and will be leaving tomorrow onto Cambodia. Here is where the Mekong River widens so much that is runs shallow and creates thousands of islands. This is exsaperated even more so by it being 'dry season' and the river is running low. We have enjoyed some down relaxing time before crossing the border and re-entering the world of learning new languages, new prices, new expectations, new dangers. It is extremely hot here though. A walk 50 meters down the dirt street to get some food and you are a ses-pool of sweat. Not a fun feeling. THe only vindication is knowing that you can just take a dip in the river.

We have seen the Mekong all along Laos, in its many forms, wide, narrow, waterfalls, the pretty side, the dirty side. Most interesting though, is the life that surrounds around this mighty River. The fishing, the resource of water itself, the washing, the entertainment, the transportation, the minerals. I can now say I have swam and bathed int he Mekong, as well as washed my clothes (just like the locals.) Sometimes a little scary to think about what all gets put into this water. But with the hose running from the river up to our guesthouse (and back)...the shower water isn't any different! Swimming in the river here as a female one must respect the locals. The skin that is barred is minimal. I have mastered the technique of bathing with my sewn tubular sarong and I have to say, I quit love it. The locals get a kick out of watching me bath like them. They are probably wondering why I don't use the shower like the other 'tourists.' I can't miss out on this experience though.

In Moung Nuea in Northern Laos, I bathed in the Nam Ou (a tributary of the Mekong). Here the local children came and played with me. It was so satisfying to be playing in the water with them splashing and all. The other tourists were left alone in their bikinis around the bend. We drew in the sand and traded languages with the pictures. We splashed. They questioned all my toilitries. Helped catch the parts that got caught in the splashes and were floating down river. Smiles abound. Good times.

Our time in Laos has been so wonderful and we are so happy we decided to spend 30 days here. We are sad to think we might not return. Although we would like to , there are so many new places to see. Thus continues the neverending battle of the list of places to go only gets longer the more we see and places we go. 30 days hasn't been enough though to see everything. We decided to skip the famous PLains of Jars in leiu of the Hongsa Elephant Festival. We are still happy with this decision. We have tried avoiding the main tourist track, in doing so, we have also avoided the south the longer that we could. Thus it stayed cooler for us. We also tried to stay in the higher elevations.

Part of this challenge, we went to the Tham Kong Lo (Cave). I think there was only 5 tourists in the town that we stayed at here. Down a canyon, absolutely gorgeous. We ended up staying here one more day than expected. We came for the cave only though. The canyon reminded us of very much Zion, but a wider valley and not red rocks. And it was so long this canyon. The cave though! Man oh man. Eric and I both agreeed, that this was the most awesome thing we have done so far. Others here said the same. 7km of a river running right through the cave. Riding a boat, the lights, only headlights of our boatman (plus our personal headlights). One stop to climb up to some huge formations. But this cave was huge! The caverns were extrodanariy. Not sure I have been in caverns this big! Some of you reading this will really appreciate this I hope. And the river right through the mountain in the cave. We pop out on the opposite end to find locals getting in boats to go through. We realize then (as we were the first boat of the day). This river and cave is a daily commute for many people here. Ah, the jealousy. Luckily we get to go back through on the way back as well. As it is dry season, we had to wade in the water a few times as the boat wouldn't go through some sections with 4 of us in the boat. That's ok though. My photos unfortunately can't even show the immensity of the place. Need some serious flashes. Got some pics of the formation room though.

In this village that night we had a jaw dropping experience. So we happen to be here on the full moon of which on this moon every year (end of Feb./early March) is a huge festival at the Wat (I guess all wats on Laos). There was some drumming as we ate diner. Out homestay guest communicated enough that there would be more drumming tomorrow. We went to bed thinking to explore this sound in the morning. We woke about 4:30 in the morning in a jolt to a HUGE BOOOOOOOM. It shook our bamboo hut walls, we felt the puff of air and heard it echo down the canyon. BOOOOM Boooom Booom Boom. Now, a little perspective to our thought process at the time: We are close to the Vietnam border, close to the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We are in an area with thousands of unexploded bombs from the 1970's (thanks to good old USA). Here, you DO NOT walk off the trail. Heavily stressed. Our hearts pounding. How is this hut even still standing? It sounded like it was right by us. Followed by many gun shots. We learn later that this is all for the festival. Phew.



this cave sounds so exciting!! i've never been to loas

  Youna Mar 13, 2010 8:43 PM

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