02.15.2009 80 °F
Hello from lovely Laos. We are thoroughly in love with every aspect of this country. If you haven't been, you must come here...but soon!
We started our journey by boating down the Mekong River from Thailand. It was a cramped boat, but the scenery was beautiful and the company was good.
View from our boat
We arrived in beautiful Luang Prabang where we spent a lot of time wandering the streets. We visited a great non-profit called Big Brother Mouse where you can buy books for Laos children that are made here in Laos. Most are in English and Lao, and for many kids in the rural areas these are the first books they have received. We also went to a performance at the Children's Cultural Centre, which is an afterschool program that teaches the kids art, music, traditional dance, and puppetry. It was a great night.
Good luck Baaci Ceremony
Traditional Laos Dance
Check out the video!! This dance was a Hmong dance performed once a year
One morning we awoke early to see the hundreds of monks walk the streets and get offerings from locals (and lots of tourists)
We then rented bikes with our friend from Holland, Josine. We headed to the Tat Se waterfall, 17 km up some steep terrain (being passed by trucks and honking buses!). A waterfall has never felt so good.
Celebrating with a cold Beerlao
That afternoon we rested on the banks of a river by this bamboo bridge watching the local kids float down in tubes
We decided to head north so we went by bus and boat to the small village of Muang Ngoi. It is an idyllic spot, surrounded by karst cliffs and green water.
We did a great one day tour that included trekking, fishing, and tubing. Our guide Jay first took us to some villages where they make silk scarves.
We then cooled off in the river by tubing for 2+ hours...we think our guides got caught up in fishing and forgot about us for a while, but they made it up to us by having a feast waiting for us on the riverside complete with lao-lao (rice whiskey), grilled fish, ferns and other random plants, and sticky rice. The lao-lao warmed us right up. Good times.
Matt and Jay
After Muang Ngoi, we travelled south of Luang Prabang to the town of Sayabouri for the 2009 Elephant Festival! We were expecting a lot of people, but not 50,000! It was an incredible experience. We stayed in a homestay with a sweet Laos family with two kids but there were a lot of relatives staying there as well--it seemed their door was always open. Though our family couldn't speak much English and we couldn't speak much Laos, we spent a lot of our time teaching each other common phrases from the back of our Lonely Planet book (which gets easier with lao-lao). Their 16 year old neighbor Tou gave us a little bike tour around the town.
Bike tour with Tou
Beautiful rice fields
Our family: Mr. Khan, Bocki, and Don
A Lao writing lesson...hilarious
The festival itself was impressive, it was organized to show respect and teach the youth about the declining numbers of elephants in Laos. Lucky for us all of the elephants got ready right in front of our house so we got to see them up close. Neither of us have been in crowds of that many, and what was great was that there were very few tourists. We often had people pointing at us, and women would even bring their babies over and make them look at us while saying "Falang" = white person. One woman even touched Matt's leg hair because she thought it was so hilarious! We knew the opening ceremony was priceless when they started blasting the Star Wars theme song! In true Laos fashion nothing on the program happened, but the people watching was excellent. We feel very fourtunate to have this experience, it was one of the best of our trip!
Matt with the elephants
Elephants in front of our homestay
Elephants getting ready (VIDEO!)
We love hearing from everyone back home and hope that this finds everyone well. Cheers and warm wishes!
Matt and Erin