Thursday, July 2, 2009

South Laos

After a final goodbye meal to celebrate completing 'the loop' and me not being charged too much for the extensive damage i did to the motorbike!! I fell into bed soooo tired and had a great sleep.

I headed off the next morning to the last big town in the south of Laos (the last ATM in the south!) for a night or two before a few days on one of the famous '4000' islands in the very south. So in Ireland we take snacks like fruit or crisps onto a bus here they eat 'foetus egg' on a stick or dig into their bag of LIVE cockroaches!! I like to try new and exciting foods but i will just pass on these two!

Had a nice relaxing time here, catching up on sleep, trying to catch up on this blog and as the cut on my knee and a bad burn i got off a motorbike exhaust were starting to go a bit euugghh i went to a doctor. She took one look, said euuuggghh! Gave them a good clean and gave me a massive bag of medicine to take my god!

I randomly bumped into Johfra that night, one of the guys from the motorbike trip and so we headed together the next morning to Champasack street! (it cant possibly justify being called a village!). There is some government building that blares out government radio all over the area with really annoying pipe-based Laos music for everyone to hear- whether you want to or not. It was so irritating we couldnt eat our noodle soup fast enough!

The reason to stop at Champasack is that it has a beautiful set of temples on the outskirts...of the street! The place is completly in ruins but you can just imagine how it looked and the people were who lived there in its glory.

It really was a steaming hot tropical humid day! It was just a short climb up to the temple but hard work.

This is a view of the ruins.

An ancient elephant carving

I was really excited about getting down to the 4000 islands I heard it was a lovely chilled-out place, a perfect end to my time in Laos....i have to say it was a slow start but i've warmed to this country immensely.

First we took a special boat across the river that carried cars, trucks and tuc-tucs across. The boat was made from a few small boats tied together with planks of wood on top and it works grand!
Little old lady with her stash of......mmmm ive yet to find out what these are
We went to the island of Don Det and found a lovely friendly guesthouse, not to mention super-cheap room with hammock looking over the Mekong. No electricty here so when i chose a fruit shake from the menu one of the girls had to run down the road with the blender to a place with power!

The poor buffalo was terrified of this little boy who fired at him with his sling-shot whenever he saw him!
Electricty isnt really that necessary here though. Laos people get up early and go to bed early and you get into the habit of doing the same. It took me about 2 hours to walk the perimiter of the island, really lovely just a few guesthouse and restaurants and rice fields.
I never gave a pig a little rub before...this fellow LOVED it! What a really chubby face just a big handfull of fat....i wouldnt mind having one of these for a pet in the future

Myself, Johfra and one of the girls from our guesthouse called 'Oy!' took bikes and cycled to a near-by island thats connected by a bridge. There was a huge waterfall there, called something like the Devils...claw basically because if you go for a swim it may be your last!
I wouldnt really recommend crossing the bridge either!

Later we saw a sign that said 'beach & nice view 300m' so that was clearly the direction to go! We got chatting to a friendly guy who took us on his boat for a friendly price to see if we could find some of the very rare dolphins that live in this area.
It was a really lovely boat trip, very refreshing after all the cycling. Im sure the boatguy was very drunk! He hopped off the boat into bamboo traps that had been left by fishermen to catch fish and in one he found one 3 inch fish and one bigger but half eaten/rotton one. 'COME ON WE HAVE BARBEQ!!!' Yes why not, we had no better plans!
Our friendly boatman
He took us to a little illegal bar on the Cambodian side of the river where we payed $1 for the pleasure of sitting there. Out came the massive bucket of Lao-Lao rice whiskey, and the Beer Lao, and the Ankor beer, and the Anker Beer, and....mmm oh yes the horrible pineaple licquer! And then the moment we were waiting for...the barbequed half eaten/half rotten fish!! I pulled a little off (incidently it was still very liquidy!) made sure he saw me eating it and how delicious i found it but that i was feeling quite full.
We had ANOTHER barbeque and more Lao-Lao when we got back to the other side of the river, for sure he was not fit to drive the boat and the same could be said about us getting on the bikes! Johfra's tyre exploded so myself and Oy! cycled along slowly beside Jofra the singing at the top of our voices the whole way home!
We passed some kids jumping into the river on the way home and with that much Lao-Lao in me there was no way i wasnt jumping in too! The water was so fresh and warm i jumped in about 5 or 6 times before the others were getting a bit bored/hungry it also started extremly heavy rain.
Myself and Johfra had started a fascination about where does rice actually come from?? Everywhere here, in Thailand, India you see people working on the rice fields but you never actually see where the rice comes from. Is it from the flower? the seed? Oh we were utterly confused!
Sooo Johfra had the idea...why not ask our guesthouse people could we help them out for a day or two on their rice fields! We got up at the crack of dawn for our first lesson!
It was really tough work! You plant these in a very specific way while you are in deep very warm muddy, squelchy water, wait 3 months, then you dig up some of it to re-plant and harvest the rest for rice. Which is the seed of the plant. It really made me realise just how much work goes into a bowl of rice!
I had to cover myself with mud to stop getting burnt as it was SOOOO HOT the sun cream just slid off like putting butter on a pan. The mud was very effective sun-block and the laos people found it even funnier that firstly some 'Falang' want to work in the rice fields but also that they are covered in mud!!
Im not sure if we were a help or a hindrince to the rice-planting but i sure learnt a lot about it. Laos people say 'uuuhhhhhh' for 'yes' sounds a little like a caveman and i'll never forget the woman i was working beside in the rice field. I was asking this right? She would look over and say 'uuuhhhhh' such a caveman noise for such a tiny, pretty laos lady!

Heavy monsoon them!
So farewell to Laos for me, i have to say it took a little while to get used to the culture here but once i did i certainly made the most of it! On to Cambodia now for some Vipassana meditation!
Here are some lovely sunsets from my hammock on 4000 islands

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