Laos23 Jan 2007 07:04 am

 Laos.  What a stunning country.  The people and the place. Such kind people but still a hint of the unusual.    First night stop of a two day journey by slow boat along the Mekong river. The journey full of new sights smells and sounds. 

Monks being dropped off at home, families carrying carrier bags of money, due to the currency being so low and no ATMS.  We are stopped at a village with  4 guesthouses, to cater for the long boat. 

 off at home, families carrying carrier bags of money, due to the currency being so low and no ATMS.  We are stopped at a village with  4 guesthouses, to cater for the long boat.  

 Most of the locals will sleep on the boat that night.    The village generator shuts down at 9.30 and throws the whole village into darkness and you survive by torch and candles while the stars stab through the sky with startling diamond brightness.

 

  I sat down that first night to write a blog entry on my laptop before the generators shut down. Within minutes, I have a crowd of locals staring at my computer, rarely seeing such a thing – then, a local shoves an ipod in my face.  “Western music must gone – yes Thai music”.   He wants me to remove the western music on his ipod and put Thai on there.   Laos doesnt have a popular music scene, and Thai music is the rage. He has a bag of CD’s with him.  

 

Behind him, another person arrives with an ipod.   I deleted 4 ipods and re-stocked with Thai music over a 3 hour period whilst 8 or 9 locals sat around talked and watched. Try to explain the difference between DVD, VCD and CD music files with gestures, to people who allegedly obtained their ipods by trading them for Opium with travelers. Only then will you get a feel for the uniqueness of my situation when some music could not be copied. Two of the ipods had no charger with them.  Free “Beer Laos” and lots of smiles was my payment for that evening’s work.

The country itself is 85% covered in unmanaged vegetation. It is the most untouched country in South East Asia, and has other traits that make is to attractive compared to Thailand.  Example, local Prostitution is non existent.

 

 

 

  It is illegal for a Westerner to sleep with a local. Heavy penalties apply – rumoured to be $25k USD – but noone has really pushed the test from what I have heard.   If you want to – you marry.   What this means, is the shacks and whore-bars seen outside towns and villages where local girls make a quick dollar are not there. 

 

 Drive out of town on a moped and you have happy villages still existing how they have always done.  No liberlised nature to cater for the tourists.   Cows quite happily sleep on the tarmac roads, buses just drive around them. Naked children still run outside when they hear a moped or car and wave.

  Say hello to a local and they respond with big toothless smiles.  Gestures and smiles are what allow you to survive a lot of conversations when you leave a main town. A big bag of blue….fruit? vegetable? spice?… What is it?   – your hand gestures ask ‘do you cook it’ ‘do you peel it and eat raw’.  Hand

roasted peanuts or fresh monkey peanuts still in their cases and leaves and roots intact.  They are moist and flavoursome, just rub the dirt off before you open them or it’s a bit gritty. Once you step outside your known way of life and adjust to life here everything is perfectly normal.

You learn a few words, and the numbers are similar to Thai. It helps a little.  Here, it’s not unusual for a man with a AK47 to smile as he asks for $1 to guard your bike whilst you shop in the markets out of town – sort of parking attendents with a gun instead of video survielance.

 After the initial shock of a gunmen on your bus in case of bandits – everything takes on a new and obviously normal reality that is the beautiful country of Laos outside of the main cities. A must for you all.

Next stop – back down south to Koh Samui to see some friends from Australia for a week.

 

 

 

 






 

2 Responses to “Laos – Boats, guns and locals”

  1. on 29 Jan 2007 at 9:52 am LyL

    I guess that you ended up pretty shaken by that ride but it cerainlly looked worth it! I rust that you will make a compilation of all this video when you complete your journey 🙂
    Let’s hope that Laos remains pretty tourist-free but I suppose that it will join the rest of the tourist-tramped world eventually. You appear to have caught it at the right time!

  2. on 29 Jan 2007 at 10:04 am LyL

    OK – so what happened next? Tghere you are with fading light with a ford in front of you which appears a bit daunting? Bit of a cliff-hanger Chris. But you are certainly lucky 🙂

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