My days in LP were spent doing nothing much more than soaking up the tranquility. I did decide to venture out to a local weaving village on my bicycle one day; I was told, with a sceptical look that it was possible to get there on a bicycle as was not too far - but the scepticism part I found out must have been about the nature of the road to get there. The dirt road was full of rocks, big potholes, big trucks and more than a few steep hills and sharp bends! Navigating my way between these proved to be both exceptionally funny and just a little daunting.....i had seen the resulting wound from a fall that Ian had had the week before and it was pretty nasty! Of course any old mountain bike might have made this without a second glance but the Fairy Turbo was not designed for this I'm sure (neither the brakes nor tyres).
However it didn't let me down (nor my navigation skills) and found the village quite easily. The weaving was not terribly exciting but I did do a little wander around the village which was more appealing - I think I must have have looked a sight (pretty caked in dust) and the local street vendors took pity on me and called me over for a pepsi! That and the deep friend crispy banana pieces gave me the energy to attack the dirt road back to town.....was a very cool few hours out! Needless to say my 3-Nagas room was a welcome retreat for a scrub down. I don't think I've ever been as dirty :-
I also had a lovely day out at some waterfalls just out of town; they were quite stunning and the colour of the water (aquamarine) was a pretty weird sight after the murky muddy waters of the Mekong. Ian, his girls and I took the trip out and braved the icy chill of the water to have a gorgeously refreshing swim in one of the waterfall pools. Invigorating! There were also bears and a tiger in a compound - both rescued from the hands of poachers - some of the bears were little cubs whose mothers had been killed. After a very spicy but scrumptious green papaya salad and a(nother) cold beerlao we head back to town.
Julie and Carl the french couple were in town for a few days so we met up for some dinners in the evening. We did attempt a "night out" at the HIve Bar but the loud bar/music was a bit too much of a culture shock so we opted for a drink next door - turned out to be the only gay bar in the village..... We arrived just before the end of happy hour: 4pm - 10pm - where you received a free lao-lao shot with any drink. A little green devil it was - rice-wine with a dash of cream soda....could have proved nasty as it went down a little too well ;-) Luckily the bar was only open another hour so stuck to banana fruit shake!
Later in the week I met an american guy from Portland, Lane, and we had a few fun days hanging out. The highlight was stumbling on a funny looking temple while biking around the back streets of town. We stopped to have a look and a young monk came over to tell us about the statue (whose name turned out to be "herman" - the guy in the tarzan outfit). After chatting for a few minutes we thought best to take our leave but he asked if we had time to stay and talk. He had very broken english but we gathered that they wanted to chat to practice their english speaking. We were very happy to oblige. We joined them around a little table in their private space under a tree and the group quickly grew to about 9 monks. Two of them were having english lessons and I was amazed to learn that they'd only been studying it for 3 months as we were having a fairly unbroken conversation.
We chatted about sorts; they asked loads of questions and so did we - it was such a wonderful insight into their lives as novice monks. They don't buy anything in life and the only food they it is that which is given to them during the morning alms - the procession I earlier mentioned. After about an hour's chat we had to go. We'd asked them what their favourite food to receive was (as mostly get given cooked rice) and they said oranges (clementines); we'd decided we'd join their morning alms procession and give them loads of what they needed! Just before we left BanPou, the young monk asked if we had email as they wanted to practise writing english - I nearly fell off my chair! He took our addresses and we took theirs and they asked if we would mind if they wrote to us....I never in my life dreamed I'd have a Buddhist Monk penpal - but I guess things like that are just what this trip is all about - incredibile :-)!!!