I woke early at 6:30 and tried to find some breakfast. The sleepy town was dead quiet and only local places were open for breakfast. After a circuit of the town and down to the river where I knew the Paris Lao Café served breakfast t western style . I am not a great fan of Asian breakfasts. Noodles rice and garlic are a last resort. I walked round the block to the Xayamounkhoung Guest house
I was collected at 8am on a tuk tuk for the drive to the trek. Met the Guide Sinakhone; she was very sweet and very well informed. She was explaining everything along the route; but I could not hear much over the engine roar. We did pass the impressive new stadium; the largest in the country.
Khampa our local guide was a few minutes late, so it was an ideal opportunity to see the festivities within That Ing Hang the most sacred site in the area. Built I in 16th century; the Ancient prasat or tower is now part of a large complex. Surrounded by a wall with hundred of new Buddha images.
The full moon festival was in full swing with hundreds making offerings within the large wat. The intoxicating smell of burning incense smoke (maybe I should say the choking smell of incense ) Sinakhone was suffering, so guided me to the open prayer hall with monks and their offerings of Kip the local currency. It was a very interesting start to the day.
We were planning to visit this wat again later, so were soon on the new main road to Vietnam. We turned off down a good gravel road through forest; where we stopped by a gate at the beginning the days 18km walk .
The route was on a good sand track where soon Khampha Stopped to show us the extraction of oil from trees. The bark of the tree is removed and a hole cut where the oil dripped down into the cup shaped depression in the tree. A little further on a rustling high above us. drew us into the bush where the sounds of large monkeys were heard. The trees were moving but I only just caught a glimpse of the dark shape of a langur.
Various bugs including a black (harmless) scorpion and exotic spiders were pointed out to me. The most interesting find was a tarantula in its hole. We could see the black arachnid deep in the hole. Khampa tried to encourage it out with a stick; but it just moved further in. Khampha showed me how water is taken from a woody water vine. By cutting it the water flowed out and tasted pretty good too.
as we continued to the small Nom Lom Lake. Sinakhone explained the complex legend of the lake; which is too long to include here. There were a few locals fishing and others pases on motorbike on the way back from the That Ing Hang Pagoda
We walked through the forest with some rain; becoming heavier so it was head down for a while; the rain eased off a little as the path became narrow and more jungle like. Khampha was ahead showing the way and deftly lifting the curtains of spiders webs as we passed. One doesn't really want a mouthful of web and a 5inch spider in the face! They do look colourful; but they can sting a bit.
We came out of the forest into partially cleared land with abandoned rice fields with a brief stop there before a few kms across fairly dry rice fields to a small farmstead for lunch. We had sticy rice; dried beef, vegetables and various dips some with wicked chilli. I took a few photos of the the family of Yai and his wife Van and their kids. I promised to get prints for them at Savannakhet.
The walk beyond here was a little tricky as we had to walk on top of the narrow banks between rice fields. I was about 9 inches wide; slippery and choked with vegetation. After a few minutes the inevitable happened. While correcting a right foot slip my left foot slid into the muddy morass. Khampha tried to help but knocked my glasses off. Thankfully I retrieved my glasses cleaned up my camera and moved on.
A few minutes later a flooded sluice gate blocked our way. The dam was quite deep but passable; Sinakhone was a little short in leg for this; so waded beyond her waist in the muddy water. The walk from there was fairly easy. With mixed forest and open rice fields . We had a brief rest at a farm before the easy walk to the Village.
With a name like "Ban Phonesim" it doesn't seem that mobile phones are welcome here. Well there was a network in the sizable farming village of quite smart wooden houses. Accommodation for that night was in the house of Kheo and his wife Thongsamoulkd . Their house was a two storey affair with a concrete lower floor and a wooden upper floor. The ground floor was a single tiled room around 10 metres on each side with a kitchen out the back and loo a bucket shower outside.
We were entertained outside with drinks of Lan Bong Ya a rice whisky with plant roots in the bottle and a bit of a kick in the glass. We had a while to rest here' it was warm but not too hot as the clouds were thickening. The plan to go to the pagoda was not apparently going ahead as the celebration was going to be in a neighbouring village. Sinakhone did apologise for this. The meal at the house will go ahead as planned.
The traditional welcome involved all the family wearing sashes and placing of white string on my right arm. I did the same to all the eight family members. I then made offerings to the small altar which was the centre piece of the room. The food was traditional sticky rice and noodles with soup and pork. The odd thing about the proceedings was the TV was on the whole time.
The TV was still on when I bedded down on a mattress with mosquito net on the floor in the corner of the only downstairs room
. He seemed surprised that I would be crashing out at 9:30 but I was really shattered.