Vang Vieng, Laos
January 19, 2013 Saturday
Day 10 of G
I should have gone out earlier. The villagers were all about and had obviously been active for a while. Women were walking out of the village with empty baskets and men were coming back to the village with huge loads of dried brush. Many people were warming themselves next to fires in their yards. One old women invited me to join her but I politely declined, thanked her and moved on. I didn't think that it was particularly cold out and I was only wearing a tee shirt on top but maybe it was a little brisk.
Everyone I saw was either friendly or seemed shy. Rice was already being dropped off at a shack for hulling. The motor was loud and a bit stinky.
I saw a woman walking with an offering in her hands headed for the temple so I followed her. There were only 3 women there making offerings and preparing a nice little table with food. They all smiled at me so I went in and took photos of them, the temple and the monk who was doing something with the shrine. This temple is VERY plain and poor but very clean and kept up. I have only seen 1 monk in the village and he is elderly. There was a square of fresh water drops around the entire perimeter of the temple but inside of the temple fence that was obviously fresh. I mimed to one seemingly very old woman to ask if I could photograph her. She gave me a brilliant mostly toothless smile and nodded but unfortunately she was too shy and kept bowing her head with a closed mouth smile for her photos. She really did like seeing herself when I showed her the photo and of course then I got the toothless grin again.
As I went back to "Home stay house #1" I peeked into the open windows of our hosts bedroom. they have the same beds but no mattresses and only thin matts on top of the frames. Their bathroom has a squat toilet and the "real" kitchen is out back in the open with their garden. And this is the Chief's house.
Everyone slowly filtered in for breakfast. We had wonderful fresh baguettes, tea, coffee or water, some very nice strawberry jam and communal portions of scrambled eggs. We did not have individual plates. The glasses for the hot beverages were regular small glass juice glasses. They couldn't be filled with very much hot water or they were too hot to hold. I was still slightly under the weather so I only had 1 piece of bread with jam and some tea.
Andrew says that this Home stay is quite luxuriant compared to Borneo. We have our own rooms, our own bathrooms, western toilets, beds, fans, and decent food. It couldn't be better.... The host is being paid the grand total of about $20 a head for our stay of dinner, overnight, and breakfast.
After breakfast we had a quite decent 45 minute walk in the already hot sun, mostly without shade to a waterfall. It cost 10,000 kip to get into the park. They offer zip lining and there were many stalls near the entrance but we were too early and they weren't open yet. We then had a short hike up to the waterfall itself. The waterfall was kind of a bust because it is the dry season but it was a good walk and then a nice hike across several "exciting" bridges. I was a bit red by the time I reached the top. Ray shook the first bridge so hard that he made the toilet paper fall out of my pocket but he graciously retrieved it for me. Luckily it was in a plastic package. Did I mention before that used toilet paper goes in a garbage can in the bathroom and not in the toilet?
The villagers do recycle the bottles and cans.
We walked back to the village, got our things into the bus and drove to Vang Vieng proper. Our hotel, the Vilayvong Guesthouse, is very nice. The rooms are spacious, the beds feel more like what we are used to back home and the view of the mountains from the rooms is incredible.
We walked over to one of the activity centers to see what was available for the afternoon. Jeff and I wanted to rent ATVs but they had nothing for just an afternoon. Sharon, Ray, John and the Swiss girls signed up for river kayaking and Yoon, Greg, Jeff and I signed up for a hot air balloon ride for $80@ scheduled for 4 p.m.
Almost all of us then trooped several blocks away to the only Irish pub in Laos. Sharon and Phil were not feeling 100% so they stayed back at the hotel although Phil and Clive showed up at the restaurant a little later. Better late than never. I ordered a potpie with mashed potatos, only ate half and started feeling quesy again. Phil had a chip butty- a baguette filled with french fries. Weird but she wanted some "comfort" food. Good for her. Jeff had his first hamburger in Laos. To be nice I'll say that the bun looked great.
We all then went our separate ways. Jeff and I decided to walk by the river. It cost 4,000 kip@ (pedestrian) to cross both ways over the bridge. The bridge is for pedestrians and cars but cars can only go in 1 direction at a time and if you are on the bridge at the same time as a car you have to hug the supports. The bridge has cables but the floor is made out of wood and if there is a hole or broken board they just add another one on top of the problem.
The setting was beautiful but it was very hot out and there was little shade. I started feeling more and more queasy. I went back to the hotel without Jeff so that I could lay down for a bit before the balloon ride. I was no better by 4 but decided to go for it anyway. How often will I be in Vang Vieng, Laos for a hot air balloon ride? Passing by the food being cooked outside was a real trial and I did wonder what would happen if I puked over the side but I survived the ride and it would have been great had I felt better. The views were incredible and the ride was smooth. Thank whatever deity I should thank for that. We did brush the tops of trees on our landing and we did hop once and have to be caught by the guys on the ground but it was good. Jeff lost his botanic garden cap on the ride but has a great photo of it floating to earth.
For our ride back to the hotel we had a choice of either getting in the bed of a pickup or inside the pickup. I didn't feel up to hopping into the back so I went into the cab. Big mistake. It smelled of sickeningly sweet air freshener. Why I didn't puke then is beyond me.
We made it back to the hotel room in time to see a beautiful sunset over the mountains but truthfully I didn't have the energy to appreciate or photograph it properly.
So now I am missing dinner with the group and watching part of the Lance Armstrong/ Oprah interview on CNN for the third time. It is the only English Channel available. There is also music coming in from downstairs that is 2 to 3 times as loud as the TV. I don't feel great but I no longer feel like I'm going to lose it though when food smells drift into the room it gets a little dicey.
Wifi is supposed to work here but doesn't and I don't have the energy to deal with it.
I can unreservedly say that I will never eat Irish food in Laos again!
I have 15 bug bites on my right arm and 11 on my left. I refuse to count the ones on my torso and legs. No new ones luckily.