Thursday, January 1

Day 126-Luang Prabang

In a village where the generators are hushed at 10pm, the lights go out, and all that might be expected in the way of a New Years celebration is the splash of bright stars against the dark jungle sky. So it was in Pakbeng, a remote village along the Mekong river, 160 kilometers upriver from where I sit today. For two days, I and a host of international travelers have motored down the muddy waters, now in the dry season, placid and tame. We gaze upon the green hills that slope gently away from the sandy banks, where ever more remote settlements, surrounded by their newly planted corn fields, are separated by patches of broken boulders.

It is a pleasant and interesting float trip, but a rather long 8 hours each day, and so, after a time of introspectively watching the world go by, one turns ones attention to ones fellows. And that has proved to be the more interesting feature of the last couple of day. I have had the privledge of swapping travel tales with a cadre of very well seasoned wanderers indeed, from the single Dutch lady who made her way solo from Kunming to Shanghai, China, back in the mid 90s, when she was the only white face on the train, to the Ubermensch Tyler, family man, business man, smoker!, who has summitted and skied the worlds sixth highest peak, to an unnamed Kiwi couple who have slept in graveyards in India, ride motorcycles like they stole them, and read Heradotus in their spare time. A truly fascinating crew.

But alone again here in Luang Prabang, I have my work cut out for me. The Lao people are new to tourism, and one gets the sense that they are uncertain about our being here, very unlike Bali or Thailand. And lets face it, I do not have the friendliest of mugs, so they look at me much as do dogs and small children, unsure whether to cry, bark, or run away. So, besides the formidable task of arranging food, lodging and transport in a country that scarcly speaks English, removing my shoes each time I enter a dwelling, placing my head below the level of passing monks-a short people they are-I must remember to be the first to put a smile on my face.

1 comment:

David R said...

Go to Siem Reap. Go to Ankor complex. See Ankor Wat, Bayon and Thom Prehm. Its a must.