Saturday, 24 September 2011

Central Laos

Sabadiee...this is my way of saying hello, Laos style. Having spent a couple of days recuperating in the capital Vientiane, I felt refreshed and ready to embark on my journey south bound. Reflecting on the capital, I could observe it was the most invested and developed place within Laos, however, even though it functioned as a capital city should, Vientiane was calm in a sense of hustle and bustle overlooking the Mekong and the array of beautiful temples scattered across the city. Having explored many of these places, we met a lovely monk called Ping. He invited us to his home, at the temple and welcomed us with food and drink. Ping was a welcoming friendly person, who shared stories on Laos traditions, a monks way of life and most Ping was a huge Manchester City fan and followed English football closely, so sitting in his warm comfortable home, we surfed the internet with him and he showed us great pictures of his home village. A great afternoon spent, exploring the city, meeting monks and eating traditional Laos food...wonderful noodle soup!

The next day we ventured to Tad Leuk, a tranquil setting within the National Park, an evening we spent camping, overlooking the wild nature reserve and amazing fast flowing waterfall. Having set up the tent for the night, I could take in the surrounding areas, listening to the animals sing, the water rushing through the rocks within the river and most of all just sit and feel at ease. The morning fresh air, of the open nature reserve was refreshing and needed, after the previous evening was shared with fellow travellers and three local Laos men downing raw Lao Lao whiskey. This is a tradition that most people in Lao do after sunset, eat under candlelight and share each others company downing Lao Lao. Plus, it is considered rude if you do not accept their offer of a shot of Lao Lao...therefore, I needed to ensure my shot was downed and then soothed with a BeerLao.

Moving on, we reached an enchanting place called Kong Lor. This is one of my favourite places in the whole of Laos. The aesthetic beauty that surrounds the village of Kong Lor is mesmorising. I explored the area, journeying on the 7km cave ride. This was a journey by boat through the caves surrounding Kong Lor, the experience was truly unforgettable. As the rainfall had been heavy through the evening, the caves had nearly hit flood level but the Laos guides assured it would be ok to travel through. So...after fitting my huge orange life jacket, I embarked into my small boat and we ventured into the caves. It is an eerie feeling in such darkness and vast overhangs of limestone rock. Some points, I felt I had to duck-down so the rock would not hit me, the boat meandered through the darkness with one bold light shining from the guides head-torch. The experience was somewhat unforgettable. That evening, the travellers we where travelling with, where invited to a ceremony in the village. This ceremony was held in the Chief of the village's house and we eat participated in the Shaman's prayer. We eating received many white string bracelets, each honouring a prayer given to you by the Shaman, willing good health, love, fortune and many aspects of goodness in your life. After the ceremony, we all enjoy the chicken provided by the family and of course...sticky rice. The whole journey to Kong Lor was beautiful, as the village projected an emotion of friendliness and happiness. Each person I met, greeted me with a wonderful Lao smile and life seemed so content and good for all.

Tad Leuk morning view!

Overlooking Laos on the right and Thailand on the left at sunset in Vientiane

Visiting a temple in the morning

Temple facing my bedroom window in Vientiane

After my 7km cave journey...reaching the village

Kong Lor...calmness

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