The day is only an hour or two past its midpoint and we have seen so much, felt so much. I feel a bit spent, but adrenaline keeps me going. Walking away from the village presents me with snippets of this village I doubt I could experience otherwise.
The shield that comes up for protection when in an urban jungle is non-existent here. There is no need of it in this village of hospitality, smiles and curiosity. Somehow, a sudden hug or touch does not surprise me and I welcome and succumb to it. Mostly, their sense of gratitude is shown with even-broader-than-usual smiles. Not that they don’t try to sell and earn. They do. Lady pleeeease buy from me beautiful scarf. Little kids add on the guilt thick with a sad look if you don’t. But that doesn’t seem to cool the warmth they generate in me. Wish you could see it in the photos, but I realize that when I point a camera the smile is modified.
The town is dirt colored, peppered with burst of colors from unexpected sources.
But we must walk to the Hmong village.
And then it happens. That one moment I will cherish. A little boy in the balcony of his hut, as I pass by, joins his hands as if in prayer (the way they say hello and good-by) and I see the beginning of a smile. He has given me his respect and his appreciation in that simple gesture and he did it with a shyness that is absolutely disarming.
Children and part of the village follow us to the door.
Music is important in Hmong life; we are joined by the village qeej player who plays for us.“A player must be trained; it takes years of practice to memorize the flowery language of the instrument. Its music contains the entire repertoire of Hmong knowledge and wisdom.” (Quote from Wikipedia)
We head down the hill where kids from our first village (Kia Luang Village) run along the waving good-bye. I don’t think I have a heart left. Been leaving a piece in almost every place I go!
Next is a cruise on the Mekong river “the mother of all rivers”. The Pak Ou Caves, (which means Caves at the Mouth of the Ou River –Ou River is a tributary of the Mekong) is our destination. But, as expected of this country, much to see before we board…
And the piece de resistance”: home made liquor stand. I tried it. The crystal clear one was my first taste and it burned my inside more than anything ever has! Think it was 70% alcohol! The cloudy one had a slight sweetness to it and not as strong, but then anything would be mild after the first one! The reddish one was actually not bad, much sweeter and passable. And what can I say about the one with the snake? No, I did not try it and don’t regret not doing so.
Our captain and his boat.
There is a breeze that is refreshing. The boat movements are just right, providing a “motion lullaby” that would put me immediately to sleep if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t want to miss the sights that the river offers me.
Are those cows? No, water buffalos also enjoying the water!
Climbing. Looking back. Really just catching my breath. Which the landscape takes away.
We arrive back to Luang Prabang. Most of the group climbs on a tuk tuk to go to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. I and other 4 head out with our guides to a local place to have a little appetizer and the local beer (of course) at a place where we will see no other white face but us and where they only serve duck in all its forms.
The Westerners are brave enough only for the beer and the grilled duck –in that order.
Our tuk tuk driver, which has joined us, orders blood soup. I try to look away. Our local guide says he used to have it and like it but his cholesterol is high and was told not to order it any more. Our Thai trip leader has never dared. Two girls in the table next to us are merrily enjoying theirs. Oh my!
We take a stroll along the riverside. Luang Prabang is beyond quaint. It is just a perfect combination of elements that produce a lovely peaceful “I want to live here” feel.
Hotel pool looking mighty tempting now but no time. Going to dinner with the group and then dragging myself to bed!
Tomorrow you must eat a hearty breakfast because we have a loooooooong ride ahead of us.