Hello dear people. You may have your ideas about why I haven't written here in a while. Well, I have been in Laos. After leaving the capital, Vientiane, where I posted my last entry, the Internet has been either very expensive or non-existent. In fact, electricity has been non-existent.
Laos is many tourist's favorite country here in South-East Asia. It has beautiful nature, friendly people, some nice sights and lots of drugs. It was terrible to see the 20-something tourists in the two main tourist cities in Laos, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. The kids were drinking like maniacs, having opium shakes, shouting on the streets and wearing mini-mini-skirts and shirts that show a woman's bra. Especially the thing about clothes surprised me a lot. On every single guide book about Laos the importance of conservative clothing is highlighted. I felt ashamed when the locals were staring at a group of girls with only a bikini covering their upper body. It's one thing to have the liberty to wear what you want and an other thing to make everybody around you uncomfortable. I might add that nowadays I swim with a t-shirt.
What had the most positive impact on me was a little different. There are so many places with no organized tourism. I left the "tourist route" and headed north towards the Vietnamese border, stopping at several places on the way. First I stayed in a picturesque city called Nong Khiew (a city in Laos is a village with a couple of thousand people and one paved road). I loved it there. It was so authentic. Dirty children, animals, bamboo huts, no electricity (the line had broke the previous night), 5 tourists and mountains surrounding it all. The city reminded me a lot of Moyogalpa in Nicaragua, a place that is very special to me, so being in Nong Khiew brought several beautiful memories to me and I was happy.
An other thing that impacted me greatly was a trek that Melanie from Texas and I made in the mountains of Muang Khua. Muang Khua sees some tourists that quickly pass through town. We found a teacher in the city that took us on a two day trek. I can not tell you how amazing it was. We walked IN rivers, it poured with rain, our guide continuously had to cut the vegetation to open the path etc. We passed several villages and we stayed overnight in one. The last time a foreigner had entered the grounds was over one year ago when an Israeli passed some of the villages. Approaching the village was magical in itself. We met the first person about half an hour before the village. Then the mountain almost came alive. The villagers shouted from one rice field to another about our coming and soon we had 20 grown-up's who appeared from nowhere following us. Dogs barked at us. Some children started crying at the sight of us. Old women grabbed our hands. We were asked to heal a man who was coughing blood.
We stayed the night at the chiefs house. The chief and his five brothers' families were the only ones with electricity - they had electric light after nightfall and so the fire was only used for cooking. The children laughed at anything we did. Men made tools out of old bomb shells. We were of course dead tired after the 7 hour trek so we needed to sleep. The chief had been very serious and calm during the hours that we had sat in his house. When preparing for going to bed, I removed my contact lenses. Then suddenly, the chief was next to me, faster than lightning, and he grabbed the lens container from my hands. And so he sat there carefully examining everything I had brought with me. Until 1 a.m.
So many great things have happened during my time here and I still have one more week to go. Tomorrow I'll head towards the "magical" Sapa in northern Vietnam. The unlucky thing is that my camera finally broke. I was counting on that it would work until I reached Hanoi but that didn't happen. The thing is mainly unlucky because the camera broke in Laos, the country that has zero people able to repair a camera (the photo shop keepers keep saying "Thailand, Thailand"). So, I'll try to find a repair shop in Sapa and use my phone in the meantime. I'm not devastated about this camera-thing so no worries. Be good!