January 29th, 2010

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Friday 29 Jan in Vangvien,Laos

Friday, January 29th, 2010

It is early Saturday morning. the moon has just set behind the mountain range to the west of the valley Vangvien lays in. Today is the second full moon in January in the eastern half of the time zones. Just in case I do not get a good shot of the moon tonight in Luang Prabang, the below picture will have to proof the point. Yesterday we spent the day on the river canoeing, swimming and hiking up to two different caves. The landscape is spectacular. These hiking trails would be totally prohibitive in the USA under a paid guide service. We wormed ourselves through holes in the caves, descended slippery slopes, climbed rickety ladders. Besides the guide, Om, we had one more Cambodian young man, Vishna, in our 2 man kayaks. Om had brought a shishkebab and rice lunch that he cooked over a charcoal fire on the river’s bank. The rapids were mild but a few of the group ahead of us managed to get dunked. The second cave had been the hiding place for about 2000 townspeople during the Pathet Lao fighting. A few of Om’s relatives had been fishing and we were invited, at the end of the afternoon, to sit and taste the small fries and wash it down with the local rice whisky.

The travel guide for Vangvieng writes that you either love or hate this village. At one time the spectacular scenery and hiking possibilities made this a quiet paradise but the word got around and now it has become a passing rite for the 18 to 25 crowd, mostly from Australia, England and US. And the Lao have found out what they like, cheap lodging, drugs, loud music, floating in inner tubes with a bottle of Lao beer. And lounging in the hotel lobbies and bars watching American soaps for a good part of their vacation. But all this “decadence” still made Vangvieng a highlight of the trip, so far.

We are off to Luang Prabang on a 6 hour bus ride.