Beach bonfire, enchanting kids, quiet mountains

Trip Start Nov 06, 2006
Trip End Jun 15, 2007

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Monday, December 11, 2006

A long day of travel by bus and sangthaew lands us in uneventful Chiang Khong, where the guesthouses are dumpy and overpriced, the restaurant choices are limited, and the whole town feels uninspired. We find good tasting chai and Indian food at Nazim Restaurant, but I'm left with waves of intense stomach cramps that keep me up all night.

We enjoy a refreshing longtail boat ride up the Nam Ou River to the small riverside village of
Muang Ngoi and settle into a bamboo bungalow with a hammock and nice sized deck overlooking the surrounding mountains and the river and valley below. The Lao people are so friendly here - lots of singing, children laughing and playing games in the streets.

A group of us decides to have a sunset fire by the river and a cheerful group of kids suddenly surrounds us and shows us their latest karate moves before they spontaneously join us in finding firewood. Next they're helping u get the fire started. Then they dig a small pit, line it with rocks and transfer red hot coals with tongs made out of sticks so that Gil and Tom, our Israeli friends, can make Turkish coffee. A few minutes later, one of the boys constructs a chair by interlocking three of the logs together into a tripod. I'm constantly struck by how crafty and creative the people here are, how they use everything available to them in their environment, and I can't believe how helpful these young boys are!

We share our fresh pineapple and a package of Oreos with the kids while we sip coffee, then stare in amazement as they start juggling red hot coals from the fire with their bare hands. After some initial embarrassment, they soon launch into a Lao song and get a big kick out of it when I start trying to sing along. From that point on we were best buds and they had fun getting me to say things I don't think farang are supposed to say. Their friendliness, innocence, and openness is so beautiful.

At an outside bar last night, some of the locals were playing guitar and singing songs. They laughed gently when they forgot the lyrics, and again I was struck by the quiet kindness they showed for everyone.

I find myself slowing down here, my voice becoming softer. Laos is a lovely place - a gentle reminder of the kindness at the heart of the human spirit.
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