First Step

Trip Start Feb 20, 2012
Trip End Oct 22, 2012

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Louangphabang,
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

4 hours on a pick-up (aka sawngthaew) direction North. The temperature is slowly decreasing while climbing higher. Small villages on the side of the road, the driver is asked sometimes to let one of the carried to greet the families.

Moving North to have the possibility to take a closer look to the life in the rural areas. Even if the global population has recently become more urban than rural, this isn't the case in Laos. The bigger part of the population lives in small villages that have different level of contact with the other parts of Lao. Who are these people? How do they live? What do they eat? What do they talk about when gathering around a fire? Weighing my daily life with new meters.

Nong Khiaw is actually still one of the main stream touristic location of Laos, a small village with more guesthouses than houses. Crawling down to the Nam Ou river. Nonetheless, after Luang Prabang the feeling is to have moved the first step in the rural areas. Most of the people working in contact with the falangs have just a modest English, and the number of smiles has increased. There is not much around, just a cave (the Luang Prabang Bank was moved in here during the War) but the nature is gorgeous.

I found on the side of the bridge a small path that allowed me to walk down to the river. What are all these people doing in the water? Need to re-arrange a bit my belongings to step into the river and get closer. They are collecting river weeds! May be 20 locals (women, men, kids and elderly)  collecting river weed.The older ladies have some elements of the traditional clothing. After sometime spent looking, I got invited to participate, unfortunately even with the re-arrangement I could not bend enough into the water to reach the weeds "Kop Chai, may be next time". Everybody laughed. The weeds are washed (in the river) and arranged in a kind of thin compact square on plastic bags, in the sun with some seasoning (sesame seeds, tomato and garlic). When dried can be fried and eaten. It took some days to see the entire process. Walking in different villages I could pick up disordered steps and (more importantly!) finally taste it. Definitely it is something worth to try (better with some Beerlao on the side!).
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