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Monday, 03 May 2010

Moments in Northern Laos: Going Back in Time - Page 6

Written by Bart Drolenga
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The people of Northern Laos never hurry; the riverboat to the next town slowly fills up. When the boat finally takes off, you experience Asian life as if time stood still. It must have been this way in Thailand 50 years ago; children play in the river while women do their laundry and long tail boats fully packed with merchandise pass by. A trek over mountains through dense rainforest can lead you to tribal villages where people have lived in the same ways for centuries. Northern Laos is a paradise for the adventurous traveler who loves culture and nature.

I walk over the road that runs along the Mekong. I pass by large French colonial mansions that have been converted to luxury hotels and restaurants, galleries, guesthouses and shops. The villas have balconies and verandas. They are painted in soft colors. Wooden shutters cover the windows. It reminds me of New Orleans and the Mississippi.

In the first half of the 20the century Luang Prabang was a retreat for French colonials who wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of Hanoi and Saigon. In my imagination I see the decadent colonial life. Women in colorful silk dresses and men in white tropical suits are parading on the streets. Traditionally dressed Laotians praise their merchandise. Old-timer cars honk when they overtake buffalo carts. The voice of Edith Piaf sounds from the copper horn of a gramophone. A steamboat arrives and porters carry heavy trunks full of luggage up the steps to the city.

I have my lunch in a trendy restaurant. I choose from an extensive selection of French breads, western and Laotian dishes, desserts and pastries. After, I jump on one of the many sãwngthãew, which are small open mini busses. They depart for the Tat Kuang Si waterfalls. It is a 20-mile long journey along rice fields and forested hills. The sãwngthãew slows down when it has to cross a wooden bridge.

We arrive at a trail that leads through the jungle; it passes turquoise pools that are being fed by small surrounding waterfalls. Tourists swim in the pools and some daredevils swing themselves from a long rope into the deep water. I continue and suddenly see the waterfall; milky white water falling down over limestone cliffs for 300 feet. I climb through Moments in Northern Laos: Going back in time, Northern Laos travel, adventure travel laos, culture and nature travel, Luang Nam Tha, Nam Ha protected area, Akha village, Akha culture, Nam Tha River, Lenten people, Nong Khiaw, Nam Ou River, riverboats, Luang Prabang, markets South East Asia, Wat Manoram temple, Wat Thammothayalan temple, That Chomsi stupa, the Mekong,  Tat Kuang Si waterfalls, Bart Drolengalush rainforest over a steep path to the top where a basin feeds the waterfall. Small water drops hang like mist in the air. Colorful damselflies hover above the water. In the distance I see green rice paddies and dark blue mountains.

On the way back I decide to swim in a pool, the water is cool and refreshing and I feel a benevolent quiet. I swim to one of the tree roots that stick out of the water and climb on it. With my feet in the water I enjoy the warming sun and the bright blue color that surrounds me.

Moments in Northern Laos: Going back in time, Northern Laos travel, adventure travel laos, culture and nature travel, Luang Nam Tha, Nam Ha protected area, Akha village, Akha culture, Nam Tha River, Lenten people, Nong Khiaw, Nam Ou River, riverboats, Luang Prabang, markets South East Asia, Wat Manoram temple, Wat Thammothayalan temple, That Chomsi stupa, the Mekong,  Tat Kuang Si waterfalls, Bart DrolengaIn the evening I dine at one of the many open-air restaurants along the Mekong. It is busy with Laotian families. In a hole in the table burns a charcoal fire. The waiter brings a plate with thin sliced pork and beef and a plastic basket filled with vegetables, white noodles and eggs.

He puts a round aluminium pot on the fire. It has a small expansion in the middle. The waiter pours water in the pot and places pieces of lard on the expansion. The white noodles and the vegetables are put in the water that quickly begins to boil. He breaks an egg and mixes the white and yellow substance with the noodles and the vegetables. Pieces of meat are placed on the expansion and chopped garlic is stirred in a dark red sweet chilli sauce.

In no time the waiter had prepared a fantastic meal of noodle soup and barbequed meat. Putting new pieces of meat on the lard and noodles and vegetables in the soup I take my time eating my dinner. Slowly it gets quiet on the water. One after another the lights on the boats turn off and at ten o’clock, and it is practically dark on the river.

©Bart Drolenga

(Page 6 of 6)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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