20 April 2007

Pi Mai Lao day 3

Day three we left town to go for a kayaking trip for a couple of days. Nyay (another Mr Big) was our tour guide and was a nice young lad 23 years of age, who is interested in adventure sports. He had some interesting stories to tell. He is one of three boys so did the cooking around the house as a boy while his parents were out at work because there were no girls. He did have an older sister and brother but they died in motorbike accidents. His dad can make guns and they go out hunting together for deer and wild pigs. The dogs round up the animals so they don't have to track them. His grandfather's arm is missing because it got cut off by an American in the war. His uncle has lost both legs to one of the bombs left from the war. His mum can read and write French, can't read or write Lao. Aside- the French governement pays people here to learn French and will give you a weekly payment for doing so. Strangely enough you can pay for French lessons in kip or Euro, even though the most used currencies here are kip, $US and Thai baht... definitely not Euro! Nyay is not Buddhist, but rather an animist believing in spirits. I think this kind of religion is officially outlawed in Laos, but a fair proportion of the population practice it.

Nyay took us to the village by the river to stay for the night. We stayed at Nyay's cousin's place. His cousin was also 23 and they had a little baby. It was a simple house- two story brick without rooms although the did divide the upstairs area with sheets. The toilet was outside and the shower was the river. The kitchen is attached to the house and made of woven sheets of some plant fibre. They cook on a charcoal stove. We had some drinks with the locals which was fun. They had been drinking since 8:30am so were rather gone so luckily not pouring the drinks too full.

The next day we went to some limestone caves where the royal family had to hide out. They are full of small Buddha images because when people visited the king, they would give him one. People burn lots of incense in the cave so they aren't beautiful in the way we would consider it in Australia because they're all blackened. There's an obvious piece of information missing about the caves- what happened to the royal family? This gap is also noticeable at the royal palace which I visited in Luang Prabang. I don't think the government has issued a statement about what happened to them. We had a couple of beers before we set off kayaking to the caves because I didn't communicate to Nyay properly that I didn't want them. I couldn't have the man drink at new years by himself but I don't think it's safe and I must not do this again! Especially not since two people died on the river recently after being stuck in whirlpools. Nyay has been stuck in one for 15 mins before!

I spent a couple of days stressing about the health risks I took while being on this trip and in Luang Prabang in general. I could have caught Dengue or Malaria from all the mossie bites. I could have picked up some nasty bug from dodgy food preparation, not washing hands, sharing drinks Lao style ie passing a glass of beer or lao lao around the circle, or inconsistently using toilet paper. I could have caught parasites from swallowing river water. I could have caught Avian flu from being around chickens and their waste in the village and eating runny egg yolks. I've been back for a couple of days and it seems to be all good, but if I get sick this week I'll be very paranoid.

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