Laos - Day 3 - Island Jungle Trek
May 4, 2012
|Woke up this morning to the lovely sound of drums played by the Buddhist monks, it is a signaling request to the villagers that they would be glad to receive offerings. We went for a buffet breakfast and ate our fill in preparations for today’s trek into the jungle to the nearby Hmong and Khamu villages. We met up with David, Brian, Any and Martina and started our trek just after 10:30am.
In the heat of the day we trekked an hour in to a village that offered us clear mountain water, running through a cave situated just on the outskirts of town. Inside the cave we took a much needed break from the heat, taking our hiking shoes off and stepped into the water. Enjoying every minute of it, soothing our feet and legs with the coolness of the stream, David being the only one brave enough amongst us to jump right into the freezing cold water.
Along the banks, hundreds of butterflies rested. We took this opportunity to take a few photos of each other, standing right among the butterflies, they scurried into the air and swarmed about you but never left the area. Settling back down to the ground as soon as you vacated the area. We love these butterflies, you felt like you were in a fairy tale forest.
We crossed a bridge where we stopped for a few moments at a local weaving stand where a woman was making silk scarves. We carried on our way and continued to walk for over an hour through the jungle, making our way past the mountain karsts, over dirt roads exploring and taking in the beauty. We discovered a flower or ‘mushroom’ that appeared to be from the same family as the Rafflesia flower we saw in Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. It was beautiful, large petals, purple in color opened up to expose the wonderful yellow staymin inside. The smell omitting from the flower was awful, smelling strong of rotting meat (much more than the rafflesia) - for such a gorgeous flower to smell so bad somehow just isn’t right. We all took turns smelling and taking photos of the plant and soon enough we were on our way again.
We finally made it to the village, greeted by a local named ‘Mr. Khamphan’ who gladly supplied us with solice from the hot, hot sun. All of us exhausted, sweaty and hungry we entered his little air restaurant on stilts. Some climbing into the awesome hammocks and others sitting down in the plastic lawn chairs surrounding a square wooden table. We quickly ordered cold cans of coke, this is all Mr. Khamphan had to offer for cold drinks. He grabbed his bottle of homemade rice whiskey and poured out shot glasses to go around. Pretty good, it warmed the chest as it went down that’s for sure. We ordered up some food, Brian tried to get a bowl of chicken noodle soup however Mr. Khamphan stated that he only had one large chicken and was not willing to kill it only for one bowl of soup - you had to be there to share our humor at this situation. We ordered up two vegetable curry dishes and eagerly awaited our lunch. Once it arrived we had another laugh as Mr. Khamphan delivered two green vegetable dishes that did not look nor taste like curry at all. Rather they were a green river root, stir fried with garlic and called ‘vegetable curry’.
As we ate our meals, Mr. Khamphan poured more shot glasses of rice whiskey - only Jason, Martina and myself indulged in a second hit. Truly touched by his hospitality, Mr. Khamphan sat with us, answered our questions and laughed at us “crazy” far rang for having walked in the mid-days heat to arrive at his village. Brian showed him photos of Scotland. Soon enough Mr. Khamphan whipped out two large mats, spread them on the floor behind the table and offered all of us a place to take a nap, Brian snatched up the opportunity and was fast asleep before the rest of us even had a chance to realize what was taking place. At some point Mr. Khamphan had one of the men from the village take a motorcycle into Muang Ngoi and buy a block of ice and a couple cases of water, in hopes of selling some water to us - anything to bring in more money to the village, very nice of him. When the man arrived back Mr. Khamphan grabbed a water for David, realizing it was warm David asked for some ice. He was given a glass with a piece from the block of ice, however it had already started to melt and revealed a very dirty piece of ice. Jason and I thought to ourselves don’t do it, don’t use it just because Mr. Khamphan worked hard to get us water and ice for the drinks to be cold. It’s not worth getting sick over. Finally David declined putting his water in the ice and drank it down warm. He really didn’t want to offend him but you just couldn’t look at that ice and drink it. In the end Mr. Khamphan was Ok with it and we all left alive!
We rested for a bit, welcomed two more tourists to the group, chatted for a bit and decided it was time to leave and carry on around 3:30pm. We gave our thanks and said our good-bye’s to Mr. Khamphan and carried on our way. We ran into three teenage boys who were carrying what appeared to be 22’s, obviously hunting for birds. Off in the distance we could hear shots fired. Trying to take a short cut we ran into two local men, one carrying a sack that contained a dead snake. Not very big, it was missing its head - wouldn’t offer him much sustanence.
We stopped again at the cave for another dip in the water, Jason decided to jump on in - verbally letting us know just how cold the water was. A local woman who had come down to the river to bath got a good laugh at him, I’m sure she does this all the time and is somewhat “tougher” than we are. After a brief rest we continued on our way back to the village of Muang Ngoi, arriving just shortly before 5pm. We all decided we needed showers and a bit of a rest prior to gathering again for supper.
As a group we decided that we all had enough buffet dinners so we found a little restaurant down by the river that offered spectacular sunset views from their balcony. It started to drizzle a bit so we were moved inside the restaurant. We ordered up our plates, got some nice cold beers and enjoyed the rest of the evening chatting and reminiscing about the days adventures.
Tomorrow we leave for Luang Pra Bang, as a group we will stick together and see if we will be able to rent a private boat down the river or if we will end up taking a bus instead. Martina has decided to stay behind and relax here a few more days, we will miss her company. Glad to have made friends with Martina, we are sad to leave her and Muang Ngoi but excited to see more of Laos.