Myles Harrington

Scaring Kids With An English Bloke

In Laos on December 10, 2010 at 10:46 am

Adam, the cynical and fellow innuendo obsessed Brit and I decided to leave Luang Prabang together and develop our friendship further north in little idyllic and remote villages. The first such place was Nong Khiaw, a destination Lonely Planet describe as ‘a sleepy market village with a humbling backdrop’.

 

The humbling backdrop

Our only afternoon there involved a walk to a long and dark cave where villagers hid during the Second Indochina War. While we were there two small and innocent looking children followed us around, whispering to each other as if they were plotting some kind of hit and run mugging scam. We started to whisper too so they felt just as scared and at the chosen moment jumped out at them which made them look like they saw their lives flash before their eyes. We shook hands with them and smiled after but it was a cruel yet funny trick. Perhaps it will teach them it’s rude to whisper behind peoples’ backs.

 

The whisperers

We walked on a little further up the tarmaced road to a small village where the children only knew the English word ‘pen’. It seems like it’s quite universally known for children to know that specific word but I don’t know why. Unsurprisingly the village shop had a good stock of pens for falang to purchase, so we bought 20 and distributed accordingly with bonus sweets and the full bag was eventually swiped from us by a couple of mothers with sweet teeth.

 

The lazy Lao bulls

It was starting to get dark so we had a couple of beers in a house cum restaurant half way back to Nong Khiaw. The woman who ran the joint didn’t have change so she provided another beer instead, typical Lao style. A little further towards town we sensed a party kicking off at another house cum bar. It turns out some local teachers had just had a football match and were all celebrating their victory, so we joined their table to share our beers and sampled some of their barbecued buffalo and snail kebabs. That’s when, as is customary in Laos, the Lao Lao came out. Lao Lao is the cheapest spirit in Lao and possibly in the world. For 10,000 kip, about 80p, you can purchase 70cl of the strong stuff. A few shots later and we were feeling pretty merry for the rest of our walk and were, as true Brits are when pissed, gagging for a curry. Luckily for us Nong Khiaw is blessed with a rather good curry house. I was even lucky enough to taste the malai kofta twice too, because it came back up half an hour later.

 

Represent

After a 12 hour kip it was time to move on further north to our next beauty spot, just an hour up river; Muang Ngoi. I’ve been quite used to having constant electricity since India so it was a bit of a shock to arrive to no ‘leci. It was okay though because as soon as it got dark the noisy diesel generators kicked in to provide the locals with the power to blast out their Lao-synth music. What we didn’t realise was that as soon as the guesthouse’s restaurant was empty the power was cut, so I was left stranded in pitch black in our balcony hammock at 9pm.

 

Oh, how I miss English weather

 

Our only full day in town (if you can call it that) was spent on a trek to a few tribal villages through the picturesque rice paddies with a couple of cave visits thrown in for good measure.

 

The cavemen

 

I’ve been meaning to complete a trek for the last eight months and never really got around to arranging one. There was the Darjeeling two-day ‘trek’ which was more like a disappointing walk. So when I discovered Luang Nam Tha in north Laos was one of the best places to complete a cheap and highly interesting eco trek, I definitely wanted to go. After ten hours of travelling on a boat, two buses and a tuk-tuk we reached Nam Tha, a small town that is basically only used as a base for trekking. On our first day we decided to suss out the trekking companies and possibilities and rent out a couple of cheap Chinese motorbikes to go around wat spotting. On our way to our first wat of the day we discovered a jumble sale style clothes stall and took advantage of the cheap second-hand clothes so we couple keep warm in the mountainous air. I bought a new Converse shirt and Chinese casual jacket for 50,000 kip (£4) and gave the stall owner a fashion parade. We showed off our new wears in the town’s Dragon Pub nightclub that evening and really impressed the local girls and security guard.

 

The first time his cuffs have ever been used

 

The trek we signed up for was a three-day marathon featuring bamboo raft river crossings, mountain passes and two village homestays. There were ten people on our trip which is a big number for the normally intimate trekking opportunities through the Nam Ha National Protected Area. At least it meant we had a mixed dynamic of one Spaniard, one Israeli, one Dutch, five Canadians and us two unprepared Brits. The two guides, Si and Wood were great Lao guys and we had a lot of fun with them constantly singing the one line of Justin Bieber that everyone knows.

 

Si the great guy

 

The first day was relatively easy and a lot shorter than described in the promotional material. That suited us fine. The food for the whole trek was much better than expected and we ate off banana leaves picked from the forest for every picnic lunch. On day three the guides even prepared a delicious soup from ingredients scavenged in the jungle.

 

The food was fantastic

 

On our first evening at the village homestay we shared a traditional Lao Hi pot of rice wine with the locals and even went to their after party, to celebrate the end of a good harvest season, where we danced away to their favourite cassette taped tunes on the rickety bamboo hut floor.

 

The jungle massive

We stayed at a farm-house on our second night in the jungle which was a much mellower affair and we finished the house owners supply of five Beer Laos within ten minutes of arriving. That meant to replenish our supplies a night trek to the nearest village was in order and they happily supplied us with a few more beers for Adam, two of the Canadian guys and I to sip around the campfire until midnight.

 

Day three gave us our second opportunity to scare small children. As part of the trek we visited the local school so that the thoughtful and organised members of the group could distribute their pre-purchased pens to the needy children. Adam and I seized the opportunity for a laugh and chased them away, new pens in hand.

 

Cool

 

5k remaining: £201.45 – Thanks mum for the Christmas top-up

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