Published: June 15th 2007June 15th 2007
The next morning we started the trek.
Also on the trek was a French couple, a Dutch couple and a Dutch guy. They were good people and we are still travelling with the Dutch guy called Jan. Since there was more than us the price dropped to 35 dollars.
Everything started with a visit to a salt-mine. Not that it is a mine in any way. There are really big beds that salty water is sprayed upon and then the sun evaporates the water and the salt can be collected. Since we come in the rainy season these beds can't be used. Instead they use another kind of bed under a roof and with a fire underneath to get rid of the water. I already knew how to make salt so from that point of view it wasn't very interesting. And the weather wasn't that good, thick grey clouds. The night before we had a big storm, Amie said the worst she has been through. I've had worse in Sweden. Then there was a lot of questions from the other people about children working there (they are on holiday right now) and trying to make it a bad
child labourer place. It was a bit annoying as here the whole family has to work to survive. It's like complaining that children used to work or help their parents in Europe 200 years ago. Well anyway the work was very well-paid for this part of the world and if somebody would have asked me to work during my holiday to get those money when I was young I would consider it almost as winning the lottery.
Then the trek started, right into the forest. It was a bit wet but not raining. Our guide showed us different fruits and leaves they eat, dugout termite nests where they collect the queens to eat and cicadors in the trees that also are considered a delicacy. We were shown trees that are burned a bit and then when the tree makes a oil to heal the wound the oil is collected and used in torches. There was plenty of small wildlife, mainly spiders and butterflies but also crabs (that bit me when I tried to pick them up).
Because of the storm the day before a lot of trees had fallen over and it was quite hard to get through
on some spots. After a couple of hours a Lao meal was put out in front of a lake. The food was good, I preferred the dried beef and barbecued pork and chicken. Also there was sticky rice, something that is served at every Lao meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner. You form it into a ball and then grab something else like salad or meat to eat with it.
After the meal it was more trekking, but on an easier road. We continued for a while and then came to the village where we would spend the night. I was expecting a tribe-village but this was a modern place with shops and electricity. We went to see the stupa (religious building) where we burned some incense and wished for things. It's an important place for Lao people, the second most important in the south of the country.
The dinner was a traditional Lao again, pretty much the same as for lunch. The whole thing started with a ritual, our host tied cotton strings on our wrist. They wished us happy life, long life, many wives and things like that. It was nice since they actually seemed to mean
everything they said. We could not finish the meal, there must be some kind of pride thing that you always serve more than your guests can eat. I am sure they finished up after us. Before the trek we had learned about a lot of taboos like not pointing your feet at somebody, not clapping your hands and that men and women couldn't sleep together even if they are married. You're also not allowed to sleep with your feet towards an outside wall. In Lao feet are down and head are up. Never touch somebodys head, women can't touch monks and never put your feet up on something (this is the hardest thing to not do). Thankfully this "tribe" is a bit different from the ones that the taboo-text were written about and we were allowed to sleep in the same room, but men on one side and women on the other.
The next morning it was wakeup at 5.30. At 6 monks would come by and we gave them food to take to the forest for the spirits of people that had died. I think it is a good way of not being greedy, to give away small
Then breakfast, pretty much the same as before and then a rice-field trek to the next village. There we met a new guide who took us to a place where there used to be a town but it's been many hundred years since and most traces were gone. He did tell us the story of the place and he still goes there for religious purposes sometimes. Then continue with the trek to a lake where we ate another Lao meal. Afterwards I went swimming with the local kids but they were a bit scared of us and left the water when we got in.
On the way back we had a quick stop at another lake where they have boat races once a year.
The next day we met up with Jan to travel together to a village called Na Hin which is the start point for travels to the famous Kong Lo cave. I tried to buy a pair of flip flops in a shoe-shop but they didn't have any shoes with big enough sizes for me.
We got our bus-tickets and started to travel. After ten minutes we stopped and stayed for at
least 30 minutes. Then we got going until the next big city where we stayed for 2 hours until we got going again. The travellling was extremly slow, we were just supposed to travel 230 km. After 200 km we had to get off and change to another way of travelling. We were going east the last 40 km on another road. But since the bus was so slow we got there about 19 and everyone had finished for the day so there was no transport. Thankfully we got a ride with a Red Bull-truck headed for Vietnam. The driver and his brother were really nice people and the brother borrowed my guitar and played a lot of love songs during the slow travel. They spoke minimal amount of English but we managed to communicate well anyway.
At 23 we arrived at Na Hin, almost 11 hours after we started to travel. 230km in 11 hours I could do on a bike.
There are more photos below