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Published: August 26th 2005
Welcome to Laos
This is Fhan, our guide in Laos, welcoming us to his country.
"Call me Fhan and we'll have a FUN time," that's what our Lao tour guide told us when he met us at the immigration checkpoint in Huay Xai.
It was also him who taught us what's "Hello" in Lao. It's Sabaydee (and it's said with a smile).
We completed visa formalities, changed baht to kips and took a tuk-tuk which took us to a port where a slow "tourist" boat (a house boat owned by a Lao family) awaits us, for a two day cruise in Mekong River.
We're heading to Luang Prabang, but not just yet...
I never enjoyed travelling by boat as I often get dizzy. Not to mention that I don't like travelling at such a slow pace. Why travel by boat, if you can get to your destination by plane (especially in the era of budget airlines, wherein, as one ad puts it, "Now everyone can fly") ?
But as the boat glides slowly through the mocha colored Mekong River, I began to appreciate the slow boat travel. I sat beside the window to look at the verdant hills, feel the cool wind,
I want money,lots and lots of money!
One US dollar is equal to 10,000 kips (Laotian currency). I need to carry a sack if I'm changing 100 US dollars in here!
read, write, think, listen to some cds.. Just let time pass by.
It was also during this trip that I managed to get to know Fhan better. He told me he learned english in a Buddhist monastery (he was a novice in a temple in Luang Prabang), trained as a teacher, but left the teaching profession as being a tour guide pays more. A big thing for someone like him who's one of the family's main breadwinners.
I enjoyed my first Lao meal in this boat. Sticky rice (served in a lidded wicker basket) , boiled bamboo shoots (it's bland. What gives it flavor is: you dip it in the fish sauce with chili peppers. Spicy and salty!) and mashed, grilled eggplant. Theres fried fish, but I didn't touch as I'm vegetarian.
We ate with our hands, in a communal plate. Simple meal which befits a simple life.
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