Though we had relaxed into life in Luang Prabang, it was time to explore the countryside.
Our guide introduced himself as Mr Len (Len was not short for Leonard). A battered van dropped us off a few miles out of town, and off we went.
We stopped off at a village school. At the time Nikki took this picture, the kids had run down the hill for their dinner. This lad had travelled from further afield, so had his pack-up in the classroom.
One of the villagers had decorated their porch with an abandoned beehive.
The open country was decorated with flowers.
Termites had raised a tower amongst crops.
These plants reminded us of the poinsettia (feeling festive anyone?).
Len told us to apply bug spray before we entered the jungle part of the trek. The humidity increased as we walked up the steep hill under the canopy, Nikki and I wearing rugged walking shoes, Len wearing flip flops. The path was dry, so we were getting good traction. We asked Len what he did in the rainy season, when it is muddy. He just takes his flip flops off.
The jungle gave way to rice fields, and we descended into the Kmu village of Ban Long, where we would be staying for the evening.
The harvest had been completed, so we were welcomed in for the celebration.
While the mothers were preparing food, the elder sisters and/or cousins were given the job of looking after baby. They tended to look happier when they were relieved of the duty.
Here are some more faces from the village.
Here’s the chief with Nikki. He had thirteen children, so he was father to the village in an almost literal sense, and looking well for his seventy five years. During the Vietnam war, he had gone to fight against the US Army, who had bombed Laos extensively in an effort to destroy Viet Kong supply lines. Once the fighting was over, he had returned (with shrapnel in his back) to focus on peacetime prosperity.
The chief, as the rest, was keen that we partake in drinking the rice wine. It is done in pairs. The wine was fermenting as we were drinking it, fresh water being poured into the top. There was plenty to go round.
Len helped out with the drinking, as well as the translating.
As the light was fading they sang us some of their folk songs, accompanied by Khene (a kind of flute). Then they wanted a tune from us, so we did our acapella version of Lucille, followed by Amazing Grace. The evening drew to it’s end, and we settled down to sleep in a hut raised up on stilts.
We awoke to a clear fresh morning, without any noticeable ill effects from the rice wine. After breakfast, we walked through the Kmu village towards the Hmong village which was close by.
Some of the children were playing in the school yard.
These two were watching.
Beyond was an area of jungle, with farmland clearings,
and a small herd of cows.
There was still much work being done, gathering crops,
and separating the grain.
There was order in the teak plantation.
One of the Hmong villagers was tending to the rubber trees.
Further on Len lead us into a cave,
which contained a Buddha statue,
as well as some bats.
A short distance from the cave a spring issued forth cool aquamarine water,
so we had a swim.
For lunch we had fried rice, while Len went off to eat with his friends, who ran the food stall in the clearing. He brought over some of their food and asked if we would like to try spicy rat. Assuring us that it was a forest rat, and that forest rats were better to eat than city rats, I tucked in. It was tasty!
But I still needed to distract myself by snapping this butterfly (or was it a moth).
We followed the trek on to Kuang Si Waterfall, which is the best waterfall we had ever been to. The cool water cascades down through several layers, gathering in pools before rolling onto the next.
The biggest pool lies at the bottom, where there is a jutting rock, which serves as a diving board. I jumped off and hoped for the best.
Len was a bit more acrobatic (and graceful).
Eventually, we’d had enough splashing around, so we walked to a nearby enclosure for Moon Bears, though this one seemed to be enjoying the sun.