We do get an occasional tweet from The Donald over here! We thought this one was pretty funny . . . 😳
So – we’ve just returned to our little cabin after having a full body massage (Lao style) and a delightful hot tub. Jojo was thankful she asked for a medium massage rather than a deep one . . . Maybe I’m just a wimp – but I am very tight and this thing was painful at times. I was a little worried when she started on my feet and one of them cramped up. Wowsiers! D says he could have used a bit more deepness . . . Lasted for a full hour. And then we wanted to try out the hot springs, that the resort shares with the villagers. Well – the water was so hot that I believe I burned my lower legs with just a brief foray into the water. So we elected to use the hot tub, which has a bit of cold water pumped in to make It bearable . . We shared stories with a couple of men from Paris. Fun! We are all relaxed! 😀
But – this blog has to be all about the hill tribes! What an amazing experience it was to visit these people who live like folks many many years ago . . It was like a step back in time! We left here after breakfast, loaded into two four wheel drive vehicles, one guide, and two drivers. They took us way up the mountains so that we could experience these remote villages. First of all, the road was pretty interesting. Total dirt – extremely rutty – and very steep in places. We spent lots of time in first gear . . 😳
Along the road, (built in 1995) you might see piles of wood that had been cut and stacked – ready for pickup and use in the villages. You’d see an occasional woman out gathering the weeds that they machete off their stalks . Then they beat these weeds against the ground to get rid of the seeds. They are mostly shipped to China to use in making brooms There are 49 villages up in the mountains and 70,000 people! Hard to believe! Literally every adult seems to have a baby strapped to them in a sling. Hundreds of little children! You almost have to experience this scene to believe it! You will get the story from the photos.
There were loads of pigs and piglets – literally everywhere! Also goats and an occasional cow meandering around the side of the road. If you looked to the right or the left or literally anywhere – you would see the towering mountains. Beautiful. Layers and layers of mountain peaks! It was impossible to capture this scene on camera as there was mountain fog in the morning and lots of haze as the day wore on . In our memories!
So our guide spoke very good English! He grew up in one of these villages He is one of four boys in the family. It was a poor family (all these village folks consider themselves poor). His dad was an herbal medicine man The guide got very sick as a child with an intestinal disease and the dad insisted he take this particular medicine It tasted awful and he spit it right out But he didn’t get better until he tried the medicine again and within 30 minutes, he was cured. Opium and garlic! 😀 The drivers didn’t speak a word of English but they sure could drive up and down those roads!
Our guide, Boom, really wanted to get an education, so at the age of 13 he went into the monastery to become a monk. He stayed there until he was 21 and then left the monastery to look for work. He currently works at this lodge guiding and helping with lodge entertainment. His three brothers still live up in his village. So interesting how some folks just have that spark, that drive to learn, to make a better life for themselves. (That might just be a value judgment). The parents are often not encouraging of this inner drive and would much rather have their children remain in the village. So these folks are really betwixt and between. Like Laing, our super Lao guide. He moved to a city so he could utilize his education and make a better life for himself and his family. However, when he gets free time, he takes his little family back to the mountains where he came from. He has a little house here and he enjoys so much being around his family, hunting, and connecting with the land again. It’s all difficult . . . You wonder how many more years these villages will exist in this very primitive state.
Here is another fun activity for the children. This little girl was sledding down over a little dirt hill on the head of a shovel. She was covered with bandages and dirt. She sledded down time and time again! Laughing all the while! In this photo, another child jumped in behind her . . .
There is now electricity coming to some of the villages. We wondered if it was refrigerators that people wanted up here. No – it was TV sets. 😀. We asked what they like to watch . . . Lao/Thai soap operas! 😀. How funny is that? There really isn’t much need for refrigeration because they eat fresh from day to day. They don’t drink milk. If they want milk, they can buy the box stuff that stays good for months.
The last village we visited was an Ikho village. These people are of Chinese origin. In this village, the men stay home with the babies and small children and the women work out in the fields. Boon says, “typical Chinese – the men hold all the power and the women do all the work!” 😀. The Chinese are not all that popular over here . . . Boon told us one story that he witnessed. A very pregnant woman was out working the fields when it was time to deliver her baby. She stopped her work, popped out the baby, cut the cord with her machete, strapped the baby in a sling over one shoulder, threw the wood she had cut over her other shoulder – and headed back to her village. Hard to comprehend! What about cuddling your newborn, washing him/her off with nice warm water, calming the baby’s entrance into the world? Lordy! Guess they have to get ready for their life from the get go! 😳
There is a primary school in each village. Children must attend school from the age of 6 to 16. Many of the girls just get married and start having babies once they get through school Nothing much else to do . . . Each year, all graduating students take a test. The top 20 are sent by the government to go to Vietnam and study to become a teacher Then they are expected to come back to their village and become teachers. We passed one secondary school. It’s quite a distance for many of the kids so they stay there in dorms Monday to Friday and go home on the weekends! Some travel by motorbike. Some villages take a bunch of kids to school in the back of a truck . .
Many of the men have more than one wife – especially if the first child is a girl They need boys! 😳. When it was lunchtime, you’d see all the children walking home for lunch. The girls laughing and giggling, sometimes holding hands. The boys were hanging out in little gangs! Laughing and having fun! Despite the dirt everywhere, most of the kids were neatly dressed in their school uniforms. Often a white shirt and dark pants for the boys and a pretty embroidered skirt for the girls. The younger children playing in the villages were dirty and pretty unkept. The littlest ones who were not toilet trained mostly went bare bot bot . . 😀 Although we did see one pamper, out on a pole to dry. Must be been used over and over again . . . 😳
We had a wonderful picnic lunch at a school The kids were all at home having their lunch – so we invaded their space and enjoyed a great picnic prepared by the staff here at the resort. None of us could finish what they made for us – so the teachers saved it to give to children who never have enough food . . . We did share our space with some pigs, who were delighted to have our orange peels and leftover salad! 😀
OK Time for pictures! There are lots to choose from! 😀 Dinner was wonderful Five courses (small amounts) accompanied by good local wine. This was a great place . . Now, it’s on to Vietnam . . .