We were up early today to watch the morning giving of alms procession The monks get up very early each morning to pray. Maybe 4:00. Then around six o’clock, they walk through the streets of town – barefoot – with their baskets. The local people have also been up early preparing their offerings Sticky rice maybe, vegetables from the garden, some pieces of meat! This is placed in the baskets and the monks chant their thanks. Then they head off down the road again. Folks watching must stand way back in the shadows so as not to be an interference . . Very cool experience . . .
We woke up,at four o’clock – first item on the agenda was to check the Patriots score! Up 41 to 22! Four minutes left in the game. We watched the game cast but felt pretty safe! Sounds like a great start to the playoffs for the Pats! 😀
Another great breakfast and we were on the road again – around 8:30. It’s was a long drive to our next village and we just discovered that we are losing Laing and our driver at the end of today! We are very sad to be leaving both of them – they enriched our time in Laos immeasurably!
So yesterday, I had mentioned to Laing that I’d like to get some rice paper to take home. Not a product – just the sheets of paper. So – our first stop of the day was at a rice paper “factory “. How cool is that? First that he understood what I had in mind and then that he made it happen, Wowsiers! 😀. We loved this place! Beautiful rice paper products! Bags and journals, lanterns and picture frames. Such beautiful stuff. I could have spent a couple of hours here – deciding what I’d like to have and how I could use this exquisite stuff! I purchased some sheets of paper (what I came for) and some neat little bags I plan to use to package candy next year . . Very very cheap!
Meanwhile, Dave was out at the factory site taking pictures. These are all his. I was too busy shopping! 😀. They use many different products to make this paper – elephant dung, jute, bamboo. They boil it until it becomes mush and then spread it out on a big frame along with some water mixture. Then they add flowers and leaves and whatever else they want. The paper dries in big frames and then they use it to make their products. Happy campers in this van! 😀
Stop number two – the whiskey factory! Hysterical! We went for a mile or so down this rutty dirt road and there it was! A one man operation. Laing described to us the process to make rice wine and whiskey. We sampled. 😳. Didn’t buy! 😀. We did find some hand woven table runners that we plan to make into placemats. About five dollars for two. Which will make us six placements! Can’t beat that !
We watched the world go by as we traveled north. Children dressed in very clean outfits. Black pants. White shirts for the boys. Skirts for the girls. They had been in school for the morning and were heading home for lunch. Some walking. Some riding bikes. Many two to a bike. The older kids helping out with the younger ones . . . So very dusty everywhere.
Each village has its own primary school. One teacher. Lots of kids of every age. I asked Laing what they used for diapers up in these villages . .. just the moms skirt . .. hopefully much of it can just drip on the ground . . . I figured they weren’t out buying pampers! 😳. Very small, hard scrabble houses with laundry drying, sometimes fruit to sell. Lots of junk around . . . And all along – rice paddies or gardens – backed up against the ever present mountains!
The road surface was pretty typical of what we’ve experienced all throughout rural Laos. Bumpy and rutty. Slow going. And then, all of a sudden, we started up the big mountain and the road changed completely. All paved and smooth if extremely curvy. The difference? The Lao people built the regular roads. They borrowed money to build this nice new road from the Chinese. And – the Chinese built the road! Laing says it really is a good thing because this road is easier to travel on and it will last much longer. The Lao people just don’t have the equipment or the technology to build such a road .. .
We had lunch at the top of the mountain, where we encountered three Americans cycling from Hanoi to Chaing Ma. Two of them in flip Flops! Heavy bikes. I cannot imagine biking over here. Wouldn’t be my idea of a vacation . . .
A couple more hours and we landed in Muang La. We are staying here for two nights at a real Lao resort – along the River. We have these great little cabins and all kinds of fun stuff to do. There is a hot spring right here, a swimming pool, a watch tower to watch the sun set, a massage place . . Very cool! Tomorrow we have a days experience up in the mountains and then we plan to play here a bit! . . .