Cup chai lai lai. As in thank you very much. 😀
We headed off from the hotel around 8:30. Four to five hour ride from VangVieng to LuanProban. This is up in the high mountains and the roads are BAD! We bounce around a bit! We figure to average 25 miles per hour . . . 😳. We just passed a fellow dumping his trash right by the side of the road. Laing says, “Chinese.” 😀. Workers from the railroad crew . . .
So bamboo is a much utilized crop around here. Used for many things. The women, before they get married, must learn how to weave the bamboo. Baskets. Water bottles. The sides of a house.
Up in the villages, they clearly build their own houses. Often the lower level is made from concrete and the upper floor from woven bamboo. The entire village – or at least all the cousins and friends will come together and they will build the house in one day. All the homeowner needs to do is have some good beer and whiskey on hand to thank all the workers at the end of the day! 😀.
We stopped at a market by the side of the road . . . So fascinating! We started with a hot sweet potato, right off the grill! Laing just broke them in half and we had our mid morning break! Lots of honey. Alcohol to drink when you need energy. (Probably not drunk during a Lao happy hour . .😳). Mushrooms for cooking. Herbs. Baskets for sticky rice. Crabs. Frogs. They eat literally every part of every animal! It appeared that these families lived right there in the back of their stalls . .
And then we had to climb the big hill! OMG this was long and steep! No stopping for pictures – although we tried to snap some out the window . . . Higher and higher we went. 10 to 12 percent gradient. Low gears. We passed one large truck turned over on the side of the road (The big trucks are not supposed to use this road – but many do anyway . . .) We also passed a van carrying a group of people It was on the edge of the road as well with all the people just standing there wondering what they were going to do Not like there’s a tow truck up here! 😳 We do like our driver! He’s careful but confident Glad I’m not driving!
Finally we reached the top and we got out to take a break and get some photos. Unfortunately, it was very foggy up,there and you couldn’t see much .
And then – we had to go down the other side . . Lots of low gears . .
We reached Luang Prabang around 3:00. Glad to be out of the van! We had an hour break and then it was off for the bamboo experience! This was so cool! We were transported about a mile or so out of the city to this very difficult place to find! The streets are narrow and littered with stuff and there are clearly no street signs . . We were greeted by a trio of young people who run this place. Two of them were cousins from the same small village many miles away from here. They were fantastic! The young woman was only 18 years old. She spoke really well with the English she had only learned in her village school. She has dreams of becoming a doctor but really no money for the university – so she thinks she’ll see how it goes in the travel industry first . .
So we learned some of the history of the people’s of Laos . And how they have always learned to exist with the products they find around them . . Bamboo is readily available. It grows very quickly and reseeds itself. So this was an experiential deal. We shot at a target using a bamboo bow and arrow. Laurie was the only one to hit the center of the target Her prize was whiskey! 😀 The older generation needs to feel useful. So they help with childcare and they spend lots of time weaving with the bamboo strips An older gentlemen showed us how to cut these strips and peel them apart. And then we spent the next hour or so weaving our own little coasters! Fun oh – and while we waited for others to finish (mostly Martha, who was making a very fancy finish to her coaster 😜), we enjoyed not one but two jiggers of Lao whiskey! We thought it was rather tasty! Does that surprise you all!? 😁
Then, it was off to the kitchen, where we mostly watched this Lao woman prepare our dinner. We did manage a few minor tasks – like smushing the herbs in a big mortal and pestle . . . This meal was designed around bamboo. She made salad with dried bamboo and fermented bamboo. Then she cut up slices of fish, mixed it with herbs, and wrapped it large banana leaves to steam And, of course, we had to have the sticky rice – soaked for at least three hours and then steamed. Previously, we had learned how to separate the kernels of rice from their shells. Really labor intensive.
And then we had ground pork, mixed with herbs, wrapped in bamboo – then dipped in egg and flour – rolled up tight and deep fried in oil over an open flame. That was delish! Also a wild rice mixture!
And then – it was time to remove the aprons and head upstairs to dine! It was all just wonderful. We shared this experience with a great young man from Switzerland. He now lives in Taiwan and is a chef there at a farm to table restaurant. So we shared a bottle of nice red wine and dined like royalty!
Before I close, I must tell you about our lunch. It was 1:30 or so . . . And we were all getting hungry. We thought about waiting to have lunch in Luang Prabang, but that would have taken much longer. So we stopped at a noodle shop besides the road! Yum! The cook had prepared a huge pot of broth over an open flame. We chose chicken or pork and then she brought each of us a plate full of fresh veggies and herbs so we could dress our own. And – this little dish of some sort of peanut paste. You dipped a green bean or rolled up lettuce in this paste! A perfect lunch for the Jojo! All for 2$.