Just so this doesn’t drag on forever, here are my remaining highlights of Laos:
- A visit to a bear refuge started by an Australian woman from Perth no less. I was surprised by how many bears there were there – at least 30 in what looked to be a large crèche playground with old tyre swings, platforms and sneaky places to hide food to keep them busy. The bears have been rescued predominantly from bile farming for Chinese medicine or from performing, often bought my the rescuers or handed over in amnesty, but because of their long captivity, they are unable to be released back into the wild. Still, they looked pretty happy to me!
- A cooking course for E, S and me that kicked off with a trip to the market where E and I got completely distracted buying about 80 exercise books and 50 toothbrushes for the kids back at the Hmong village. We lost the group a couple of times, but not before we happened across large enamel dishes containing blocks of coagulated blood – yum! – and various bits of chopped up animal on display in the non-too-cool conditions - delicious. Back at the cooking course, the highly international group 'oo'-ed and 'ah'-ed as local ingredients and herbs were past around for us to smell and taste but when the carrot, potato, cauliflower and cabbage came around – well, frankly, that was just plain silly! We then got to chop some stuff up – and then throw it out as someone else – thank goodness – demonstrated and cooked the dishes we actually ate for lunch.
|The budding junior meter chef|
|Assorted bits of animal...|
- The Ethnik fashion parade at a local bar called Hive that showed off all the ethnic costumes of the surrounding hill tribes. As you saw from the Hmong tribe photos, there were some great looks – and the bar served a decent wood-fired pizza to go with…
- Two separate sets of turquoise water falls in which to swim, and one so beautiful, we sprinkled a little of our Jazzy-angel there. We ate at a local restaurant in the car park of the Kuang Si falls – and clocked up yet another exciting toilet moment as the ‘door’ to the ‘hut’ jammed with S and I in there. Thankfully there was a very large space between the top of the ‘wall’ and ‘roof’ through which I could yell to the rest of the family to come and let us out – much to the amusement of the locals. The trip to the second set of falls (below) was extremely exciting - down a steep and slippery dirt track to an extremely narrow, wooden power boat with a very wobbly disabled G - and his stroller which we needed at the other end. Really, who needs amusement park rides when you can have these real life thrilling rides?? Seriously, how we didn't all end up in the drink is all thanks to the kids' dad, as I confess I had my eyes closed most of the time....
|Scary narrow wobbly boat in deep water.|
- Riding elephants on new years day – our ma hoot was so hung over or possibly still drunk he was hilarious! Both E and I had a go of sitting right behind the elephant’s head
- New Years eve was not a highlight – Luang Prebang does NOT ‘go off’. There was a big stage show in the night market with an attractive young woman in a sparkly dress singing so badly, E again wondered if her musical 'talents' could possibly be appreciated in a foreign land (we're talking a girl who was asked to mime in the school choir...)
|Our new year's eve restaurant rage at Delilah's|
- Getting up at 5.30am to see the monks and offer them rice and fruit on their daily walk to collect such things – and then being utterly ripped off as the pressure of so many monks and my inability to ration portions of sticky rice led to my inadvertent purchasing of several more baskets of offerings – only to find at the end I owed 200,000 kip - about $24 (I find out later this is the standard M.O. of the offering seller – canny, eh.)
- A shocking full body massage for all the family – and we went back for foot massages for the boys and pedicures for the girls. There’s nothing quite like lying in a sun lounge over looking the Mekong and having your toe nails viciously attacked with a metal file – thank god I was clasping a cold beer!!!
|The nail torture oasis|
Then all out to the airport to board a flight to Hanoi, Vietnam for the next chapter of the adventure….