Welcome to the Jungle – I mean, Laos

13 Oct

 After a perfect morning of falling in love with elephants,

As my dad says, “The only thing cuter than an elephant is a baby elephant.”

G, Ko, and I headed deeper into the marvelously muddy and mosquito-y Laotian jungle.

During our hike, Ko showed us how the local farmers use plant leaves to dye cloth and silk.  (Notice the red stains that stayed on my fingers for days after crumpling-up a seemingly normal green leaf.)

Along the way, Ko also spotted some WILD sesame.

It was wild, baby, yeah!

Small confession – after the whole sesame discovery thing (no, seriously, have you ever just found sesame in a jungle before?), G and I realized that Ko was a true tour-guide gem (perfect English + wealth of knowledge + sesame spotter = gem), so, we proceeded to behave like 2 year-olds and asked him every Laos-related question under the sun.  Luckily, Ko didn’t mind sharing his wisdom.

For the rest of the trek, Ko taught us about the three main ethnic groups living in Laos- the Laotian, Hmong, and Khmu people.  We learned about their different traditions, cultures, and religions (even the important distinctions between their home and village construction). Ko also shared some personal stories about the Hmong, his people, who believe in spiritualism, shamanism, and animism.

When asked if he believes in spirits, Ko answered, “Sometimes.”  

I guess I feel the same way.

After a couple hours of educational hiking, we stopped for lunch at Hue Fei, a Khmu hillside village of farmers and fisherman.

We walked through the village school, where all the children share 2 classrooms.  There, Ko told us that the next time we come to Laos, we should bring paper, pens, and notebooks for the kids, instead of other gifts.  Even though schooling is free in most villages, many students don’t have enough money to pay for supplies and therefore can’t attend classes.

So, if you are headed to Laos, do as Ko says and bring some school supplies to these children in need.  Instead of distributing the supplies yourself, speak to the head of the village, who will know which families need the help most.

I couldn’t stop taking photos of these beautiful children…

even though it sometimes didn’t lead to the best results.

Still cute though, right?

The pet monkey was a little bit more sympathetic to my photographic needs…

as were the unknowing villagers who didn’t notice me creeping outside their doors.

***

After a long rest and stroll through Hue Fei, we continued our hike to the waterfalls of Tad Sae.

It was the muddiest of journeys (still trying to scrape that Laotian mud off my boots), but the most gorgeous of destinations.

We chillaxed in the Tad Sae waterfalls for a few hours, with big beers and even bigger smiles… enjoying our time in the cool powerful water as we washed off the sweat and mud earned on the hike.

Unfortunately. we couldn’t get too lazy (tipsy) because there was still one more destination on our jungle tour.

More pictures to come…

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2 Responses to “Welcome to the Jungle – I mean, Laos”

  1. nadia October 13, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    What a beautiful place indeed! You are extremely lucky to have Ko with you. It’s a treasure to travel with a local who is knowledgeable and can speak English.

    Thank you for sharing the pictures. Have a nice day!

    • akonrad October 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

      Thanks Nadia! Let me know if you ever make it to Laos and want Ko’s details. As I see from your blog, you are quite the world traveler 🙂

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