Friday, April 13, 2018

High in the Mountains of Northern Laos

It’s Pi Mai!!!!
Happy Lao New Year!
What you’ll need for your celebration:
Extreme festive mood
Large speaker, 2’x4’ (don’t worry, you have one anyway as you keep one handy for Karoke moments with your friends)
Intimate or large group of friends
Bleach to dye your hair red/ red marker/make-up to paint designs on your face
Single table (the cement picnic table in your front yard) or multiple folding tables (they will arrive by delivery truck in the color of blue, accompanied by stacks of red plastic chairs)
Table set ups of a plastic vertical box of chopsticks and Asian spoons, hot sauce, soy sauce, sugar, chili peppers, shrimp paste and large bottles of Beer Lao – crates more stacked in walls at the side of the scene
Coolers full of ice chunks for cooling down those warm Beer Laos, a chunk or two in your glass will do
Huge rice baskets full of sticky rice
Big kettles full of Laap (meat cooked with mint, etc.)
Plastic kids’ pools and lots of plastic water guns - the young boys' Pi Mai party happening right now in front of our guest house as I type involves huge water shooters and plastic masks.
Colored shirts that match
Play list of pop Lao music
Vat of Lao Lao (rice moonshine) with long sipping straws
Five days, April 9-14, no worries, nothing much else needs to happen during this time

We are cycling the highlands of northern Laos.  Plenty of sweat and water guzzling going on.  Screaming downhills and grinding uphills, 12% km after km.  It’s good to know at least the Laotian people are relaxing at times like this!

Another feast.  Sticky rice, mint/lettuces, grilled fish and skewered chicken.  We were guests of Ruth and Gael Letare, a Swiss family who live in Savanaket, Laos and have started a school of small business opportunities including cricket farming, sewing, baking, and cabinet making.  Gael pulled us off the bikes Easter Sunday to join their Egg Hunt gathering and one thing led to another....they happened to have three awesome young boys, a fantastically cool pool and also...owned a "small French Bakery".  No, it wasn't too good to be true.
and then sometimes the downside of travel...though we had permission from the monks to camp at their temple, the local federalies came in at  9pm and over-road the monks decision.  We could not stay there.  We packed up and followed them down the road to the nearest guest house.  The upside:  by the time it was all said and done the police paid the extra $2 so that we could have air conditioning - I think they felt bad about disrupting our otherwise peaceful night.
Sunrise in the mountains of northern Laos.  First hour ride of the day is always golden.
These young monks supplied us with loads of small packaged cookies and candies.  We'd just finished a steep climb and were ready for lunch.  The treats, the peace and the shade of a tree; it was perfect break.
We passed through the karsk region popular with many backpackers as the "Thaket Loop."  I definitely recommend it.

We are currently high in the mountains of northern Laos.  Steep 12% climbs and small hill tribe settlements along the road a few times a day.  Not much for sale, a few forest creatures and a strange bird were laid out on top of empty beer crates.  Not what I want for dinner.   We buy a few days' supplies for our travels between the veggie markets of the towns on our route.

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