Trip Start Sep 27, 2009
122Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
We spent the rest of the day exploring the town. It is a tiny little town with not much going on, there is a lot of French colonial style buildings and a big fountain square and then lots of restaurants lining the Mekong. We spent the afternoon on the Mekong having a few Beer Laos.
The next day we set off for trekking at 8am, our two guides Black ant and Pet came and picked us up and we drove to the start of the trail. The Phu Hin Bun NPA is 158 square km and straight from the start had amazing countryside. We were surrounded by a mixture of dense jungle, huge limestone cliffs, streams and caves, it was fantastic.
The first day we trekked to a few different caves, one which we could swim in. We stopped for lunch and had fresh fish from the Mekong which were delicious. We trekked some more and stopped at another cave were we jumped off the cliff into the water and the cliff also had a Buddha shrine inside where people came to hid out during the war. The guides were great and they showed us loads about the forest and even made us try some red ants, they were really crunchy and very sour. We then headed towards the village where we would be spending the night stopping at a stupa in the middle of the jungle on the way.
The village we stayed in was fairly small with only 18 traditional wooden houses. We stayed in one of the huts with a host family that cooked us dinner. The village was more developed than some of the other villages we have stayed in as there was electricity and the village even had a little bar! We had a couple of well deserved Beer Lao's whilst the sun when down and had a look around the village.
That evening the villagers performed a baasii ceremony to welcome us to their village. We all had to sit around a pha khwan which was a arrangement of banana leaf, flowers and cottons threads with around 12 villagers. Four of the villagers performed the ceremony where we each had to place our right hand on the pha khwan and our left hand by our face, they placed a shot of Lao Lao, a ball of sticky rice, a banana and a chocolate bar in our right hand and began chanting. The villager was saying 'out with the bad and in with the good' and wishing us good luck, good health a good onward trip, good luck for our families whilst waving a cotton thread over our wrist. After the chanting had finished the villager tied the cotton thread onto our wrists and we had to drink the shot of Lao Lao.
Four of the village elders did the ritual to all of us whilst the other villagers looked on and all wished us well. It was a fantastic experience. We then had to choose a villager and each perform the ritual to one of them. We all picked someone different and did the same thing back wishing them well and tied a cotton thread around their wrist. Whilst we were performing it to one villager the other villagers held onto the person we were performing the ritual to to enable to luck to be passed through to them too. It was a really cool thing as you could tell they really believed in it.
After the ceremony a few of the villagers performed some traditional music for us with a bamboo flute and singing, they were really good actually and everyone was clapping along. They asked us to sing a song to them so we all sung a Beatles melody which was hilarious. After some of the village elders had gone and we had finished the bottle of Lao Lao we all started dancing around which was a good laugh. It was a brilliant evening and the villagers were so friendly and welcoming it was great.
The next morning we set off early after breakfast and headed to the Khoun Kong Leng, a blue lagoon. We stopped at a village and got a traditional Laos tractor 1km to the lagoon which was a really bumpy ride. The blue lagoon was amazing, we could not believe the colour of it, it was such a bright blue never seen anything like it. The local villagers believe the lagoon to be sacred and it is 70m deep! It was beautiful though and surrounded by dense jungle and limestone cliffs. We all went for a swim and the water was crystal clear, it was great.
We had another great lunch at the village, which included some fried cicadas. We then got back on the tractor for a few kilometers before trekking the last stretch to some local rapids. We all cooled off in the water and got a tuk tuk back to Thakhek. It was a brilliant trek and we really enjoyed it especially the local village we stayed in as the welcome ceremony was a great experience and the blue lagoon was awesome.