Gotta Love Those Small Town Girls

Trip Start Jan 26, 2010
Trip End Jun 08, 2011

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Khammouan,
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I luckily got off my bus at the right spot, in Laos there are no indications in English and the locals leave you to your own devices unless you speak up. I was going to visit Kong Lor Cave, a beast of a cavern. From the bus I got in the back of a pick up and rode to a village nearby the cave. The short journey was nothing short of jaw dropping. Even in the midst of the driest time of the year the area was bursting with lush green rain forest. Upon arrival, I searched town for a decent place to rest my head. The locals overly optimistic about the cave's appeal have over built with guest houses so it was a quick and easy task.

Strolling through town I saw an unexpected Italian restaurant, it sounded delicious so I stopped in for a meal. The owner's husband worked at a local electrical plant and I got the feeling she opened the restaurant as more or less something to occupy her time in the sleepy village. My waitress said something to another Lao, who promptly turned to me and blurted "She says you're handsome!" She hit him playfully on the arm. I started flirting in my not-so-smooth fashion, however the language barrier made me seem less awkward. Noy was pretty with a petite structure, dark hair that had a red tint and expressive eyes.

The power cut in the entire town, a common occurrence in Laos. The kitchen was using a small fire to cook so no worries there and soon they had candles out on the occupied tables. hmmm... romantic. I asked her to teach me the Lao numbers, she thought I asked for her phone number and wrote it out for me. It made me think that I've been making this much harder then it should've been all along. After a great meal, Noy and I agreed to rendezvous after she got off work.

I waited up, but she never came. Early the next morning I heard a knocking on my door, groggily I dressed my self and opened the door. Noy was standing their apologizing, explaining that she had to work past midnight. She was sweet in her mannerisms and seemed genuine. I decided to postpone my trip to the cave. I asked if Noy if she'd be my guide for the day, that seemed like a good reason to spend the day with a pretty girl. She obliged. I decided to rent a motto and see the lush valley. During breakfast she got a call from her boss, said she wanted her to come in a do some final cleaning before they left for their trip to Italy. Damn Italians.

We went and hung around her house for a bit. She was divorced and had a three year old daughter. I didn't let that scare me off, after all It's not like were moving in together or getting married. Besides her daughter was incredibly cute and spirited. I picked her up and swung her by her arm pit's and she giggled with joy. After awhile she had to get ready for work, so I decided to go to Kong Lor cave by motto.

I picked up some fruit, sun dried beef and Lao sticky rice for the trip. Lao rice is dry, you eat it with your hands, using it as a scoop if you like, It reminds me of an unsweetened granola bar. It is delicious. I headed out keeping my eyes peeled for a Kong Lor Cave sign while enjoying some of the most dramatic scenery I've experienced thus far. The kilometers past, soon I knew I went to far but to be sure I stopped and asked someone, no English, no knowledge on Kong Lor. I picked up a hitch hiker, same problem when I asked him for directions. I went into the next town, it is the largest in the area and only had to stop at 3 places before I found someone who could point back in direction I came.

I should have known better then to expect a sign in English, in Thailand it would have been a safe bet, in rural Laos, even the biggest(relatively) attractions go unmarked. I sped, just wanting to get back to my room and nap through the heat of the afternoon.

That night I went to go find Noy to take her to dinner, she did the same and we found each other on the street. We had a small Lao feast with fish soup, shrimp fried rice and spicy Lao salad. She told me of her trials. She's a sweet girl who's had dirt kicked in her face too many times and the men she had the closest ties to, her father and ex-husband both had weak minds controlled by their hormones. but out of respect, that's all I'll say about that.

The next day I booked a 'bus' ticket to the cave, ensuring I would get there. A bus in Na Hin, is a large flat bed truck with a cover for rain and sun and hard benches. Then I went to go hang out with Noy and her little girl. Noy embarrassed about a slight mess, started cleaning while I taught her daughter English. I would say foot and slap my foot, then hand, nose, ect. We did this for a while until the slapping of the feet progressed into playing rhythmic beats on whatever we could find. we went and got some sticky rice for lunch, then I caught my bus.

On the Bus I met a Scottish women named Nikki, Nikki talked at me but I couldn't hear much over the noise of the truck, so I just nodded at appropriate times. She was an older traveler with a taste for adventure, she enjoyed finding beautiful spots and spending 10 or so days really getting to know the place. We arrived at the mouth of the cave, a river ran into it, it was a gorgeous scene, the water was mint green and pristine. Lao played in the water, a few vendors were set up. We booked a boat and slowly got on our way, our driver rushed us, while we slowed him down. Looking the scenery and watching the hundreds of butterflies who hung around the beach. Eventually he got us in the boat.

The cave was more or less massive, I mean an entire river flowed through it and it got has high as 100 meters. We only made out as much as our headlamps would allow us, at places their were logs lodged 20 feet above our heads from previous floods. Sometimes their were small passage ways leading away, going who knows how far into the mountain. about midway there was a glow from a yellow light in the distance, it appeared we where approaching an underground civilization. when we got close enough a show of lights, with different colors illuminated the stalagmites. The boat stopped. They had even build a path with stairs into the display.

Exiting the cave was like going back in time, on the other side of the mountain, the quite forest was reminiscent of ancient times. I half expected a long necked dinosaur to stick its head out munching on tree tops. For a bit we relaxed, ate Lao rice and drank coke then headed back.

The next day, Noy invited me to have a traditional Lao meal with her family. Seriously if you want to learn about another culture take a pretty local girl a few dates. I have had my most immersing cultural experiences this way. It is easy to focus on her when she teaches you language and you become easily excepted into social circles. It doesn't have to be serious, just fun. We ate food that I've never seen the restaurants before and it was mostly delicious, a few dishes made me squeamish.

Afterword we went to her friends shop to snack on watermelons and bugs. When they brought out the bowl of thimble sized, winged insects. I laughed, the looked at me funny, wondering why in the world I would think insects as a snack would be funny. I managed to down a couple with lots of water. That night we sat watching television I couldn't understand with her mother and daughter.

The next day, I packed my bags, checked out and headed over to Noy's. Her house was conveniently close to Bus station, we waited for a bit and sat together with her daughter wedged in between.  We exchanged gifts. She gave me a beautiful bright red silk scarf. At first I thought it was a nice memento but not something I would wear. Since then I've been wearing it and Lao give me many compliments on it. She also gave me a small bracelet and a stone Buddha image. The only thing I could think to give back after receiving such wonderful gifts was my tiny lucky Buddha. I got it from a monk on my first trip to Thailand. It has little monetary value but is very special. At first she refused it, knowing it meant something to me. But I wanted her to have it. Besides if it carries any luck it all, I have too much and she has too little.  I was sad to leave, she had grown on me as well as her daughter.

Who at the time was torturing poor ducks in a basket/cage to small for the them with her friend. I practiced my new found Lao and told them to stop. Her friend cried and ran away, she just laughed. I was satisfied with this response. I hugged them both, said my goodbyes and was on my way, being sensible and trying not to think about what may have been.
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Dad on

Trev, Just got back from Mexico and Florida and caught up on your bolgs. I really get alot of joy from reading them. You really have a way with words that make me feel as though I am there with you. Noy and her daughter sound very sweet. Did you have any pictures of them. Your my hero! Love Dad.

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