Was my first sentence of the day for the last two weeks. And if not the first sentence, at least the first thought. Thanks to Beat, my Swiss travel buddy, who teached himself to speak a bit Lao, we could order the early morning banana/pineapple fruitshake in the Local language. Somehow the laotians always laughed at us when we said it. Our guess is that we probably pronounced it wrong and accidentily said something like: 'a thousand horses to go please'. Lao is not an easy language, one word can mean up to three or four different things if you pronounce it differently. But we always got what we wanted in the end.
Beat also did the meditation retreat in Suan Mokkh and I met him again on the boat from Chiang Kong, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos. Our travel plans were similar, we both had no idea what to do or where to go, so we decided to do that together.
After the two day boat ride from Thailand to Luang Prabang we stayed a couple of days in the city which is really a fun place to be. Nice markets, good food, beautiful temples but the heat was nearly unbearable, so we had to get out of town into the nature to cool off a bit. We headed north which was the contrary direction of where all the party people went. Unfortunately there are quite a few backpackers who only come to Laos to go tubing which means sitting in a tire slowly floating down a river and get as drunk and stoned as quick as possible. Tubing itself is quite fun I guess but the town where everybody goes is specialised in selling opium drinks to backpackers and has apparently lost all it's laotian feeling and slowly its beautiful scenerie is going to disappear as it happened in a lot of places where mass tourism striked.
Anyway we went north to Nong Khiaw which is a tiny little village surrounded by the most picturesque mountains alongside a Mekong-like river.
One afternoon we rented a mountain bike to explore the surroundings which was the worst idea at first sight because it was about 40 degrees hot, and the path was really hilly but when we came to one of the river villages we got rewarded for our efforts. We asked a little girl how to get to the river and when we went swimming some laotian kids joined us and wanted us to play with them. Somehow the word spread in the village that there were two falangs (which means 'French' but is used for all foreigners) so more and more kids came. It was the most magical afternoon with swimming, playing and banana sharing. The kids just loved our bikes and when I put on sunscreen, suddenly 20 little laotian hands wanted to put it on too. So cute and so much fun. They were so curious about the two 'falangs', who somehow found their way into their village. I was so exhausted that evening from all the kids-throwing and swimming but it was so worth it.
After having recovered from that, we went to Muang Ngoi, one hour up the river. The scenerie is similarly stunning and the village has no paved roads and only electricity for three hours a day. A complete new experience! But somehow the atmosphere in the village was weird. Nobody greeted back and we didn't feel very welcome. On the second sight the typical village wasn't that typical anymore. It seemed as if everyone had left their original profession in order to do something linked to the tourists. There were a lot of tour agencies and restaurants offering western food and it seemed as if the people weren't happy with the tourists. Every other village you see, people are curious and want to talk to you, but not there. I started to ask myself how long it would take until this village would turn into the new Vang Vieng, the tubing city I mentioned earlier. You can't blame the laotians, they earn 50-75 € a month on average and tourism allows them to earn the same amount of money with just one tour to the jungle or 10 meals sold to tourists per night. But that also means that they become aware of all the things they don't have and they didn't even know they were missing. Of course I wish industrialisation to come to all the countries in this world. Everybody should be able to live like we do in Germany with all the comfort and luxury but that also means that people also get all the problems of the first world: environmental problems, depressions because the neighbour has a bigger car, stress, loss of the cultural roots and so on. It is bliss and curse at the same time. And I am supporting it by travelling to those countries. Should we just leave them alone and live their simple life or should we help them to become industrialised because compared to our standards they are very poor? I cannot help myself thinking, that the people in the village with no tourists somehow seemed much happier than the ones that lived in this 'fake' village. And apparently they found gas or oil on laotian territory which is going to accelerate that development. But I guess this is just the natural way of life. Human beings always seek for improvement so I guess we should support the development and help the laotians not to do the same mistakes the Western world did during industrialisation. I am talking about the waste management for instance because if Laos and also Thailand continue like this, they will quickly destroy what is their best good: the nature.
For now Laos is a beautiful country, people are very nice and the Nature is just amazing. I wish, I could have stayed longer to see more of it but that just means that I have to come back!!!