It has been a while since I last updated this as most of the computers are rubbish here! Anyway I left Kong Lor in central Laos with two other people from the guesthouse. We were told a bus would do a pick up at about 7 but that was all we knew. At about 8 a tuktuk thing pulled up so we squeezed on board with all the workers and trundled off back to Kuan Kham. Another tuktuk later we were on the junction of route 13 - the main road that leads to the very southern part of Laos. The others ran for a bus that was heading for Pakse but I carried on in the tuktuk as I wanted to visit Tha Kek for some more trekking. THis was the best bit as I was the only non Lao person on the bus aaaand the rest of the passengers seemed to be quite intrigued by this. I have learned that if you get your guidebook out they are eager to look at the photos and also the maps. One of the men drew attention to the fact that my nose was somewhat bigger than theres which caused much mirth. I couldn't understand a word of what they were saying but it must have been along the lines of "Where are you from? Nose City?!"
Arriving in Tha Kek I went to one of the guesthouses near the river thinking that's where any action may be but it was a mistake as there was none. The only thing worth being there for was the fantastically crimson sunset. I went to a reastaurant that was also a Karaoke bar and ordered a plate of chips as the menu was just photos and it was the only thing I could identify. An Englishman was crooning away throughout the meal. I booked myself onto a two day trek with a Spanish girl called Ana. Our tour guide (Moden meaning "black ant")looked about 14. Her father was the tuktuk driver who took us to the start of the trek. Moden was actually very good - she spoke very good English and was very informative about the villagers and the plants etc. We hiked through paddy fields beside limestone karsts and there were palm trees everywhere. We visited a few cave which were tranquil if spider ridden. At one cave entrance we went for a swim - it was quite refreshing even though it didn't look all that inviting. Lunch was barbecued fish fresh from the market and other Laotian specialities. Thhe night was spent in an "eco lodge" ie guest hut in a loacal village. It was rustic but comfortable with electricity!! Ana and I were given humungous bowls of food including fish soup, eggplant mush and rice. We were glad to see that some of the villagers sneaked off with doggie bags with our lefovers. Then the party started. Every evening the guests are welcomed with a ritual which involves holding bananas, sticky rice, chocolate biscuits and a glass of Laolao (rice whisky) while someone ties cotton around your wrist and wishes you good luck. This is repeated many times until all the cotton bracelets are gone and the Laolao has been drunk. Then there was singing and we were required to do our pieces. I sang Kumbaya my Lord and Ana sang La Macarena! We should have taught them the dance moves.
The second day involved more jungle trekking which was good although I wasn't too sure when Moden picked up a huge clump of red ants and started eating them! She told us they put them into fish soup but assured us they weren't in the one we ate last night. Before lunch we took a rather uncomfortable tractor ride to a blue lagoon which really was bright blue and very photogenic. We had a swim. Lunch was bizarre - tinned pilchards, omelette and rice sitting on the floor of someone's house whilst watching wrestling on tv (full volume naturally). Then some cushions were produced from a dresser and we were told to sleep! They had troule waking me up again let me tell you. Then we had to get back on the tractor for another, longer and bumpier ride. I think we really should have walked that bit especially as the driver got lost. But it was fun when all the children ran out th shout "Sabadee! Hello!".
Back from the trek, and I had booked into the "Travelodge" (not as we know them) as this was a much better place for travellers - very social. I wasn't impressed with one girl from Leeds who was rolling up the sticky rice in the palms of her hands. No decorum!