Novice Monk

Laos Children

July 21, 2001 (28-days)

Sabaai-dii (sob-a-d),

Laos is a magical place.  The people are extremely friendly and the land is beautiful.  Monks and novices in their saffron colored robes add a spiritual element throughout the country.

In Laos I traveled from Vientiane north to Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, Pakbeng and Muang Xai.  Then I headed to Don Det, an island in the far south.

Van Vieng is a small village with limestone cliffs and the Nam (nom) Song River.  The caving adventure was wild.  Our guide gave each of us a candle and led the way with his flashlight.  He showed us interesting formations.  It wasn't long before we started wading through puddles.  Eventually the water level came up to my mouth as the ceiling of the cave formed a small triangle, which allowed just enough room for my head.  Fortunately the water level dropped and we continued one kilometer into the cave.  On the way back, our guide sang in his native tongue.  The natural acoustics combined with the music and candlelight was a perfect combination.

As we walked through a small village, our guide pointed out a land mine between two trees.  The reality was quite frightening.  They still have 60 to 80 casualties per year from unexploded ordnances!

After the caves, we went tubing down the Nam Song River, which is a great way to cool off and take in the cliff views.

Next I was on my way to Luang Prabang when the bus stopped at a banana and corn stand.  I learned my Laos numbers and decided to have my first bargaining attempt.  I stepped off the bus and listened for the prices.  I walked to a stand and had the bananas for half price instantly.  In adding roasted corn to the deal I accidentally cut the price substantially saying 200 instead of 2000 kip (8650 kip = $1 USD).  I got a strange look and corrected myself.  The young girl was tough, but the old woman got a kick out of my attempt and agreed to the deal.  My favorite number is saam phan saam hawy saam sip saam (som pawn som hoy som sip som), 3,333... this is just silly and would not be used.

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