Vientiane & Homestay

I didn’t do too much in Vientiane. It’s a pretty sleepy town with not much going on. It’s great for people watching and that’s mostly what we did. We headed to the health club for the morning to get in a swim, a sauna and a massage. We’ve been getting massages at most of the stops along the way since they are so cheap. The massages can leave something to be desired at times, but overall have been nice and certainly cheap.

After the gym, I just wandered around town and sat in a cafe and watched the world go by. Very relaxing and much needed as we have a couple of heavy travel days ahead of us.

The next morning we boarded the bus to take us to the homestay. We stopped along the way for a few pictures at some amazing vistas and even hiked for a bit at one. The Lao countryside is incredibly gorgeous and as we have gotten farther North and East. I can’t wait to see what Vietnam looks like.

We stopped along the way once again for the bathrooms and to see a traditional Hmong day market. We were warned before we got there to ask before taking any photos and to not take pictures of any animal that they were selling as there was a good chance that it would be illegal. The people seemed a bit skeptical of us at first, but warmed quickly when we took a few pictures of them and showed them the result.

We also pulled out the Intrepid catalog and showed it to them. They loved it and soon were huddled around looking at pictures from around the world.

While walking around we did notice a few illegal things being sold. Bats, live and dead, dried rats and other assorted rodents. It was pretty interesting, but we didn’t buy much as you can imagine.

We stopped short of the village because we had an option to take a boat ride to the village instead of the bus. We all opted for the boat ride and when we got to the banks of the river, we noticed that the boats were like metal canoes. We learned that the boats are made out of old US spare fuel tanks that were dropped off of planes during the Vietnam War. Very inventive and actually quite fun. Very little goes to waste in this part of the world.

The village was very rural and very poor, yet there was a satellite dish outside most of the huts. No matter what condition the houses have been on this trip, there’s always a satellite dish.

While it didn’t seem that isolated, our guide told us that some of the older people in the village had never left and never gone anywhere. There are 49 families that live in the village and the whole family lives together in one shack. Everyone was very nice and welcoming to us and the kids had a hoot playing around us. We split into three different hut and set up shop for the night. We all got together at our hut for dinner and had a local meal prepared for us by our guide and a few people from the town. We had rice, steamed bak choy, corn on the cob, pork cooked in noodles and fruit for dessert. It was absolutely delicious.

We headed to bed shortly after that because the sun went down and the wind picked up and the temperature dropped quite a bit. It was about 10C and most people were quite cold. Thin mats and blankets on the floor was the order for the night.

Tomorrow we’re off to Vietnam…