Let’s improvise to go to Vientiane

There is less than 400 km to reach Vientiane from Luang Namtha, but I know I will need at least 2 days because it is anly mountain roads. Equiped with my Laos map and some basic sentences in Lao, I start to hitchhike at the exit of the town. The environment protection manager of the city offers me a ride, and it’s the beginning of new adventures. Despite some misunderstanding (some people wanting me to pay them), I meet unexpected people: fruits and vegetable sellers for who I load dozens of bags of bamboo sprouts collected by a whole village or an English guy working for an animal protection NGO who bought 7 endangered turtles on a local market to release them in the forest !

I spend a short night in Luang Prabang, just having a quick look at the night market. I end up in Vang Vieng the next day, where I randomly meet Pong who invites me to drink whiskey with his friends. He even offers me to host me and bring me around the rice fields the next day. It is the occasion to test my skills planting rice with the Lao women! We then go in the forest to gather bamboo sprouts and young fennel for lunch. Pong is a great cook and I am impressed by his capacity to cook a meal only with what he collect in the forest and the garden. We spend the afternoon fishing with his friends, cooking our catch on a barbecue and drinking lao-lao (local whiskey). We cook the rest of the fishes in a soup for dinner. Amazing food!

I leave the next day to reach Dreamtime, a ecofriendly resort outside Vientiane where I am planning to work some time…

Pictures:

https://plus.google.com/photos/117798692204859961073/albums/5898841462086870449?banner=pwa

Luang Namtha, in the middle of the Laotian tribes

Luang Namtha is a small city in the middle of the Laotian mountains, surrounded by a jungle where many tribes are still living. I met there Vanh and his brother who are managing a small trekking agency called “along the Namtha’” after the local river. I help them a little bit to advertise their agency, and take some time to visit small villages around, playing ukulele in the middle of the rice fields. A learn a lot about the Laotian culture, even if the communication is still not easy as in small villages they speak various dialects. In the evening, I usually meet the few other tourists at the night market around a noodle soup and a Lao beer, to share travels tips and stories. It just give me the desire to never stop travelling, so many nice place to discover!

After a few days, I decide to go for a 3-days trekking with an Israeli couple and a Swedish guy. I rather continue to visit things by myself, but the deap jungle is protected and full of mines from the American war. We walked long hours in the amazing jungle with hundred years old trees, bath in waterfall, play music with the trees and have great meals on banana leafs. We learn how to use fishing net and cook the bamboo sprouts in various ways. We spent one night in a village from the “Lantern tribe”. The women are still wearing the traditional clothes, they are producing themselves. But otherwise, the road has brought cement houses and electricity has installed a TV in each houses, get all the attention of the villagers…

Pictures:

https://plus.google.com/photos/117798692204859961073/albums/5898831334644264049?banner=pwa

My first steps hitch hicking :)

Finally I did it, and it works! I have to admit I was not feeling very confident when I started alone by the side of the road, not even knowing what sign to do to stop the vehicles (here you just rise your arm, not your thumb). A few people stopped to indicate me the bus station, but I persisted in waiting my first ride. Finally a motorbike stopped to drive me to Chiang Mai. I had preferred a car, but the driver kindly lent me his helmet, so I had no reason to refuse. We then started to follow the mountains roads for 3 hours to Chiang Mai, very beau

tiful, even if my ass was very painful afterwards!

After a night spent in Chiang Mai, I have to join Chiang Rai where two Hungarian couchsurfeurs are expecting me. After an hour and a half waiting without success, I decide to take a large tuk-tuk going in my direction. He let me at a bus station, but the bus is only in 40 minutes. So I try my chance again. And after only 10 minutes, a couple takes me at the back of their car. I finished a little wet but I reached my destination! Simon and his roommate introduced me to their work in a local NGO and their favorite restaurant and bar. The next day, I am hosted in Chiang Kong by Patricia, a S

panish girl working for the same NGO in a girl shelter. This time; I take the bus because it is just 2 hours away, and it would have taken the same amount of time just to go out of the city walking. We walked around in the rice fields and along the Mekong river, ending following a “step” class at the sunset. I could not expect a better time there.

The next day I reach Laos by crossing the Mekong river on a small canoe. The visa formalities don’t take much time, and I am soon again by the side of the road, waiting for a lift. A couple stops to take m

e, but the communication us very hard. My few Thai sentences don’t help me anymore here… They let me at a market a few kilometers away. Another truck takes me, but he soon starts to stop every 10 minutes for 20 minutes. I would be faster walking! I don’t understand what the pro

IMG_7709

crossing the Lao border with my small bag

blem is, so I just left even if the small mountain road was empty. Nevertheless, soon another big truck takes me almost to my destination. The mountain is covered by a luxurious jungle full of banana trees. We cross many small villages with their wooden piloties houses in the middle of the rice fields, amazing! I missed to go intersection to reach the city, but fortunately another car brings me back downtown. The two guys even proposed me to go with them at a karaoke and go with them the Vientiane. It is tempting as I

am planning to go there in a few days, but I stick to my plan of helping a local trekking for a few days, maybe in exchange of a cheap trek…

 

Tacompai, cute bamboo lodges in the middle of a food forest

As soon as I arrived in Tacompaï, I fall in love with the place and its cute small bamboo huts lost in the middle of the banana trees, rice fields and gardens. I am welcomed by Sandot, a Thai men always smiling. He leaves in the farm since 20 years, and built it just by observing the nature and learning from it. It only a few years ago than some people told him, he is following permaculture principles! In the village around, people called him the “mad man” because he is doing differently.

Today, many volunteers are staying at his farm to learn how to construct bamboo houses, install solar panel, work in the rice fields or learn how to make bamboo baskets and dishes. Everybody work when he wants, there is no pressure. Days are passing fast, even if they are sometimes long. The day can start at 6am for the most courageous, who go work in the fields. Then, we prepare and eat breakfast together while Sandot tell us the program of the day. We often repair one of the bamboo constructions, or plant trees or go work in the jungle with Thai families. After a morning working under the hot sun, we are all sweaty, and it is magic to be able to jump in the natural pound, the cleanest water in the area !

Sandot is a very wise man and he is always eager to provide advice and explanations. We often meet him after lunch in the bamboo class room, where desk are hanging from the ceiling. He takes the time to answer all our questions. He tells us how is farm and the forest are organized, how he managed the water and the electricity. The discussion sometimes lasts the whole afternoon, or continues by a visit of the farm and a presentation of the edible plants. Sandot even tells us how to cook them. So I learn how to cook sticky rice, banana flower soup and bamboo sprout. It is so delicious, and such a pleasure to eat directly what we pick in the forest!

I now have to reach Laos, because my visa is expiring in a few days. But I am planning to come back in Tacompai in one month, to follow a 15-days permaculture class. I let most of my belongings at the farm, and start to hitchhike from there, with just a very small bag. I feel so free!

Pictures:

IMG_7662

Tacompai, cute bamboo ladges in the middle of a food forest

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As soon as I arrived in Tacompaï, I fall in love with the place and its cute small bamboo huts lost in the middle of the banana trees, rice fields and gardens. I am welcomed by Sandot, a Thai men always smiling. He leaves in the farm since 20 years, and built it just by observing the nature and learning from it. It only a few years ago than some people told him, he is following permaculture principles! In the village around, people called him the “mad man” because he is doing differently…

Today, many volunteers are staying at his farm to learn how to construct bamboo houses, install solar panel, work in the rice fields or learn how to make bamboo baskets and dishes. Everybody work when he wants, there is no pressure. Days are passing fast, even if they are sometimes long. The day can start at 6am for the most courageous, who go work in the fields. Then, we prepare and eat breakfast together while Sandot tell us the program of the day. We often repair one of the bamboo constructions, or plant trees or go work in the jungle with Thai families. After a morning working under the hot sun, we are all sweaty, and it is magic to be able to jump in the natural pound, the cleanest water in the area !

Sandot is a very wise man and he is always eager to provide advice and explanations. We often meet him after lunch in the bamboo class room, where desk are hanging from the ceiling. He takes the time to answer all our questions. He tells us how is farm and the forest are organized, how he managed the water and the electricity. The discussion sometimes lasts the whole afternoon, or continues by a visit of the farm and a presentation of the edible plants. Sandot even tells us how to cook them. So I learn how to cook sticky rice, banana flower soup and bamboo sprout. It is so delicious, and such a pleasure to eat directly what we pick in the forest!

I now have to reach Laos, because my visa is expiring in a few days. But I am planning to come back in Tacompai in one month, to follow a 15-days permaculture class. I let most of my belongings at the farm, and start to hitchhike from there, with just a very small bag. I feel so free!

Pictures:

https://plus.google.com/photos/117798692204859961073/albums/5893643792386541041?banner=pwa