Nong Khiaw: A visit to a village    

Misty mountain side
I got up early and sat on the balcony watching the river and the movement of the cloud vapor, writing and reading. When Rowshan got up, I went inside for a moment. When I came out again I saw it had gotten dark. The wind whipping from the North brought ominous gray clouds. We went out for breakfast at our favorite cafe, Delilah's, and soon there was a downpour.

Stormy morning

Benches at Delilah's made from war remnants
People ran through the streets. There were a few cracks of thunder. We watched the rain and swirling clouds-- agitated by the storm. Watching the silver sheets of rain with the hills and clouds, from the shelter of the balcony was restful.

When the rain stopped, we walked up the new road. The fresh dirt had been dissolved into thick clay mud which stuck to our shoes in big clumps forcing us to stop occasionally and try to rid our soles of the weighty mud which filled every crevice and formed doughy platforms. The view of the hills and bamboo forests stretched below and above us.

The road led to a village with wood and woven bamboo houses. At the house nearest to the road there was a newer structure with a concrete foundation. A woman was digging a shallow trench around one side. A man sat inside weaving a basket. Chickens and ducks raced in front of us as we walked through the village. Women and children greeted us with "sabadi" and laughed at Rowshan's photos.

Woman working on a new building

Mother and baby in the village

Woman in the village
The houses had tidy plots of vegetables surrounded by bamboo fences. Sometimes on the ground we came across the red marks of betal nut spit. The center of town had an open area with bamboo "clotheslines" and some bamboo trash baskets. A path led down to the river. Another led back to the road. I think the village was called Sopvanh.

Village kids

Girl watching us from a house window in village

Village house
On our way back to town we passed a man we'd passed a couple times before on the road. He was sitting by the side of the road holding a pair of binoculars to his eyes. He pointed out a pretty black and white lizard with a yellow ridge which was on a tree. I noticed he had a bird guide and asked if he knew about local birds. We'd heard a whooping noise from across the river. He pointed out the greater coucal in his book, a black bird with brown wings. He said you usually don't see them in Laos but you can hear them. He bemoaned how there weren't many birds anymore because their homes were destroyed by deforestation and hunting. R mentioned how every kid had their slingshot. We talked about the river being overfished and how the ecological situation wouldn't be fixed any time soon because of the poverty. His name was John and he was traveling with a couple friends.

We wished him luck in his bird watching. Rowshan continued his search for butterflies and bamboo with flute sized sections. He found one and cut himself a piece, then blew it, testing the sound. As we got closer to the hotel we met a local boy who also had a long stick of bamboo and was blowing into it making it whistle. He wore a slingshot from his neck.


Green butterfly

Bamboo flutists
Towards evening, we walked through town and saw people busy weaving bamboo fences. At another house, boys were weaving a fence from bamboo strips. A man was making a complex basket from thin strips of bamboo. Some kids joined us watching. Rowshan tried to ask how many strips it took but no one could understand. He switched to how long it takes and just got, "no" as a response. "See, here is how you communicate," he said and proceeded to point to his wrist and ask how many hours by saying, "one, two, three". Finally he tried pointing at the sun's movement across the sky and established it took one day to make a basket.

Making a bamboo fence

Man working on a basket
We passed many houses with balloon/dart games, set up. The prizes sat in front on a table: orange soda, and jars of quail eggs in a bluish liquid.

Setting up dart game

Fruit and water seller in the town
Back at the bungalow, kids ran up and down the beaches with torches. Sometimes they'd whack them against the ground. I'm not sure what they were doing-- killing frogs maybe? Sometimes a kid walking over the bridge would shout, "I'm sorry." At night young guys gather on the bridge playing a guitar and singing. It can be kind of annoying but it is good at least they are making music, even if a lot is American pop. The bridge might be the most modern structure in town: a tall concrete platform with flat road and huge concrete pilings. It also has lamps and sidewalks whose curbs make semi mud-free seats. The more I thought about it, the bridge really makes a great meeting place: flat, light, great view, and sidewalks for sitting.

Kids looking from the bridge

Girls on the bridge

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