Sunday, April 13, 2014

Annie and Blue travel on the Mekong River

Sabidee! (“Hello” in the Lao language) The Mekong River is the 12th longest river in the world. We went on an eight day boat trip on the Mekong River. The river is the boundary between Laos and Thailand. We loved our boat, the Mekong Explorer, because it was built of mahogany and teak in the traditional style. We liked sitting on the top deck or in our cabin watching life along river.  Actually, the river is rather quiet in the area where we motored. It was the dry season so the water level was low exposing the banks where the soil is good for growing vegetables.

During the dry season there are many sandbars in the river. One night we tied up to a sandbar. The crew prepared a bonfire and a wonderful BBQ of meat, chicken, prawns, fish and shish kabobs. Afterwards the crew sang some Laotian songs. It was a wonderful evening.

Each day we took a shore trip sometimes on the Thailand side and
sometimes on the Laos side of the river.  On our trip to Phu Brabaht Historical Park we saw amazing rock formations. The rocks probably provided shelter for people two to three thousand years ago. The local people have created stories or legends about the rocks. We liked the legend that said a beautiful princess lived in the rock that looked like an upside down shoe.

Another day we visited the Buddhist Sculpture Park where the statues were built about 35 years ago by a Buddhist monk and his followers. One was incredible.  It was a 65-foot high seven-headed Naga snake protecting Buddha. There are many Naga snake statues in this part of the world. Nagas, like dragons, are not real.  A favorite trip was a ride in a small boat on a lake covered in red lotus flowers.  It was so quiet and beautiful – like a dream.

Our favorite day started with a long-tail boat ride up the Khading
River to the Lao village of Ban BagBang. A long-tail boat is very common in this part of the world.  It is called a long-tail because there is a long pole from the engine to the propeller. It is better for traveling on rivers where the water levels might be very low.  The village is home to
about 80 families. The village had traditional wooden houses and also brightly painted concrete houses that are replacing the old-style houses. There was a new school for grades 1 to 5 provided by the Korean government.  It was Sunday so there were no classes but we met several students and one of the teachers. After grade 5 the students go to school in a larger village where they stay with relatives.  All education including college is free. We were surprised to see so many satellite dishes and everyone seemed to have a cell phone. Technology is changing the world.

In the afternoon our onboard Laotian cooks taught us how to
prepare a traditional Lao dishes – Laap (a spicy chopped chicken salad). Laap is served on special occasions.  In the Lao language “laap” means luck or good fortune. It is special because it contains meat which is very expensive for Lao people. Laap is served cold making it perfect for celebrations that can last for several days. One such celebration occurs when a baby is born. Friends come to the house of the new parents, eat laap, and play a betting card game which can go on for several days. The money won from playing cards goes toward the baby’s future. Sounds like fun!