A two day trek through the hills surrounding Luang Prabang in Laos, staying in a village with the locals and getting to know the 'real Laos' way of life. It all sounded appealing enough. That was until we met our guide, Mr Phut - his name translates to Mr Wednesday in Laos. I'm convinced he was a drill-sargeant in a previous life and from the first five minutes, we were marching at break-neck speed through fields, up hills, across rocky outcrops with not a second to look up and admire the scenery. It was a precision operation and when we had permission to stop, we knew exactly how many minutes we were entitled to. It did not amount to much.
I am quite partial to rocks and can usually tell my limestone from my granite so I took a chance, STOPPED on the trail and asked Mr Wednesday about the beautiful limestone outcrops that surrounded us. His answer, "no, not limestone, just rock". Okaaay. No further discussion was entered into, I assumed position and the march continued.
Mr Wednesday did not know how to go slowly and smell the roses. He was, however, very knowledgeable, lots of fun and introduced us to some of the cultural quirks of Laos. In between shots of Lao-Lao, the local (illegal) rice whiskey, we learned more about all the animals that were illegal to kill/eat in Laos. There are not many. Dogs are fine, field rats (not city rates) and little snakes are all fine, but big snakes are definitely illegal. Go figure.
Life in a rural village is a lot of hard work ........ and noise. One does not get a lot of sleep when the hut walls are paper-thin, the generator powering the one and only television in the village gets switched off at 11.30pm, the roosters start crowing at 4am and the villagers start their morning ablutions not long after. Paper-thin walls........
We are indeed lucky to have a life where running water and electricity are the norm and a lifestyle that these villagers can only dream of.