Dec 18, 2012

Environmental Activist Sombath Somphone "disappears"

Prominent environmental activist Sombath Somphone disappeared in 
Vientiane last Saturday according to reports in the Bangkok Post. News 

spread quickly across the social media including mention on the 

Facebook page of the US Embassy Lao PDR.

This follows on the heels of the expulsion of Anne-Sophie Gindroz, the country director for Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation who had made statements critical of the Lao government. 

I don't know that there is any link between the two occurrences  Trying to predict how or why the Lao government does anything is well near impossible.

Both events are the typical way the Lao government deals with any kind of disent. Foreigners are simply kicked out, and Lao nationals disappear to hopefully reappear years later following a sojurn to Huaphan Province.

Nov 12, 2012

Moke Guang

Moke is one of those foods that just lends itself to wild meat. It’s a steamed dish, and the steaming releases all the flavors, especially if the meat is tough or has bones.

Regularly Moke would be made by wrapping the ingredients in banana leaves and steaming it for a long time in the sticky rice basket covered. We live in the US with all kinds of kitchen gadgets. In our case we use a baby food steamer for all steamed foods, and a food processor in place of the coke and saht. (ubiquitous mortar and pestle found in all Lao kitchens) The saht still sees lots of use in our house, just not for moke, too much work what with the sticky rice and all.

The baby food steamer. Another kitchen appliance I whined and complained about. Cost second hand $10. Use, often over ten years. It's also possible to steam things inside banana leaves in the baby food steamer for that real authentic taste like with those sticky rice and coconut milk deserts where the slight taste of the leaves is important.
Into the food processor goes kafir lime leaves, garlic, a scoop of padek, some galanga, some pre soaked sticky rice, a few hot thai peppers, bang nua and salt.  Combined with that puree were generous amounts of fresh dill and lemon basil then the entire thing was mixed with chunks of the elk and put in the steamer to be forgotten for an hour.

The amounts of the herbs and spices weren’t measured and I’m not the cook so I don’t know quantities,  I do know that in general they are way too much. Subtle lingering hints of flavor are for some other cuisine, this is supposed to hit you in the face and open up your sinuses. Where a sprig of fresh basil might do, handfuls are used, not a leaf or two of kafir lime but ten or fifteen.

When padek becomes a flavor lost in the background you know you’ve got some tastes going on. The bai ee-too (I hate calling that stuff lemon basil as it is neither) also fades. Even galanga, I know it was there but I couldn’t put my finger on it, and garlic, didn’t taste it.

The cut of elk is one of the most flavorful, it’s called ka lai which means “leg very much” (I guess), and that fits as it is the shank. One of those slim tight muscles of the foreleg that says speed all over it. Even though it’s not the most tender cut of the animal it’s one of the most flavorful, and when cut across the grain, it’s extremely tender. We often save that meat to use cut paper thin and layered across the hot bowl of pho cooked by the heat of the soup only.

Kah Lai muscle with it's classic torpedo shape. This is actually a photo from a deer but oh well, you get the idea.

The elk is dark as is most game, darker than beef by far. The ground up sticky rice solidifies the whole thing into a mass that not only sticks it together but provides a handy catch all for the flavors and juices that come out during the steaming. I tried to pry the thing apart for a photo that would show the meat and it didn’t work. Moke is more a meat loaf than a stew.

How to eat it? With a fork I’d hope. Keeps the fingers clean. Still to be traditional I guess one would grab a little with a piece of sticky rice and a judicious use of a finger or thumb. I prefer kao jao (steamed rice, like maybe even that Calrose we buy at Cosco that comes from California), some lettuce or cilantro or something else green on the side. Cool water no ice.

No way to pretty it up. Looks like glop, called moke.
Lastly an apology for not writing for so long. Haven’t been to Laos of late. Especially sorry about no food posts for so long. Way back when a frequent reader requested food type posts, I’ve been negligent, I promise to make amends.

Sep 9, 2012

Tortilla Sri Racha

Not quite Lao food and even saw sri racha (Sri Racha Sauce) is from Thailand, but hey, it's what I eat. Great bacon from Costco, some kind of groovy mayonnaise my wife bought and surprisingly good cilantro from sprouts. Most cilantro seems flavorless from the store, this stuff had pop. More on Sri Racha sauce and town later.

Aug 11, 2012

Killing Chickens

I’m not much the sentimental type but when it came time to thin the herd I had little practical experience, and even less enthusiasm.

My wife told me to just knock it’s head against something, but to hold on to it after I did so. Made sense to me, the cook at the restaurant in China used to just give a quick whack with the knife handle to the back of the head of the rabbit he was cooking for dinner. Seemed quick and painless. Of course when I opened the coop the chickens all hid under the laying house where I couldn’t get them. Maybe it was the glint in my eye.

Later that week a friend of my wife’s came by and together while the children were inside they did the deed, slitting the neck, saving the blood, and boiling the plucked chicken to share in their mid week mom feast. Our herd of five had been whittled down to a more manageable four.

I have to admit a bit of squeamishness over killing domesticated livestock. Too much premeditation, too close to murder. I’m ok shooting deer or elk and even prairie dogs or coyotes which don’t get eaten but are traditionally shot in the rural west. Chickens seemed much more up close and personal.

My daughter often feeds the chickens pieces of grass through the cage. She knows which one is which, and when she came in saying they were pecking each other I went out to take a look. Sure enough a spot of blood on one of the black one’s neck. My daughter reported that Rosie the red one had pecked Black Black when Blacky Black was passing by. 

Thipalada and Rosy

If I’m squeamish about killing chickens I’m nuts over any animal experiencing pain. The fact that they were pecking each other too. Too many chickens too small a coop I figured. We had to be somewhat discreet as our town doesn’t allow chicken ranching.

The next morning my wife cut up some pieces of yarn, told the kids to stay inside and told me to come help. Sometimes when things need doing she decides to do them. She got in the coop, then confirmed with Thipalada, who had followed us out anyway, which ones were the pecker and peckee. She would first pick them up by the foot tie a piece of yarn around both feet then around the tips of both wings. Trussed up they were in no pain but they just lay there.

This is the condition you often see chickens in when being brought to market in Asia. Usually slung by the feet over the back of a motorcycle.

Once when I was the guest of honor at a suk wan at my sister in laws house, I remember a chicken being trussed up similarly. Bien had gotten the chicken early so that when the time came she wouldn’t have to chase it around the yard to catch it. While helping to set up the chairs and tables, every once in a while I’d hear a plaintive falorn squawk from the doomed prisoner. 

Suk wan ceremonies are quasi religious affairs left over from the days before Buddhism. Something to do with making sure spirits and ghosts are all where they should be and ones who aren’t supposed to be around get gone. I remarked that I wasn’t so worried about my ghosts but about the chicken’s ghost and that maybe we should have a suk wan for it. My inlaws thought this was pretty funny. It’s well known how sensitive the foreigners are about animals, and there is no such thing as chickens having spirits.

Recently when I asked why always chickens at suk wans and why always boiled I was told it’s because boiled chicken is a sign of luxury, all meat, no vegetables.

After both chickens were secured Thipalada helped bring them to the back door and mum got a pot of water boiling at her outdoor stove. I freaked when I saw ST hold the chicken down and pluck the feathers from it’s neck, but watching closely the chicken showed no signs of pain. Seems like docility is bred into them.

I held the legs and the wings with the head pointed downhill while ST carefully nicked the throat such that the blood ran down into a bowl of fish sauce. The blood is mixed with the fish sauce so that when it congeals it makes a tasty solid, kind of like the luet in kow piak. The only signs of discomfort on the part of the chicken came at the very end when it’s blood pressure was probably about zero. It thrashed a little but I’d been forewarned to hold tight.

When I got back from work all was in the freezer already except a delicious ope made from the livers, intestines, unhatched eggs, etc. It was delicious, none of that factory taste. Clean like game but not elk.

Later I noticed two hand lettered plaques by the hose. Rosie chicken pecker, and Blacky Black chicken pecker. We’d found peck marks on both. Don’t know what’s up with the markers, never did discuss death and dying with Thipalada, but then kids understand those kinds of things anyway. She eats the chickens with gusto unlike her brother who was slightly uneasy over the entire project.

Aug 10, 2012

What Thais Need to Know and Learn about Laotians

I saw this over at Samakamlao, that web site mostly for Laotians in Laos and overseas Lao. I did a simple copy and paste, even the little graphic below. No link to The Nation.

Of the nine other members of Asean, Thailand is most culturally, linguistically and economically linked to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The economic interdependence of the two nations is particularly important and Laos is clearly part of the ”Baht Zone”. The baht can be used easily anywhere in Laos.
Thailand critically needs energy imports from Laos and the Lao in turn need many consumer goods from Thailand. Also approximately one third of the Thai population has Lao cultural and linguistic roots.
Often Thais like to define their relationship with the Lao as “brothers and sisters”. but the Lao scholar and historian, Ajarn Mayoury Ngaosyvathn, instead calls simply for the nations to be close and friendly neighbours.
As we all know Thailand is amazing in many ways, but Laos is also amazing. What is most remarkable is that Laos has survived as a political and cultural identity despite being landlocked and surrounded by five powerful and much larger neighbours, namely, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia.
Unfortunately there are many Thai misunderstandings about Laos and the Lao. First, many think that the Isaan (Northeast) language and Lao language arethe same. They are indeed similar but not the same. Once they were the same, but diverged over time because of 1) French colonialism, 2) communism, and 3) the Thaiification of the Isaan language.
Nearly all geographic and mathematics terminology in the Lao language, for example, is Frenchderived. If a person asks for “galaem” in Isaan, they will normally get a blank stare. “Galaem” is the Lao word for ice cream.
A second misunderstanding relates to the phrase “mai mi arai” (there is nothing there) referring to Laos. Many Thai travel to Vientiane, Laos for just one day, not even staying the night. They shop at the ”morning” market, have lunch at a nice restaurant on the Mekong, and visit a couple of prominent temples. They have “done Laos”.
I once took a group of Thai students on a study tour of Laos for two months. At the beginning they could not fathom why we were spending two months in a place where “mai mi arai”. At the end of the two months, they indicated a desire to stay longer. Obviously over time they came to realise how much there was to learn about Laos.
The Thai history, geography, and social science curricula on Laos need to be reviewed and revised. Students, for example, should be exposed to both Thai and Lao perspectives on the historical relations between the two nations. They should examine King Chao Anu both as a villain (Thai perspective) and hero (Lao perspective).
They need to analyse critically why Laos became communist and why the new government significantly reformed the Lao language.
They need to be exposed to how the Thai and Lao languages are the same and differ. The word “Thai/tai” is particularly interesting. In Thai, it means free, while in Lao it means people. Tai Luang Pabang, means Luang Pabang people, not Thai people living there.
As part of both cultural and moral education (and given the growing influence and power of social media), students need to know that ethnic jokes aboutthe Lao and Isaan people are inappropriate. Some of the gross ethnic jokes I have heard about the Lao are unprintable here. Also celebrities in their interviews need to be culturally sensitive in their remarks about the Lao. Some unfortunate incidents have occurred in the past.
Thais need to study and be more aware of more important Lao scholars and writers such as the prominent historian Maha Sila Viravong (originally from Roi Et) and his three children, who are all noted writers, and Ajarns Pheuiphanh and Mayoury Ngaosyvathn, prolific Lao scholars and historians.
One enjoyable technique for teaching about the subtle differences between the two cultures is to present ambiguous images of both cultures and have students themselves ascertain which image is Thai and which is Lao. Watching critically movies such as “Sabai Di Luang Prabang” can also be a fun and effective way for Thais to learn about their important neighbour.
Even though most Lao can understand Thai, they deeply appreciate it when Thais make the effort to speak their language, which is relatively easy, giventhe similarities between the two languages. Dr Sumontha Promboon, former president of Srinakharinwirot University, made a great effort to speak and write Lao well, when serving as an ADB consultant in Laos. Her effort was extremely well received. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, Prof Charnwit Kasetsiri, Dr Prawese Wasi, and Sulak Sivaraksa have all shown impressive and exemplary cultural sensitivity in writing about and interacting with the Lao people.
What is most important for the future of ThaiLao relations in the AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) era is for Thais to enhance their cultural empathy of the Lao and their rich cultures and history.
Article originally published in The Nation, June 25, 2012
by Gerald W Fry, Distinguished International Professor
Department of Organisational Leadership, Policy, and Development, University of Minnesota

Jul 16, 2012

Gone (a traveler's tale)

I knew the Israeli girl was gone, and I don’t mean gone for a walk or gone somewhere else but gone, gone. Her father who looked like the kind of guy who had seen a couple of things, realized, I think, that there was little likelihood. I’m a father, I have a little girl, I can’t imagine. Girl is probably the wrong thing to call someone who was, or used to be, an officer in the Israeli army. It was Asia, that’s what they call unmarried women.
Tiger Leaping Gorge Yunnan, China from Wiki

It had started the way many things do with the idea to go for a walk for a couple of days. I was living down in Dali and had been hearing “backpackers” talking of a “trek” through a place called Tiger Leaping Gorge. Trek is code amongst the banana pancake crowd for a leisurely walk. This was back in the mid 90s before mass tourism had much touched that obscure part of Yunnan pushed up against Tibet by who knows what sort of tectonic plate.

I’d already done a snowy mid winter walk along the ridge of Cangshan Range and spent too many days wandering on the cold glacier of Yulongxue Shan where I had no business being midwinter and alone. I was ready for a flat walk with banana pancakes.

On the mini bus out of Lijiang I met the three of them, a young guy, and a couple that were older, maybe in their mid 30s, they were headed back to the gorge to look for the companion of the young guy. I’ll call him YG for young guy as I’ve long forgotten any names if I ever knew them.

YG and the Israeli girl, his companion, had had an argument of some sort as people traveling together sometimes tend to do. They’d separated to walk along at their own pace without having to look at or discuss with each other whatever it was they were arguing about. When the YG got to Walnut Grove, the midway point, he waited and waited, Israeligirl never showed up. Thinking she’d perhaps turned around and gone back, the next day he retraced his steps to  Qiaotou. (Shaw-toe?) She hadn’t gone there either so he alerted the PSB and things took on a life of their own from there.

They all went back up the gorge, the YG and the police, and they looked. They looked from the last place he’d seen her and they looked further down the trail from there. They talked to everyone living in the vicinity and they kept looking on into the night. Then they went to Walnut grove and screamed at the guest house owner who hadn’t registered her in his books so to save the 30% “local tax”. Then the next day they went back to  Qiaotou where there was a phone and called Lijiang which is the biggest town around.

Technically she’d gone missing in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of which Zohngdian is the capital. Zohngdian has been renamed, it’s now  Shangrila and in my estimation not the better for it. The entire area is now a World Heritage Site. Roads, hotels, tour groups, airports, ATMs.

So the three Israelis and I slept at Qiaotou, then we too hiked most of the way to Walnut Grove and looked. We looked up and mostly down the hill from where the YG had last seen Israeligirl and to tell you the truth there seemed no place a person could disappear to. The hillside was open, treeless.  We walked on to the Guest House which was tended by the owner’s ten year old daughter and a teenage helper, no one else was there.

The guest house had a few very basic rooms without water, no electricity, we were after all at least 20km from the road.. In the morning when I got up the guest house daughter was scraping the wax from the table where the middle aged fellow had been playing with it and made a mess spreading the wax around with match sticks and what not. In the kitchen we huddled around the woodstove. There was little to eat, the owner was off buying supplies, but the guesthouse daughter offered yack butter tea. I had some moon cakes which I shared around. We smoked a bowl of pot, I was the only one to take up her offer of the tea. Refreshingly strong tea and filling at the same time.

Daughter of the Guest House owner at Walnut Grove. She managed the place very well in the absence of her parents, I think she was 10. Notice the churn against the wall for making yak butter tea. Slow slide film with natural light.

The next day we walked out to the far end of the gorge and took a ferry across the Yangtze to the lovely little town of Daju which was at the end of a road and it was possible to take a bus. The walk seemed long to Daju, maybe 30km.

Daju had a short landing strip for small aircraft and some old style timber frame houses being built. They actually had banana trees, something I hadn’t seen in China. Daju at the downriver end of the gorge is one of the lowest places around. It’s past the gorge, they get a full complement of sunlight. The next day after an eight hour bone rattling ride on a poor excuse for a road we were back in Lijiang. Eight hours to go fifty kilometers.

It was in Lijiang that I met the dad. He’d flown across the world as fast as he could but by now we were at day seven or eight or something. His daughter had been gone an awfully long time. He asked what I thought of the deal and I had no theories or impressions that would add to an understanding. Very few people live in the gorge, anything that happens everyone knows.

It wasn’t until a month later that I found out the end of story, and even then it was only by chance that I heard.

I should say before someone corrects me that the river up by the gorge isn’t called the Yankze, in Yunnan it’s called something else entirely. I should also mention that though the trek is basically a flat path that has been in use for centuries if not millennia, there are many side paths. People leave little trails, herding goats, collecting mushrooms, picking herbs. And, as in most places none of the side paths are marked, nor are any paths marked. Everyone knows where they are going.

Locals crossing a foot bridge Tiger Leaping Gorge

One evening I fast walked and jogged the 23km of path from Walnut Grove back to Qiaotou in a little over 3 hours with a broken headlamp and moon behind clouds. It might not be a super highway but it’s close to it. Towards the Qiaotou end of things the path cut through the center of a small prison, it was without walls. I guess the place is for model prisoners and in any case the walls of the gorge are as good a barrier as any. They cut large pieces of marble. At the time I was there that was the furthest extent of the road, now I think the road goes all the way to Walnut Grove maybe further. The night I walked they were still working by the light of bright bulbs long after dark. No one said anything as I walked on through. Silent prisoners, feeding a saw, cutting rock.

The gorge itself is deep. It’s deeper than the grand canyon, the walls though not as sheer are larger than El Cap in Yosemite. At the time I was there no one knew the size of the gorge, or if they did they didn’t advertise it. Sitting at Walnut Grove one has a very intimate view of the wall on the opposite side. I knew at the time that surely this gorge was as big as any wall I’d ever seen. I was puzzled as to why the gorge wasn’t famous, now it is.

The sun shines on Walnut Grove very late and leaves early, maybe five hours of direct sun, that’s how steep the walls are. The hillside was intensely terraced. At the edge of the town I once found the ruins of an abandoned house with a house sized boulder in the middle of it. The house had been built in a place too susceptible to rockfall.

It was at Qiaotou in the backpacker cafe that I found the end of the story. Like many places on the banana pancake circuit the cafe had a log book for people to jot down their impressions or messages.

Backpackers Cafe Qioatou - It could sometimes be days between customers.

Israelidad had hired some kind of professional searcher and they had found his daughter. Probably they’d also hired locals,  and they’d done a grid search marking where they’d been. The stream crossings had been tricky and she’d wandered far downhill at one place looking for a better crossing. There are different crossings for pack horses and other places better in the wet season, and so on, many little trails headed nowhere. The young woman had fallen down between large rocks at one such crossing and been very badly injured. She had lived a few days unable to move but well enough to jot down some thoughts. She had pen and paper from her backpack.

I read about all this in the logbook at the cafe.

A sad and terrible thing for sure.

If anyone ever reads this who was there at the time my apologies for any inaccuracies or misrepresentations. Sean if you read this it looks like your guest house has been very successful, I’ll be back someday. Lastly to Israeligirl whom I never met, I hope you rest easy.

Below are some more photos from the two walks I did into the gorge in 95 and also the walks on the Canshang Range and Yuahlung Shan from just before the Tiger Leaping Walk. I post them here so as not to detract from the story.

Above-From the second day out on my hike of the Cangshan Ridge. Barely visible is the distant peak of Yuahlung Shan, the gorge is just left of it. This hike was my first test of my sleeping system which was comprised of an old summer weight synthetic bag, the fleece pants and jacket I was wearing and a hat, on top of a Thermarest and inside a bivi sack covered with a space blanket. Worked fine.

Self snap shot on the East side of Yuahlong Shan. A long ways from anyone I knew in a place of no trails or maps, in other words heaven on earth. I bought salted beef, packaged noodle soup, moon-pies and green tea at the market, great backpacking food. It was this cold midwinter wander that convinced me I needed to go for a flat walk such as tiger leaping gorge where I could sleep in guesthouses.

Qiaotou-The road to Zhongdian and Lasa Tibet which was closed to outsiders at the time, it has since opened. Not much traffic.

Yualong Shan from the West. It's this mountain that forms the steep east side of the gorge, probably the deepest river gorge in the world.

Except for the first, all photos are mine, taken at the time of the story and a month later when I did the walk again. I was using a manual Pentax with a decent 28mm lense and a not so good 80-210 zoom. Velvia 50 or 100 and always natural light. I've come to appreciate digital photography a heck of a lot.

I've purposefully skipped all sorts of second guessing. Nothing about walking alone or abilities to follow a trail or our lack of searching in the right place. Things happen.

Jul 6, 2012

Hillary Comes to Lao PDR

Above Hillary's picture on the front of the US Embassy Laos web page.

First time in a gazillion years that a Secretary of State from the USA has visited.

My mind is just a flutter with the serious questions this raises. Will she bring a jar of jeao padek home for Bubba? What about the situation in Vang Vien? Will she go tubing and do shots of Lao Khao? Wuzzup Hill?

Work Live Laos

I've been following a new web site from Vientiane on Facebook. It seems to keep tabs on current events in the capital maybe from an expat point of view.


When I stopped by today they had this kind of fun you tube video.

May 19, 2012

Walking out to the road

The road means different things to different people. For me it meant a return to the power grid, cell phone coverage, showers, beds, restaurants. For Lorphaew’s son who was along for the walk and had never seen a road, it meant a lot more.

We get up early, I fill my water bottles from the cold water in the kettle and we leave. Tui, Lorphaew carrying my pack, Lorphaew’s son, and myself bringing up the rear. I don’t think we even had a hot breakfast, cold rice and water. Tui remarked this was a record early start for him, maybe seven o’clock.

The day before I’d cut a three inch hole in my boot to match the inch and a half hole in my foot, covered them both tightly with athletic tape, hoped that the pressure would be relieved, and crossed my fingers for luck.

The first part of the walk followed the path from Jakune Mai to Jakune Gow, I’d been on the trail four times before, that didn’t make it any easier. We stopped to wash at a stream crossing, from there the trail goes up and up and up, maybe 1800 feet or more. The first time I was already tired after two long days and I was lying down at the rests, took the starch out of me. This time at least I stayed standing to catch my breath. 

Jakune Gao 2006

Lorphaew brought up the rear carrying my pack and his presence made the effort easier. I speak no Akha and he speaks no Lao, and so we can’t talk, but when you are the slowest it’s nice to have someone behind for company who doesn’t push.

Much sooner than I’d of thought we are at Old Jakune, in the two years since I’d been there it had melted further into the forest. I had to wonder how long it would be before only the discerning eye would know that here for decades uncounted, maybe centuries,  was a village where people were born, lived to bear children themselves, and passed on. How quickly the trees grow. The time comes for everyone and we all fade from memory.

Just above the old townsite is the trail junction to Nambo, more faint than the trail to town. Probably not many make the long hike to the Lahu village. Young men going “visiting” more likely than not. Our route took us still higher, almost to the top of the highest mountain in the vicinity, Phou Mon Lem, a name that has something to do with the long grass that grows around the top.

When we cross the ridge we stop and I take a photo. A poor and uninteresting photo at that. Some tree covered hills, some fog, barely imagined further hills. I breath deep wondering if this is my last view of this area. Close by are the hills on both sides of the Nam Fa, the river valley without roads or cell phone coverage, trees never cut, river never damned. Beyond is the Nam Mekong the riverine historic waterway of south east asia still in fog and wide, and on the other side of that, Shan State, the part of Burma ruled by an independent army.

I like these hills.

After the top we began to see survey markers. A Korean mining company is intent on developing a copper mine and making a road. It will certainly change things. Tui says he understands us Falangs don’t like to see roads. I don’t mind roads, but I do like the untracked forests and miss them when they are gone. It would be great if Lorphaew and all from his village didn’t have to walk so far to go to the market, or the doctor. More worrisome is the potential for pollution from the mining, I doubt there would be any environmental restrictions at all. A lot of villages downstream.

The walk downhill is at a much more moderate gradient. Once in awhile more survey flags from the intended road. The path cuts side hill amongst very old large trees, the walking is easy, cool in the deep shadows. The trees and the path might well have both been there when America was fighting it’s war for independence. A land without roads doesn’t mean a place without history or people

Drinking from the spring, Lorphaew, his son, Tui.

All too soon we are wading the river for the seven crossings that mark the approach to the Lanten village that is where the trail meets the road. A  young guy has driven his motorcycle into the ford to wash the dust off, it is colorful new and fast looking even sitting still. Lorphaew’s son stares at the bike with intensity, he has heard of them. Later Tui’s friend arrives in a decrepit minivan without seats to give us a ride to town. Lorphaew’s son watches carefully from where we sit on the floor in the back as we bump along, when the road suddenly becomes paved and the minivan twists through the S turns his jaw drops in wonder. On the road again.

Feb 11, 2012

Wildside Trip on the Nam Fa (from quite a while ago)

Tiger Tracking on the Nam Pha from Frank Wolf on Vimeo.

This video is of a white water rafting trip down the Nam Fa in the late nineties or the early part of the last decade.

It looks like the video was made by someone who makes adventure videos with no connection to the actual trip. The trip was organised by Wildside adventures run by Michael O'Shea also known as the guy that kayaked the entire length of the Mekong with lots of good stories from half drowning in Tibet of Yunnan province, I read his account of the trip online a long time ago.

This is kind of a run on post, I'm hoping that someone who was in the area at the time will post a long and if they want anonymous or not comment about the whole thing and I'll erase this half conjecture collection of run on sentences with some factual information. Hint hint you know who you are.

Looks like most of the time was spent above the junction of the Nam Hee where the river is most turbulent and it probably took them the most time to get down. Assuming the Kahmu village was up close to Vieng Phuka somewhere. Don't know about the Akha village, a just moved Jakune Mai? The camera traps that used film were a give away. Don't know when digital came out but it's an indicator.

Jan 29, 2012

Climate and Other Changes in Laos

A big hat tip to I eat Padeckwhere I saw this short and enjoyable clip. I'm not sure How much of this was intentional I'm going to assume everything.

The granny glasses that are THE fashion statement and fake designer bag. Posts for new house stored under the old, The relatively short distance between the old life of the village and the new found insouciance of Vientiane.

Jan 16, 2012

Wild West

Are those 5.56 shell casings amongst the gore?