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IndoChina Adventure 2014

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Dispatch 02 from Deeann Glamser

In Sapa, the mountain resort town in northern Vietam, we had decent weather for our hike through the mountain villages, where village women with their woven little purses and postcards met us at the upper road and stayed with us most of the way through the valley.  (Odd -- everyone is selling exactly the same items.)  


They tried their English a little,  and mostly just trailed along hoping we'd buy some things at the end.  We walked on paths through the rice fields -- I didn't see any mosquitoes -- past docile water buffaloes and pregnant pigs.  We stopped by a village school and our day guide showed us a local weaver's house.


People get by with so little here!  Our day guide is a lovely girl about 20 from a hill village farther up the valley who learned English from talking with tourists.  She is paying for a brother and sister to go to school because the government doesn't provide education beyond very basic subjects. We had another good lunch at the end. 


The next day was a "free day" where we mostly hid from the steady heavy rain. The surrounding mountains vanished in the whiteness.  The riders left in rain the next morning, but then the weather cleared leaving us with fantastic views of jagged green mountains and tropical waterfalls.  And mud at the road construction sites!  


Our guide explains the communist road philosophy -- build it once (the right way) and you eat once; keep building and repairing, and you eat many times.


Northern Laos is quiet -- far fewer motor bikes (that is the preferred term to scooters) because this is a poorer area.  The villages are mostly wood and bamboo houses, some planks and some woven.  We see people eating in small groups, children playing by the roadside, women doing laundry at small waterfalls.  


Many people walk along the road, far from villages, either to work in the hillside rice fields or to perhaps forage in the forests, according to our Laos guide.  So much work that is done by machine at home is done by hand.


I had expected to sleep some in the van, but there is too much to gawk at.  The rocky peaks and green valleys are absolutely mystical.  And those constant, sharp curves and the rough spots in the road also keep me awake.


I really loved Luang Prabang, where we stayed across a narrow street from the Mekong River.  Got up at dawn with the others tourist to see the monks come out to collect food.  Good restaurants, lively night market, and easy town to walk around.  


Now we have come down into the flat lands -- past people harvesting rice -- and are in Vientiane, the capitol, which seems to have more cars than motorbikes, and traffic jams!




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