|Gladys at the Baccii Ceremony|
We are now in Laos, traveling with more persons on the tour. Sue joined us and then Jen and Jennifer, (all from Australia) but Steve has returned to Australi . The French occupied Southeast Asia for about 100 years and it is reflected in their food. There are different ingredients but a lot the same as Vietnam. There are actually French restaurants and wine is very inexpensive as there is no duty on “plonk!!! Upon our arrival in Laos we attended a Baccii ceremony held in our honor to bless us on our travels in Laos. The ceremony is where they tie cords around your wrist while blessing you with a chicken on a platter with an egg in shell. You cannot take the cords off as it is bad luck, they must stay on for 3 days and then you can untie them if possible. The following day, after I tripped and fell in a mud puddle while trying to cross a rainy stream to see the Buddhist cave, I decided they did not give me much protection, so I cut them off as they were covered in mud!!!!.(so glad I was wearing only my dive watch!!) We were treated to a wild mushroom lunch after the caves and none of us were sick , so maybe the protection did work!!!
|Wild Mushroom lunch|
We traveled to Vientiane, the capitol city of Laos. On the way we crossed a dry river bed where there are ancient temples with an embossed footprint of the Lord Buddha. We were encouraged to throw an offering out of the window to its spirits (this is not considered littering, especially if you throw money!!!)
|Arc de Triomphe in Vientiane City|
|Cooking lesson at NGO|
This city is very busy and has several French restaurants. Next night we went to Le Central for a French meal, complete with appetizers of smoked salmon, great cashews and puff pastry pinwheels with caviar and the first course was Salade gourmande au foie-gras mit -cuit. With fat slices of wonderful melting foie-gras, tin slices of smoked duck breast , artichokes, and thinly sliced apples .with a great assorted greens and a very light dressing. The main course was lamb from New Zealand with lovely green flageolets, or a choice of salmon in puff pastry with lemon sauce. Dessert was fondant chocolate cake with a nice runny center and velvety ice cream. We were served a Bourguevil Val de Loire white wine with the first course and a Viognier , Ardeche red wine with the main course.
We were in the capitol city for a couple of days . One day we had a cooking class and lunch at the NGO restaurant. This restaurant is a training location for youth that were previously living on the streets. They have received the Gault-Millau , Asia’s Finest Award for training in the hospitality industry.We have visited the golden dome of the Wai That Lunag which is next door to a replica of the Paris Arc do Triomphe, this is the country’s most important unifying symbol area.
Last day in Laos - an amazing country. As we left Vietnam, I really was so tired of traveling, that I was wishing that I had not signed up for this portion of the trip. Now I am so glad I continued, as we saw some of the most beautiful sights along the Mekong river. The Mekong is usually associated with Vietnam but it really starts in China and flows thru Laos and establishes the boundaries between Laos and Thailand. We learned much about the culture and food here. We flew from the capitol city of Vientiane to Xieng Khuang where we stayed on top of a mountain and were cold for the fist time since flying to Asia, I actually wore my chammyz jacket and slept in my marino wool /possum fur New Zealand socks!!!
|Gladys at the Plain of Jars|
We came to this area to see the Plain of Jars, which are ancient vessels that are between 1500 to 1000 years old. There is some evidence that they were used to for distillation or storage of alcohol and some scant proof they were used for funerary purposes. Unfortunately the relics are located at the site of one of the world‘s greatest concentration of carpet bombings and more than a third were destroyed during the undeclared Laos/Vietnam War. This portion of the Ho Chi Minh Trail received more American bomb strikes than World War II Europe in its entirety.!!! The legacy of unexploded ordinance continues to injure and kill and more than 50 people annually as they try to clear more land for rice growing. We walked CAREFULLY thru the rice paddies to see these giant relics, using walking sticks to balance on in the narrow walkways between the rice paddies.
As we departed this colder area, we went to the market to buy school supplies for a remote village that we were visiting later in the day. But first we went to the Mulberry establishment that produces some of the most beautiful hand made silk textiles perhaps in the entire world. We started by visiting the mulberry fields and picking mulberry leaves for the silkworms (and a few berries to feed our overstuffed faces!!). The thousands of silkworms in all stages of eating and producing cocoons were amazing. Then seeing how the workers boil the cocoons to separate the threads, de-waxing each strand, and making natural dyes.
We watched the actual dying by 2 ladies dipping the yarns on a stick between them into the boiling dyes until they get the desired colors !!!. They were using the indigo plant for the beautiful color of blues. This is one of the plants that grows on Little Cayman. Those of you that have been on my hikes know the story about how the natives of our island discovered the dying properties of this plant!! Needless to say I made a few purchases!!!
Our continued journey was to a remote village where we shared our morning purchases with the children. I brought a soccer ball and 4 more that were smaller and can be played like volleyball. The eyes and smiles of the children was all the thanks we needed. They were so pleased and happy that they started playing with the ball immediately. Our continued travel that day was through some of the most beautiful mountain regions I have ever seen. Our day ended at the Alila Resort in Luang Phrabang. We were the very first guests of this new property that is built within the compound of the original prison.
|Children with soccer ball|
This 600 year Royal city on the banks of the Mekong and Khan rivers is a declared UNESCO World Heritage site. It is considered to be Asia’s best preserved Ancient City and “the jewel of Southeast Asia”.
|Cooking demonstration at the Alila|
We spent the first day on a boat going about 16 miles up the river to visit the caverns of a declared holy spot by King Setthathirat in the 16th century. It contains thousands of Buddha images. We were treated to a simple snack of French baguette sandwiches known locally as khao chi pate, that was super and then had a full lunch on a floating barge!!! . We stopped to visit the Whiskey Village and had a few samples of their back rice wine!!!!! We tried not to fall off the jetty getting back on our boat. After a visit to a paper-making village, we needed a nap!! The evening meal was at a local French café where I had frog legs and a wonderful lamb shank and lots more of the local wine!.
The next morning was a visit to the market with the French chef from the 5 star Alila and then cooking classes in their new facility. We were treated royally, as we were all the guests they had!! That evening we had a gala dinner with hundreds of candles in their garden which was once the prisoners’ exercise grounds!! We bade a fond farewell to Laos, but all vowed that we would return. Cheers.Gladys