Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Slow Roll down the Mekong

Traveling down the Mekong River in a slowboat for two days (about 9 hours a day) was one of the highlights of my trip. Getting a chance to sit back, read in the sun and watch amazing scenery pass is what I will be thinking about when there is 2 feet of snow on the ground in Milwaukee... We saw both water buffalo and elephants on the side of the river and made a few select stops along the way.

One stop was into a local village, where at first glance the people might be considered poor compared to western standards, but if you look around you see this village has everything they need! Cows, pigs, ducks and chickens run free in the village and combined with the vegetables and rice the the villages grow in the mountains, they have everything they could need to eat. It was really nice to see what an actual chicken looks like, ya know one that hasn't been locked up inside a cage and pumped full of hormones so it can't even walk, but that is another blog post. Not only do these people have all the food they can grow, but constant access to clean air, plenty of places to play and by allowing foreigners to come into their village and snap shots, they have made enough money to run clean water directly to the village and have a satellite dish that receives WAY more channels than I do in metropolitan Milwaukee.

In these shots you can also start to see the incredible collection of baskets that you can find throughout Laos. I was really blown away by all the different weaves, shapes and uses for the baskets. I started to follow these baskets and noticed they have their own visual language. Tightly woven for structures and domiciles , more freely woven for baskets that hold fruit and materials and pure verticals or pure horizontals for fences or cages. I kinda can't believe how many different weaves I found on this trip.

This village also had a local metalsmith who was working hard to get his fire started to shape some more blades and tools. I love seeing these guys in every city. I literally met a metalsmith everywhere we went. Pretty great.

We also stopped at a temple that was built inside one of Luang Prabang's famous limestone mountains. It was really lovely. Mostly it was nice to be inside a cool mountain. Although Laos was definitely my favorite place on the whole tour, it was REMARKABLY hot everywhere we went. Their culture is also very reserved which means it is impolite for women to wear tank tops and shorts above the knee so anytime we hit a temple I had to put more one, which meant it was even hotter. I got used to it after a while but getting used to it meant just getting used to having a layer of sweat on you all the time. It also meant that no matter how hard you try, you are always drinking water! I just couldn't drink it fast enough. I'm so glad to be back to A/C.

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