Monday morning the boys stumble across Laos’s live broadcast of Sunday Night Football, and Russel Wilson’s Seahawks smack-down the Panthers. After tearing them away for breakfast our French Guest House host helps us arrange for a taxi and boat upriver to the Whiskey Village and Pak Ou Caves. The boys enjoy our first “Tuk-Tuk” ride to the launch on the muddy Mekong. The boat is a cross between the sleek, skinny Bangkok/Inle longboats and the teak Ayeyarwady steemer: long, skinny, flat-bottomed, plenty of teak. Some of our tummies are a bit unsettled, so we’re glad to have a good toilet and airy deck to walk about. The Whiskey Village is a quick stop with the typical looms and trinkets; most interesting is the small still used to make rice whisky, and their unique bottling approach, which involves preserving an impossibly large scorpion, millipede or other invertebrate in the whiskey bottle. I expect the Mexican tradition of eating the contents doesn’t apply here.
Another half hour upstream and we arrive at the two Pak Ou caves – shallow, natural caves penetrating the limestone massive. The caves are crammed with hundreds of Buddha statues- it is apparently a graveyard for old relics (throwing them away is likely bad karma). It’s a funky, fun cliffside jungle diversion. Motoring downstream takes half the time; felt like less as we enjoyed a good lunch with sticky rice, chicken/coconut soup, fish steamed in banana leaf and vegetables.
Back in Luang Prabang we stroll through the grounds of the royal palace, home to the King until he communists took over in 1975, which is probably about when the US we stopped its secret war in Laos. We dropped ~2 million tons of munitions carpeting 90% of Laos during the Vietnam war (more than the US dropped in all of WWII), making Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in world history. 80 million bombs remained unexploded in its jungles. We did make much of the country uninhabitable, but didn’t stop communism. They seem to live well with a single-party system… Laos feels more open than Thailand to us.
Back to our Guest House, Sue and I sit on the balcony and take some time to research upcoming travels. A quick shower and we’re off to a local Italian restaurant for dinner and a game of iPhone charades before returning to clean up and journal.