Lao Lao Laos Layoss

After being suitably Munk’d and lighting up the SpicyLaos Hostel fire in style, the final day began with much lethargy. As I tucked into the Indiana Jones box set and enjoying a behind the scenes doco, my geezer mates Owen, Jim, Jim and Kel finally surfaced from their quarters. With head guide Pong in tow, we tuk-tuked it out into the wild, to the glorious nearby Tad Sae waterfalls.

If God was incontinent in Udon Thani, then his colostomy bag well and truly exploded this afternoon. Already enduring a significant waterfall, another spanner was thrown into the mix when our tuk tuk sprung a loose bearing in the wheel axel and shat itself halfway there. We made it to the waterfalls though, leaping off the main cliff face into baby blue cream waters, again and again until the adrenaline made us sleepy like overtired children. It was awesome.

When you find yourself staying put in one place for far longer than you expected, the reasons for that rarely become clear until very the culmination of that chapter. Luang Prabang’s chilled, spiritual hum kept me within its confines for ten solid nights, and I was extremely lucky to find myself affiliated with Pong and the SpicyLaos crew, who showed me things I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. Diamonds in the rough are usually found right at the very end, and the last days in Laos were the pinnacle moments of my trip.

After getting drenched in waterfall and colostomy rain our new bearing-ed tuk tuk cruised over to a small Laos family village where we would be eating dinner. Pong, always with an eye for good bush tucker, noticed a massive ants nest hanging above in one of the big riverside trees. With a monster bamboo rod we prodded the nest till the whole bloody thing came tumbling down into our bucket. According to Pong, when you disrupt a red ant nest the ants excrete a fluid that tastes amazingly like vinegar, and this fluid combined with the white ants eggs makes a great, tasty salad. We took his word for it as our feet became public enemy number one for some seriously pissed off, homewrecked ants.

With a huge blue net we traipsed the murky brown Mekong river down yonder and fished out a selection of shrimp, yabbies and tiny fish. A pale yellow sunset blended with the clouds in the sky and made everything before me look awash in sepia – the mountains, the riverbank and the Mekong itself, winding and spilling as far as my eye could see. That was a magical moment, and for the first time in a while I felt like I was a long way from home.

With eight people crammed into a pencil thin fishing vessel we made it back to shore to sit down on the wooden upstairs floor with the men of the village. It was a veritable feast of the most extraordinary. With a hand moulded lump of sticky rice in one hand, we grabbed bits and pieces of all sorts of different traditional Laos dishes and pigged out big time. Our fresh Mekong shrimp were fried to perfection, the chicken broth was amazing, and sure enough, the live ant salad was pretty wild, though you had to be careful the little bastards didn’t bite the inside of your mouth when you proceeded to devour them alive. Aside form the barbequed frog and bowl of assorted insects, this was the weirdest dish I’d ever swallowed. Hellbent on destroying us lanky Western gits, the local blokes plied us with their family made flagon of Lao Lao – replete with all the weird leaves, spices, mosquitos and Lao viagra that we’ve come to expect. After ten consecutive rounds of shots we were destroyed. I hoped this was just a rare show of alcoholic one-upmanship and special celebration rather than a customary day to day smashing of piss over dinner. What these Lao blokes lacked in stature they made up for in barrel chested stamina.

The dark, night ride back to Prabang in the Tuk Tuk was exhilarating. On a whisky high, I was blown away by the event that had just taken place, the amazing Laos people I got to know and share a meal with. Wind coarsed through my hair as the tuk tuk bloted over dirt road and wooden bridges. I reflected on how amazing the day was. - Owen and I chatted and recognised that all that was some pretty rare and unique stuff – a situation that very few passer-by backpackers would ever get the chance to experience. I was chuffed and felt extremely lucky that I’d met Pong and these blokes and had decided to stay on these two extra days. Sometimes you just gotta wait around for the really great stuff to present itself. And out of nowhere you fall right into it.

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