Jody's Adventures

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Plain of Jars

Well this one picture shows the most rock climbing I've done in a month. Not climbing much, but being in Laos is really great. There is so little development and things move so slowly. The Plain of Jars is actually 3 areas filleds with enormous hand carved stone jars. The one I am perched on weighs an estimated 6 tons. The are 2 theories about the jars. The archeaologists say they were used to burn the deceased, whose remains were then transferred into smaller jars that have been found buried around the base of the large jars. The locals prefer to beleive that they are vessels for brewing the very popular native rice whisky Lao Lao. I prefer the second explaination. The real story for me though was of the bombing done in this area during the Vietnam war. We (America) dumped hundreds of tons of bombs and in particular "bombies"which are baseball sized antipersonel bombs all over Laos, including the plain of jars. These big and little bombs are still a constant threat to the people of Laos. Each time they plow a field, or dig a hole they risk setting one of these off. Even worse that that, the gunpowder inside the bombs, and the metal from the bomb casings are worth a lot of money, so these very poor people are often killed while trying to take the bombs apart. The picture that doesn't have any jars in it is of a bomb crater in the middle of one of the fields.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

So I bought a boat

I travelled up the river from Nong Kiaw to a place called Mong Ngoi in Laos last week. The river boat ride up was supposed to be one of the most beautiful in Laos. It was quite picturesque with mountains, and villages along the way. The only problem was the incrediblly loud engine we had to hear the whole way. Not the best way to see the place in my opinion. So by the end of the 1 hour ride I had decided that rather than the noisy 7 hour trip downstream to Luang Prabang, I would see if I could buy a boat and paddle down. Turns out I wasn't the only one who ever had this idea. 2 guys had bought a boat the day before and set out that morning. So now all I had to do was find a boat, and a few people as crazy as me. The boat turned out to be the tougher thing to find. I ran into a group of travellers the next morning, and by the following day had 3 guys interested in the trip. We bought a boat and some food and set out. We expected the trip to take anywhere from 3 days to a week. We had no map, just a rough idea of how far it was (about 150km). We knew there were many villages along the way, and locals to help us out if needed. It was a fantastic trip. Three days in all. Spent one night in a village along the river, and one night camped on a beach. The river was beautiful, the company fantstic and the experience unforgetable. Thanks Bart, Chris, and Cam.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Trekking in Laos

I took a 3 day trek into the mountains with 2 french canadians, and a girl from Holland. Our Guides were local, one spoke French, the other english, and between them a smattering of Laos, Hmong, Kamu, and a few other local languages which was essential for the villages we visited. We hiked thru jungle, all of which has been cut at some point in time. The local people who don't live too far from the road cut and burn the hillsides, plant rice the first year on the very fertile soil, then rubber trees. Farther back into the mountains, they plant rice, and subsistance crops like corn, bannana, cabbage, pumpkin, onion, and ginger. Entering the villages is quite interesting. You are hiking along in the forest then suddenly it opens up to a large cleared packed dirt area covered with thatch roof bamboo houses, with pigs, cows, and chickens everywhere, along with the village people and lots of children. It really does feel a bit like a national geographic special, the women in one village carry huge loads of firewood with a strap that is held across their forehead as the walk. Children sometimes clothed sometimes not, and the business of everyday life everywhere. Gathering wood for fires, children catching fish in the creek, washing clothes in the river, weaving baskets. So much going on. We stayed in "guesthouses" which the villages had built, basically a thatch roof building with mats and thin matresses on the floor and of course a mosquito net. Trekking groups have been visiting these villages for 2 years now, and the people have become fairly accustomed to it. Some of the children are still very shy at first, but they warm up. They love to see their pictures on a digital camera, so it is a fun way to play with them.


What a wonderful place! It is described in many guidebooks as relatively "undiscovered" and despite seeing many many white faces around town I think it is true. The country has only gotten into tourism fairly recently, and the infastructure is pretty scant. You can however find a relatively clean room with private bath for $5 per night, and a massage- which yes I already tried for $2. The people are very nice, and quite small-about my height on average. There are many minority groups here with villages all over the mountains amoungst the rainforest. They have really gotten into the ecotourism industry which is great to see. A nice change from China. The food is great, they go easy on the spices for the falang(foreigners) and it's a good thing, I talked with one traveller who had convinced a restaurant to make a dish the way they would for a local person, he took one taste and was sure they were playing a trick on him by making it so spicy. He really likes spicy food but couldn't eat it. When a poor local man on the street saw he didn't like it, he asked if he could have it, the traveller said trust me you don't want this then watched in astonishment as the man lapped it up and thought it was delicious. I don't know what their stomachs are made of here but it is impressive!.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Well I had a big 2 day hike in Tiger leaping gorge the past few days. Finally saw some sunshine which was a nice change, and have gotten away from the city which is great. It was the first time in China that I have seen Orion in the sky. I've always been in places too polluted or too bright! It is a pretty grueling trek. I did get a horse for the first day to save my sore knee from a big downhill. That was a good call. I bit scary at times though when the horse and I wanted to go slowly on the downhills, but the guy leading the horse was pulling him along. He must have had a hot date for he was in a hurry to get the trip over with. Or maybe he was just in a hurry to get the $13.50 I payed him for the day. Tiger leaping gorge in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River is where the river wraps around Jade Dragon Snow mountain and goes thru a gorge which legend has it is narrow enough for a tiger to have leapt across when he was being chased by a hunter. I'm not sure I beleive the tiger bit. But the gorge was impressive.

Here is a shot of the gorge and me with my horse and guide.