February 9th, three days ago, we said good bye to the quaint Boat Landing Guesthouse in Luang Nam Tha, Laos, with its amazingly soft warm beds and solar-heated showers, to embark on a river adventure. Let's just say it started off on an interesting note before we even set foot on the small wooden boats. The past few mornings I think our group of 15 hungry, French-toast-loving explorers ate not only all the bread in the guesthouse but all the bread in the entire village! You definitely know you are in a poor country when a town runs out of bread. So with a breakfast of eggs and pancakes and a large order of fried rice wrapped in banana tree leaves for a sack lunch instead of sandwiches, we packed our stuff waterproof tight and loaded up.

Floating down the Nam Tha River was an exciting and sometimes perilous experience. Especially considering there was barely enough water in some places due to it being the dry season. Several times our expert boat crew had to turn off the motor and guide the boat with bamboo poles and paddles through the rocks. They could not have been more skilled! I think they know the Nam Tha better then I know how to get around my home town. Still, it was inevitable that we would hit a few rocks. Upon which the wooden boards would make a "bang!" and a scraping noise that left you frantically praying that the boat would neither A: get caught and tip, or B: bust a hole and capsize. Never came close to doing either thank goodness! Ultimately, we made it safely (but sunburnt) to our home for the night in a small village called Ban Khone Kham, where the river is their only access to the outside world. Quite a trip! It is evident how important the river is to the village communities we passed along the way. Every bend in the river brought more waving children who splashed and played along the banks, or women wrapped in sarongs bathing in the shallows, or men with their fishing nets, and everywhere, bamboo huts with thatched roofs against a backdrop of jungle-covered mountains. Laos has such an untamed yet serene feeling, its gorgeous!

Until next time!
Taylor Sandelius

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Author Taylor Sandelius Posted

Program Southeast Asia Departure Spring 2009