Saturday, 1st December

I woke up before it was light to a cacophony of cocks crowing. There are chickens everywhere in Laos and we have seen some very fine cockerels strutting about or under large cloches made of open basket work. Cock fighting is still s legal sport in Laos.

We had our breakfast on the hotel’s terrace looking over the Nam Khan River.. unfortunately it was quite a dull morning (our first), but you could see people working in the fields opposite.

Our first outing of the day was to the Museum of Anthropology, which was really interesting. We were given a short talk by the manager, a dapper young man who spoke very good English. He explained that the Hmong and Kmhmu people we have come across in our travels are just two of the ethnic groups making up the population of Laos, there are another two groups and many more splinter groups.

All have their own distinct culture and the museum is keen to encourage young people to take an interest in their heritage and continue the traditions. A key part of this is the ceremonial clothing. There were some splendid and beautifully worked garments on display.

Kmhmu

Hmong

We had seen young girls working on their embroidery in the villages, in preparation for their marriage. Apparently as part of this they and the female members the family will all work on the bedding which the bride should have prepared. Obviously no John Lewis wedding list here!

Unfortunately we did not have as much time as we would have liked here. There were some wonderful exhibits on display, including the basketry of the Kmhmu people (very dear to my heart!)

And musical instruments.

The inevitable museum shop had some wonderful pieces for sale. The museum supports the women to continue to make things in their traditional way not only to maintain their cultural skills but to provide them with an independent income. Obviously this is not so evidently needed in the cities, but in the rural areas you can see that it would be a real contribution to a family income.

Reluctantly leaving the Museum behind, we took quite a long tuk tuk ride into the country to see the famous Kuang Si waterfalls. These are about 50 minutes outside of town and are approached by the usual avenue of food stalls when you near the site.

I have to say that cooking seems at least one tradition of the Laos people that shows little sign of abating!!

En route to the waterfalls you pass through a bear rescue sanctuary. Apparently there are bears in Laos, poached for their saliva. This often leaves cubs without their mother and the rescue centre had a number of bears who seemed reasonably happy in their semi native setting. Most there had been rescued very young and had no experience of life in the wild so hopes of re integrating them into their natural habitat are quite slim which is a shame.

I felt I could really relate to this last one – it is probably how I would react with a lot of people peering at me!

We wandered up the muddy path ( it had rained over night) and soon reached the lowest pool. The colour of the water is due to a chemical reaction apparently (the scientifically inclined amongst us will know more…… I just thought it was visually pleasing and slightly unusual).

It got more and more impressive as we worked our way up to the top …..

It was a roaring force not to be stopped. I can’t begin to imagine what it is like in the Monsoon. You could swim in the lower pools and our swimmers took advantage of the opportunity.

We wondered back down and had lunch from the stalls of the ever patient ladies at the bottom of the falls and then went off to the butterfly farm a little way away. This was a quiet and gentle oasis compared to the torrent not a kilometre away. The contrast was somehow typical of what we have found in Laos generally. The forceful and the gentle.

The butterflies were fascinating and very beautiful, but quite beyond my photographic capabilities. I did my best….

Not only were the butterflies beautiful, I learnt a lot about butterfly life that I did not know. A really interesting visit.

However, it was time to return to the City and just time to freshen up before we took to the centre of town and the famous (well famous here!) night market. Every afternoon between 4.00 and 10.30 the whole centre of town becomes a night market selling everything from food (inevitably!) to paintings, to clothes, to lanterns, wood and weaving. It is a colourful joy.

After a rummage here we met the group for what was effectively the last time we would all be together. The group was going separate ways – to Thailand, Sri a Lanka, Vietnam and for us eventually home. Flights rather dictated a delay for us, so we will leave on Monday.

A picture will follow here when available!

After goodbyes were said it was off to bed early. It is an early rise for monks tomorrow.

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