thomas m wilson

Country Living in Laos

December 20th, 2014



After leaving Luang Prabang, we head further north, up a powerful and fast flowing river called the Nam Ou…


We’ve finally arrived in the agrarian Asia of mountainous Laos. Its a step back hundreds of years into a land of ducks quacking, chicks chirping, dogs playing, children crying and playing, river water mummuring, birds singing, wood being chopped, and a deep black sky above it all at night. I swear that there are more chickens in Laos than vehicles per head of population, by a very large margin.


This evening we walked along a dirt track out of this village east through the mountains, and it wouldn’t have been out of place for a samurai to come loping around the corner with a sword slung over his shoulder. You could hear buffalo lowing in the meadow, and ducklings chirping on the pond, and a bamboo bridge being built in the stream below. It could have been 1700 not 2014. Its nice to have firmly left the bannana pancake trail and be properly in Asia.



Kayaking up here took us through some fun rapids.  But it was the quieter sections of the river that had the most impact. 


As I let the boat spin lazily on the quiet sections of the Nam Ou, I heard bird song from the canopy in surround sound from the ampitheatre of mountains before me. The sun shone and now that the sound of dipping paddles had ceased, there was only the occaisonal drip from my hull, and the loquacious babble and murmur of the liquid all around. The kayak spun in slow motion, and I looked up hundreds of metres at the stone walls behind the jungle.


Its like the Alps covered in tropical rainforest, with occaisonal groups of black pigs or herds of buffalo lounging on the river banks at water level. Liquid lap, loquacious loll, sibbilant slip… all so good for the ears. Then I started paddling. Pushed and tapped through eddy and whirl, current and upwelling. Got sucked through a shoot of frothing foam. Kayaking in northern Laos: vertiginous verdure, fast rolling H2O, 360 degree serenity; the perfect way to get tired arms.


Stopping in a village along the river I felt like I was walking through  a feudal world with chickens, ducks, thatch, no roads, no vehicles, just the kind of place that my English and Australian ancestors lived in a little more than a 150 years ago.



In the shade of a tree to the left a gathering of men discuss something or other, while a duck, as usual in this country, steals the lime light.


Here a young woman from the village brings in some river weed that has been drying in the sun.  Its a delicious snack in northern Laos – eaten with sesame seeds and garlic sprinkled over the top.

More soon from further up country…