I could have stayed there all day but we had a busy itinerary ahead. Our visit to the Tham Jang caves tested our fitness. After a balance test of crossing a suspension bridge with a few dodgy planks, our next endurance test was to climb 147 steep, stone steps. That doesn't sound too taxing. On a very hot, humid day after a large breakfast, it seemed like hard work to me.
But I made it to see the caves used by the locals for fifteen years from 1960. Their countryside was bombed mercilessly, so they stayed indoors all day. At night, they came out to fetch provisions and tend fields. We were only inside for an hour but found it difficult to walk on slippery rocks in the gloom. Imagine being there for years.
The view as we emerged was another heart stopper. I fear I running out of adjectives to convey the scene. The river, emerald fields and mountains topped with a blue sky.
Our long journey to Luang Prabang across mountains, involved 3872 bends. My face must have been a picture when I heard that revelation. I am not the world's best car traveller. In for a penny...
After many, many bends, we made a stop at a village. We were asked not to take photos here. What a mystery. Was it the tiger balm ointment made with buffalo marrow or the bottles containing a peculiar alcoholic brew. These were supposed to assist gentlemen in maintaining a certain pleasurable activity. Rats, squirrels and birds, alive and dead were for sale. I felt a desire to free the beautiful birds. A blue kingfisher trapped in a cage. I have learned to accept that these people are poor. They work hard and eat whatever is available. The mushrooms, some larger than a satchel, others as thin as a straw would have been a preferable addition to my plate.
Onwards and upwards. My car troubles diverted by the landscape and lifestyles we saw. Huts on sticks in paddy fields, used as shelter by workers when the heat was oppressive. Stooped women carried goods on their backs in woven baskets, like the old fishwives from the Seaboard villages.
We took our lunch at a mountain peak where large butterflies fluttered around. I chose a 'safe' egg and cashew nut dish. A warning should have accompanied the sauce. Phone the Fire Brigade. My mouth was on fire. Thank goodness for iced water.
Our journey hit a problem in the shape of a flat tyre. It was repaired in the next village. I was offered a stool. I perched like a memsahib watching a rather outdated, yet effective method of tyre repair was carried out. Two toddlers played happily around until one cut her finger. Like a shot our guide was off, returning shortly, bearing leaves. It was an 'Ah Grasshopper' moment. The bleeding and crying stopped immediately. This magic leaf can also soften kidney stones. Anyone needing some??
One screw and a nail removed, we were on the move in the capable hands of our capable driver. I watched primary age children carrying all manner of containers. They trudged down the mountains to collect water for their homes. Some Aquarolls needed here. Women, fully clothed, showered and washed their hair at water points. Others washed clothes in streams.
Yet, so close to this poverty was luxury. We are luxuriating in it tonight. Our hotel used to be a royal home. Our elegant room boasts a polished wood floor. Our bed is draped with a mosquito net. Another hit on my bucket list. As I started to blog, a tropical storm disturbed my peace. Loud thunderclaps, three broad lightening flashes heralded an hour of power cuts and heavy rain. But all is calm now.
So, a little something to make you smile before I depart. Quote of the day happened while hubby thought I was blogging. Actually I was on the toilet. 'Have you finished downloading yet?' he asked.
Signing off with a smile x x