Monday, June 25, 2007

241206 Muang Khua town centre - 02

Travelling alone through places with patchy cellphone network coverage, the cat relies on blending in with locals to move around without attracting attention, for safety. Especially when it is highly unlikely that anyone it manages to contact in an emergency would be able to respond with help within a day or two or many more. Blending in also means not having to deal with farang prices ;) It also means that locals are not the least bit shy & will not hesitate to yak on & on:

maa tae/jak Wiang Jarn/Luang Phabang maen bor? you're from Vientiane/Luang Prabang right?
baan keut yuu sai? where's your village/hometown/birthplace?
maa haa phor mae/phii nong? you're here to look for parents/relatives?
maa thula/thiaw? here on business/holiday?
hian mahawitthayalai thii pathet Wietnam? studying in university in Vietnam?
bpen khuu/ajaan maen bor? you're a teacher/lecturer right?
ayuu jak pii? taeng ngaan laew bor? how old are you? married yet?
lot nii pai Muang Xai bor? does this bus go to Udomxai?
waylaa bpai theung Ban XXX suai bork khoi dai bor? when we reach XXX village could you please tell me?

& when they realise that the cat barely understands anything they are saying:

khawp khua jaak bpai pathet Lao meua dai? when did your family leave Lao?

...with the assumption that the cat is an overseas Lao born in USA/France/some Thai refugee camp & making a trip back to discover its roots...!

Blending in also means this reluctance to put a camera in people's faces. It just creates an instant gulf. The cat has found itself on the receiving end before, in the crosshairs of farang photographers in villages & Luang Prabang temples. Hence most of its photos of humans are taken from afar, like through grimy tinted bus windows:


Local pirated VCD/DVD store:


Lottery ticket seller:


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Cold season Sunday morning - all bundled up & huddled around a fire:


Town centre - with the nicest vehicle the cat has seen in a week:


Sunday, June 24, 2007

241206 Muang Khua from an alley cat's point of view


Through the maze of paths near the market...


Beware of crashing into low overhanging structures if you are taller than a five-feet-nothing straycat ;)


Someone's rainwater collection system:


The cat first saw this type of flowers at the house of an Akha village herbalist in 2005:

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A week & a half from now, it would see this plant exhibited at a conference on traditional medicine attended by Akha, Tai Yai (Shan), Yao (Mien), Hmong, & other ethnic group herbalists & healers from Thailand, Lao & Myanmar at Chiangrai Rajabhat University.

241206 life along the Nam Ou - Muang Khua

People gathered around an earthmover on the riverbank...the usual standing, squatting, staring & waiting for something nothing to happen - Lao is so not a place for Type A personalities ;)


Old enough to learn how to walk = old enough to learn how to ride pillion:


Do these homes shift to higher ground during the rainy season?

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More 'laundry gardens' (below left) & the green pool of sludge-y stuff (below right) that blocked the riverbank path from the boat landing to Nam Ou Guesthouse the previous afternoon:

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241206 morning views from Nam Ou guesthouse

Muang Khua boat landing:


The tugboat + 'floating platform' vehicle crossing:


Didn't get to watch them in action as both stayed put for the entire duration of the cat's brief stopover. Four transport options - bus, songthaew, tuktuk & slow boat:


Another cold, languid, foggy morning along the Nam Ou:


Saturday, June 23, 2007

231206 removing the Nam Ou

...from the cat's backpack:


The slow boat leaked quite a bit, & from time to time sleeping passengers would be shocked awake by a wave of water sweeping *SMACK* into their faces, especially when a speedboat roared by...

At times like these the cat is more than grateful for its Olympus mju300 camera, which has functioned from 0m to +4095m a.s.l. through acid rain, salt-laden ocean spray, fog & condensation, several villages' worth of dry season dust, guano, snow, ice, hail, spilt drinks, plenty of knocks & a few weatherproof as the manufacturers make it out to be (remains to be tested in tornados & lightning though).

Plastic bags, rubberbands, sandwich bag clips & ziplocs recycled from the cat's lab kept everything except the backpack itself dry:


Singaporeans might recognise the folded national icon in the foreground - the NTUC Fairprice supermarket plastic bag...the cat has lost count of the number of times it has spotted Singaporeans with it in USA, Europe, Australia, NZ & Asia ;)

Mr 36L Tatonka:


After about 10PM when all the lights, radios & TV sets in town went *poof*, the cat was more than grateful for its little Maglite & the way it can be used like a candle, as well as the peace & quiet with which it could enjoy the starry sky in the pitch darkness of the empty badminton court =) If the cat had a straw mat & if there were no wandering dogs, it would have spent the night out there in the open. But Nam Ou Guesthouse Mama & other Muang Khua villagers would be pretty freaked out by the idea of the cat spending a night together with the local spirits & ghosts.

1000kip instant noodles from Hat Sa - made in China with Japanese wording on the packaging:


Interesting how the language of a wartime enemy who massacred thousands can be used to snazz up a product & increase its appeal to consumers - the green Chinese characters 日式鸡丁味 ri4 shi4 ji1 ding1 wei4 mean 'Japanese style chicken flavour' ;)

How are carrots & shallots 'dehgdrated' & pork & fresh shellfish distilled?


If Getafix the Druid (from Asterix) or Macbeth's three witches won't lend us a cauldron, we can still enjoy by 'direct edible':


end of day 7 (231206):
noodle soup/pho/feu/khaaw soi eaten to date = 05 bowls

231206 Nam Phak

Looking upriver - the road to Pak Nam Noi aka. Ban Sinxai runs parallel to it:


Looking down - the tripod-like contraptions are weighed down by large stones or sandbags & have what looks like boat propellers (can be found in local markets) attached for generating electricity:


Looking downriver:


Lao love their country, yet treat it like a big fat dustbin:


As a little kitten, the cat wondered why Cabbage Patch dolls from America were the rage...cabbage patches were muddy places where people spread buckets of human waste as fertiliser, not exactly the kind of place one would associate with expensive toys:




231206 Nam Phak bridge

Muang Khua lies at the confluence of the Nam Phak & Nam Ou rivers. From the open space that serves as the bus station parking area, a path slopes down to a suspension bridge over the Nam Phak:


To watch out for - motorcycles & gaps:


Muang Khua's most scenic laundry line:


All decked out with yellow Beer Lao flags - restaurant with a view?