Farewell 2559!

14 April

Yep, it’s the last day of 2559! Hard to believe it’s almost 2560. Time sure flies.

We’re spending the last day of the year in and around Konglor Village. It’s supposed to be a hot one, so the plan is to go slow and devote plenty of time to “hydrating” in the shade.

So how do we keep the Mister out of the sun and hydrated on a day out and about that promises to reach a heat index of around 116 F? Well, for starters, he’s got his “CoolMax” baby carrier that keeps his bootie about as ventilated as it can be in a carrier. Most days when he’s out with me, he’ll wear long sleeves, pants, socks and a sun hat, but on really hot days like this, we go for the less-is-more/locals approach and dress him in his onesie and use an umbrella. Lately we’ve started to use baby sun cream as well, but haven’t needed to use much yet. Obviously, when he’s running around in the future, he’ll become better acquainted with that.

In terms of hydration, he gets most of that from mommy when he feeds, but in the past month he also uses his own water bottle as he’s been eating a lot more solids. Granted, he acts like a little angry drunk when he’s using his water bottle, getting about half of it down the hatch and the other half everywhere else, but even that is an improvement over a month ago when he would just grunt and throw the bottle on the ground. Baby steps.

After breakfast, we set off on a mid-morning, pre-heat stroll around the village to see what everyone was up to this holiday weekend. On the way, we passed Saylom Yen Guesthouse, just down the street from our current guesthouse, to see how it’s faired since we stayed there in 2012. The verdict: Pretty much the same as we left it.

 

So what’s with the year 2559/2560? For official/business purposes, Laos follows our Gregorian calendar using the Common Era year (currently 2017). For everything else, Lao people follow the Lao lunarsolar calendar based on the phases of the moon and in which years are counted from the beginning of the year in which the Buddha attained parinirvana (freedom from reincarnation, essentially enlightenment upon death). To complicate matters, different Buddhist cultures disagree as to when this actually took place. Lao and Thai people believe that 543 years divide the beginning of the Buddhist Era and the start of the Common Era, hence the year 2560.

 

 

Konglor is unique in that it is one of only a handful of villages in the country that is oriented to host tourists. That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t walk around other villages in the area, but you might be hard pressed to find guesthouses or restaurants, and people might look at you very strange and want to know what you are looking for.

Because of Konglor’s big attraction (the cave!) there’s been a fair amount of investment and development in Konglor over the years, but thankfully not enough to significantly alter the traditional character of the village. Far more people still derive their livelihoods from working the earth or raising livestock than catering to tourists.

 

In addition to the guesthouses on the main road, families in Konglor host home stays on a rotating basis. There appeared to be more than a dozen participating households (marked with numbered placards on each house). Though we haven’t yet had the opportunity to try out one of these home stays, I’d certainly recommend home stays in general, particularly in Laos, to anyone new to the country wanting to experience Lao culture in a rural village. Lao culture is not one of the easier ones to penetrate, as Lao people tend to be private and family-oriented.

 

 

Mak My! (a.k.a. Jackfruit!)

Our loop walk through the village took us by the Hin Boun river, the lifeblood of this community. As we are at the end of the dry season — despite the occasional thunderstorm — the river is quite low and slow, exposing jagged, otherworldly limestone riverbed formations. On this hot day, the water appears enticing, but just a tad bit too slow and gunky to persuade us to take a dip.

We follow a trail down to a grass-covered beach along the river and take a rest under a gigantic shade tree.

 

Of particular interest, among the children splashing about and women washing their hair, is a young man who has maneuvered his tak-tak down the narrow path to the river and then, without hesitation is taking it for a swim, so it seems.

After a while, we finally figure out that he’s come to load his flatbed with river sand, likely for some small construction project back in the village — surprising at first, until it dawned on us that these things are built for working in flooded rice paddies.

 

 

After re-joining the main road, we opted to brave the heat and explore the area just outside the gate to the cave. It was a particularly hot and sweaty quarter of a mile, and by the time we arrived, all three of us were parched, hungry, and eager for some shade and a fan. We grabbed lunch at a small restaurant just outside of the cave, then decided that now was probably as good a time as any to venture down to the mouth and catch a boat.

I chronicled our journey through the 7 km cave on a motorboat with Noe in our last post, in case you missed it.

On our way to Konglor Cave, we passed this advertisement for where we hoped to have dinner later that evening.

After our fun-filled cave adventure, we returned to our guesthouse and changed into our Pi Mai duds. Mommy was kind of the odd woman out, I guess…

 

SpringRiver Resort definitely seems like the place to stay in these parts, if you don’t mind being outside of the village a couple of kilometers, have some sort of your own transport, and like a few more creature comforts but still in a beautiful, rural setting along a river — the setting is pretty incredible in itself, but the grounds are also quite nice.

 

The funny thing about this place is that we’ve actually been here before, but it was very different when we pulled up on our motorbikes four years ago. We were perusing the lodging options coming into Konglor when we saw a sign for this place. We followed the long dirt track to a vacant and overgrown resort that had certainly seen better days. We looked around for a while and finally found a groundskeeper to show us some of the options. In the end, the price was too steep, the place too creepy, and the cicadas too noisy [almost deafening!] to stay, so we continued on into town and ended up at Saylom Yen for a fraction of the price.

In 2017, however, it appear to be a completely different story. The place was packed (largely with backpackers to our amazement (dare I say…flashpackers?)) and a handful of expats from Vientiane. The grounds are exceedingly neat and tidy, they appear to have added some bungalows, and the kitchen is a lovely full-service affair nestled over the river in a picturesque river valley.

And of course, Noe made his rounds with the waitstaff. When he returned, one of the staff gave us a banana to give him. And this was the result…

The Mister ended up leaving quite a mess behind, but the banana was their idea, so we didn’t feel too bad.

 

 

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