Apparently, all I needed to do for a good nights sleep was to trek 6 or 7 miles through the jungle and then jump off a waterfall!
The trek was through a few villages about 20 km out of Luang Prabang. It felt very weird to be walking through peoples yards and looking into their homes. However, the guide explained that the Laos people don't mind. Firstly, the tour company we used gives a portion of the money to the village and secondly, this is the only way these people get to see the world... through the faces and languages of the people who visit. When we first arrived there was a group of teenage aged youth sitting outside listening to Mary J Blige! I guess the saying "Same Same" applies here as well! The houses were mainly grass and bamboo with the occasional cinder block building... and by building I mean something the size of a medium shed big enough for a riding lawn mower, a few bikes and other bits. The traditional houses sat up on stilts about 4 to 6 feet off the ground. Apparently, these people used to live in the low lands and as they moved higher into the hills they continued to build the same way despite the absence of flooding. According to our guide, they are not Buddhist because they have too many mouths to feed (5 to 15 children per family) and because they need their sons to work the fields so don't want to send them away to be monks! They believe in 3 spirits: the House or Guardian Spirit, the Field Spirit and the Mountain spirit. They make offerings to the spirit and use a shaman if things get too tricky!
Once through the villages we headed into the hills and jungle. I have been surprised the entire week here at the butterflies. They are everywhere and not just a single variety... I have seen about 15 or 20 different ones! Throughout the walk little white ones would be fluttering ahead in the path... very magical! It was not a difficult trek but it was hot and rather humid... There was also about an hour of walking through the farmland with no shade which was probably the worst bit. We stopped around noon in a clearing for a traditional Laos lunch... I am unsure what I was eating but had little choice but to dig in! The guide said it was pork, vegetables and an omelet as well as a tomato and cilantro salad all eaten with your fingers and balls of sticky rice. Thank the Guardian Spirit for hand sanitizer!!!
Post lunch we explored a cave with hidden Buddhas (and bats!) and then carried on for another hour or so through the jungle to the waterfall!!! We arrived to the top and were able to wade out to the very middle to look down and take pictures... relax everyone, there was a railing and we were safe ;-) the water was cool and refreshing on our tired feet. However, the leach in my shoes after the refreshing water was not so nice!
Once down at the bottom we were able to take in the full magnitude of the falls. It has 5 cascades and ends in limestone pools that are pale blue. Further down we were able to swim... and here is the part you have all been waiting for... I jumped from a smaller water fall into the pool below! It was about 15 feet and my knees were knocking like you wouldn't believe. Chris didn't have his swim suit (or shorts for that matter) so I was left to my own. I stood at the top and thought 'I will never stand here in this spot with this opportunity again' and before the last word left my mind I jumped! It was great! I think that thought will be the mantra for the rest of the trip and I plan to live every moment!!!
This morning is a bit rainy so we are going to head to an English language centre for a drop conversation and then off for a traditional Laos massage. And if the sun comes out we will go to the pool this afternoon. I think we earned our R and R yesterday! Tomorrow will be decided later!
I almost forgot that we enjoyed an amazing Laos meal last night... We ate green soup (I think it was most Mekong seaweed.. seriously it really was!), stuffed lemongrass, water buffalo, Laos sausage, Mekong fish in banana leaf and of course sticky rice. Yummy!!!