Astounded by my bizarre other-worldly mannerisms, she re-doubled her efforts to unload my garbage onto the highway. For several hours, the crone and I locked horns in a battle of will as I guarded my Styrofoam curry box, sometimes with force, from the old crone’s anxious littering hands. Fortunately, by the time we had arrived in Vang Vieng, she had finally learned to accept my obvious lunacy and was snoring soundly my shoulder.
Peering outside the confines of our musty bus, it was clear that we had arrived in a stunningly beautiful part of the world. A panorama of imposing limestone cliffs shrouded in the soft green camouflage of jungle growth, while the Nam Song river wound its way through the karsty portrait. Outside, I could see restaurants serving pesto pizza, happy backpackers milling about, and cheap guest houses boasting air conditioners, hot showers, and even tiny waste-paper baskets.
I pried the old crone off my shoulder, grabbed my Styrofoam curry box, and set off into paradise.
To my surprise, Katlijn threw caution to the wind and took a few courageous steps towards the nearest length of water-logged bamboo before emphatically declaring this endeavor unreasonably dangerous.
A group Laotian toddlers giggled mercilessly at Katlijn as she desperately negotiated the cable’s precarious sag. They gingerly swung around her and skipped across in their thonged feet. Moments later, their pregnant mother lumbered behind, murmured an apology, then meekly made her way across leaving Katlijn dangling sheepishly in her wake.
“Break your bones not possible,” Phose refrained with an astonishing sincerity. He lit up a fag and began bouncing on the bridge. To the frustration of our guide, and the great amusement of the local villagers, we found a kayak and paddled to the other side.
A community of Laotian farmers crosses the Nam Song suspension bridge regularly to access their wild rice fields. With an amazing machine-like accuracy, they manage to throw grains of rice into tiny holes in the ground without bending over.