the Vopni family
the Vopni family

We were off to Laos for 10 days, however when we arrived at the airport for our flight at 9:30 we were told our 10:30 flight had already left. Our fault as we forgot to call the airline and reconfirm our flight, which is something you must do here with all of your flights. (if we had called to re-confirm we probably would have been told about the time change)  The next flight to Vientiane, Laos was two days later. Oh well believe it or not to our surprise, Vietnam Airlines paid for all of our necessary cab rides (half our days budget), put us up in a better hotel than we were used to  AND paid  for all of our meals! We think we will forget to reconfirm all of our flights, it sure would help our battered budget.
Highlights of Laos:
Riding up a jungle river for 1 hour in a powered dug-out canoe past local villages viewing the tribes people bathing, watering their water buffalo,  and  fishing.  At the top of the river we got out and floated back down in  inner tubes. We floated within a few feet of water buffalo herds  lying in the  shallows and were hoarded by the village children that wanted to use our bodies  as floating diving boards.  So much laughter between us all but no words due to  the language barrier.  It's wonderful that laughter is such a universal language. 
Standing on the back of a truck for 3 hours crammed with locals and their live  chickens and horrible smelling goods (not sure what they eat?!?) as we make our  way through a twisty mountain road from one town to another.
A two-day boat trip on the Mekong River which included:
Staying in a remote village on the edge of the Mekong River with all the  villagers just staring at us with fascination
Skinny-dipping in the Mekong at midnight. (gotta do it!)
Getting out of the boat and walking up the rapids because the old rickety boat  could not make it up the rapids.
Constantly worrying that the boat would literally fall apart.
Visibility down to a few hundred feet and "snowing" ashes from all the fires in  the jungles on the riverbanks. Sometimes we could feel the heat from the 30- foot flames on both sides of the riverbank only meters away.
Stopping for lunch at a local riverside restaurant (DON'T picture The Flying  Beaver...far far from it)where all village boatmen frequent. All of a sudden  the locals started pointing to something in the river. We stood  up to see what it was and saw legs sticking up in the air floating down the  river.  Of course we thought at first it was a water buffalo as there are so  many on the riverbanks. However, we soon realized it was a dead fisherman.  Rigamortis had set in and he was on his back, face up, with both arms pointing to the sky. Rather a sobering image as we were already uncomfortable with our boat's condition and the lack of concern for the rapids by our boatmen.
On the second day of our two-day adventure, we were told that our two-day trip was now going to be four days. No reason, that’s just the way it was. Well two days was already too much, four days was absolutely unbearable! We had to get off the boat and find another way to our destination. Enter the FAST boat.
The fast boat is an open,  plywood boat about 20 feet long, half of the length is taken up by  a huge V8 car engine and the other half is taken up by the very long and pointy bow. The part in-between, is were we sit. To understand how cramped we were, put your feet on top of the chair you are sitting on now, keep your bum  on the seat as well and keep your knees within the space that the seat of your chair creates. Comfortable, OK now bounce your chair up and down hard and vibrate it fast for the next 4 hours. There you have it, now you are
iding on the fast boat on the Mekong in Laos!
We have just returned from our travels in Laos and are about to depart Bangkok for trekking the Himalayas in Nepal and Tibet.  Wish us luck as we are both in horrible shape...not allot of gyms here  in these 3rd world countries!. We'll fill you in on our next email.  CONGRATULATIONS to those who got this far in our're finished.
Take care, love,
Mike and Trace.

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