Monday, October 29, 2007

251206 Pak Mong - Nong Khiaw - Ban Sop Houn

Yesterday's route in grey, today's route in blue, & approximate location of PS's village in green circle:

As arranged, PS met the cat at 7:00AM to return it the blue backpacker bible & run through the pronounciation of some of the English words he had copied down. The first word he asked the cat about was 'diarrhea' =P Also had to explain to him the difference between 'went' (bpai laew) & 'when' (waylaa/meuadai).

The yellow Big Brother Mouse book 'sadt nai thawiib aafrikaa' (lit. 'animals in continent Africa') book (below right) became PS's Christmas gift:


Not that Christmas meant anything to us, it just happened to be Christmas day in falang world, & the cat realised this 'Christmas gift' thingy only as it was writing this post 10 months later. Inside the book:


For each featured animal there is a passage in Lao & the corresponding English translation on the facing page. PS continued his Lao lesson for the cat (started the previous evening), & the cat learnt names of animals like 'seua dao' (lit. 'tiger star' = cheetah, the fellow cat shown above), 'ling kor lin laa' (lit. 'monkey gorilla') & 'maa lai khor yao' (lit. 'horse stripe neck long' = giraffe). Pronouncing the English names was a little tricky for PS - 'ch' has been replaced by 's' & 'r' by 'h' in post-1975 Lao language. Closest he could get was 'jee-dta' & 'jee-laugh'. Interesting how these 2 books would end up travelling to places far beyond the cat's route - the other book would end up somewhere in Hongsa district of Saiyabuli province later on. Inside the other book, which has a cat as the main character:


PS showed the cat photos of the uncle he had just visited in Luang Namtha, an elder sister(?), & a friend from Vientiane. This led to the first time a Pak Mong lady ever touched a camera in her life:


She was too scared to press any button, & the cat ended up setting the Olympus mju300 to remote control mode, asking her to be a 'human tripod', & activating the shutter using the paw-held remote control! Turned out quite well despite the fact that she had no clue which way a camera should face...lens away from her would get us our photo, lens towards her would get us a really interesting self-portrait of her =P She was delighted with her accomplishment =))

PS managed to write his address in English for the first time, although after he was done we decided that it would be safer to have the Lao version as well - the cat could easily copy it out or cut & paste a photocopied version onto the envelope. Around early May 2007 the cat would receive a snail mail reply from PS, saying that the photo, Lao stamps & envelope (for him to send a reply to the cat) had somehow reached his village of about 40 households in the mountains that straddle the Lao-Vietnamese border, where postmen are unheard of. Probably reached him via the local 'pass-the-parcel' system. To post his reply he had to wait till the next time someone made a trip ~60km down the Nam Xeng river to Vieng Kham town, where the nearest post office is.

Bountham Vonethabing Guesthouse:


The tables covered with blue canvas & topped with a yellow Beer Lao crate full of khai phaen are where Boten grandpa, guesthouse owner & daughter & the cat sat at the previous night to watch the buses go by.

HWY 13 stretching on to Luang Prabang from the Pak Mong junction:


Parted ways as PS took the songthaew that would continue beyond Nong Khiaw to Vieng Kham, where he would find onward transport to Vang Xiang & from Vang Xiang to his village, while the cat took another one that would terminate at Nong Khiaw, so as not to disappoint Mr One-of-the-Songthaew-Drivers.

Set off with 4 old ladies & Phaen, an 18 year old girl with a huge sack of stuff who chatted with the cat in a mixture of Thai & Lao before she alighted at some project centre (vocational training for youth?) near Nambak town. The 6 of us huddled together for warmth in the frigid wind, giggling & sharing jacket pockets with those who had no gloves =) In Nambak town, the songthaew stopped by a petrol kiosk where a graduated cylinder was filled by cranking a wheel by hand to measure out the desired amount of petrol, before loosening a clip at the end of a hose to let the petrol flow into the vehicle tank, & 2 of the old ladies got off at the district 'hong mor' (hospital). The rest alighted in Nong Khiaw, & Mr One-of-the-Songthaew-Drivers continued across the bridge to drop the cat off at Ban Sop Houn, seemingly amused by the cat's correct pronounciation of the village's name (thanks to PS!).

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