To Houn and Back Part III / by Joshua P Jacks

As we headed down the mountain, we were continually greeted by smiles and looks of surprise. An older woman was chewing on betel nut and as we passed, she looked, smiled, realized we were westerners, and spit it out all over the place! She kept laughing until we were out of sight. As most of our new friends mentioned, we were the first foreigners to ever visit!

We came around a curve and experienced one of the best views of the trip. You could see for miles and miles. Cornfields, villages, workhouses, and giant rock formations dotted the landscape. These rock formations looked totally out of place. It was so surreal!

Headed down the fast side!

Amazing views.

More corn than I've ever seen in Lao. I've also never seen corn this high up the mountain.

Singkham, Josh, Sean, and Bruce!

Farmers use these as a home base for their work in the fields.

We stopped at a group of workhouses and spent some time with the family there. We gave out the last of our snacks and talked with them for a while. Singkham was able to really connect with them as he is also Khmu. These villages are just a few hours away from his hometown, but he’d never been this far up the mountain. This was an opportunity for him to explore his home district like never before.

Everybody out!

Singkham introducing us to the dad of group.

The last of our coffee flavored peanutes.

Our new Khmu friends.

Work village.

Beautiful vistas. Massive rocks everywhere.

Workhouse surrounded by the giant rocks.

One of the guys we stopped and chatted with on the way down.

With the sunlight disappearing, we picked up the pace so that we could get back to Singkham’s village at a decent time. This new route shaved about 2 hours off the trip back to Houn.

Approaching the valley. These cornfields were a little more organized than the mountain fields.

Headed home after a long day's work.

Rice fields at sunset.

Losing daylight.

His family had invited us to a meal and celebration/blessing ceremony. I visited a few years ago and both parties were excited for me to be back. They planned a ceremony with the village leaders to bless Bruce, Sean, and I. After a delicious meal, the leaders gathered around us and began to tie strings around our wrists to seal in the Kmhu prayers and blessings. After they were finished, we got to go to each person to pray and bless them in our way. It was a beautiful moment and we believe that our prayers were heard and that things would begin to happen in their lives and village.

Singkham's family and village leaders post meal.

Getting ready for the ceremony.

The blessings have begun!

Groupie!

After the ceremony, we took a quick group shot and headed to Pak Beng to our hotel. This would be our base for the next two days. The “30 minute” trip to Pak Beng took over an hour and we arrived to a closed hotel. After 15 minutes of calling and banging on a few metal roll up doors, an employee emerged from his evening shower to let us in. It was an interesting ending to a perfect day.

Stayed tuned for our last 2 days of travel!