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Misty Morning

by Tara

A chill wind whips through the streets this morning, carrying with it a white mist that swirls and eddies about our feet like the slinking of a cat. Overnight, the dusty market town of Phou Koun has been cloaked in a thick fog that is so dense in places, we can hardly see a few feet in front of us.

Phou Khoun Market in the Mist Phou Khoun Market in the Mist

The construction work we saw on the hill towering above town yesterday is barely perceptible through the haze. We had to significantly edit the photo below, greatly increasing contrast just to make the outline of a hillside and crane the slightest bit discernible!

Phou Khoun Crane Dismantling Hill (Through the Mist)

Under the shroud of frost-colored fog, the marketplace which forms this small town's backbone is vibrantly visible against its neutral backdrop. The stalls are bustling with colorfully-kerchiefed women filling their basket backpacks with the vivid green produce of the season, everything from cabbages to kale, to peppers and papayas.

Phou Khoun Market Lao Woman in Pink Scarf

Preparing for the day's ride, I lean my bike against a building and go for a walk in search of riding fuel. I pick up a smoothie, some oranges, some fried bananas, roasted chicken wrapped in palm leaves, and a few pieces of colorful triple-layered jellylike dessert that tastes of coconut.

Tara Buying Oranges Tara Buying Oranges

Meanwhile, Tyler sits on the steps of the nearby mobile phone shop, chatting with our friend Kong.

Kong & Tyler Talking

We've heard our route will be downhill all the way to Vang Vieng, but instead of the long, easy descent we're hoping for, our road begins to curl upwards from the moment we pedal out of Phou Khoun. I don't the mind the unexpected climbing, for the skies are nice and clouded, and the pedaling keeps me warm.

Tara Riding in the Mist Tyler Cycling Up Misty Lao Mountain Lao Mountain Homes

Mist swirls around us, layering our clothes with dew, as we pedal up and up through captivating Lao villages, rendered even more dramatic by the weather. This ride is supposed to harbor some of the most stunning landscapes in all of Southeast Asia, but we can't see anything further than a few feet down the road. We're not bothered by the lack of visibility in the slightest. The fog is awesome!

Lao Jeans Drying Misty Lao Mountain Village Creepy Lao Rodents Misty Lao Mountain Village

Dear Grandpa,

I hope this day in Bunker Hill finds you well. I'm in Laos right now, thinking of you every time I see a woodpile, which is often. Though it doesn't get colder-than-a well-dig here like it does at home, the temperature drops at night in the mountains, and people stay warm by their efficient little fires. I think you would like it here; it smells of woodsmoke.

I miss you, and I love you very much,

The Dude

Lao Woodpile

Rolling slowly through the quiet mountain villages, adults smile and wave, and their adorable children sing a ceaseless chorus of "sabadeeee!" as they come running after us. Stopped in our tracks by their mobs of cuteness, shy waves, exuberant giggles, and high fives, we are overcome by their enthusiasm, smiling ear to ear. This is so much fun!

Lao Kids Running Towards Us Through the Mist Lao Kids Running Towards Us Through the Mist Tara Waving to Lao Kids Happy Tara & Lao Kids Lao Kids Eating Sticky Rice

One of the things I love most about Laos is how the people care for their babies. I find it so heartening to see everyone pitching in with the infants, from grandparents, to parents, to siblings, someone is always holding them. Some kids look like they're hardly old enough to walk themselves, and yet here they are, toting around their brothers and sisters!

Lao Mama & Baby at Home Little Lao Kid Carrying Little Lao Baby Lao Grandma Carrying Kid

After a hundred meters or so of ascending, we've reached the top at last. Smiling to one another, we exchange a huge high five, congratulating ourselves for completing our last mountain climb in the misty landscapes of northern Laos. Time to coast!

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what are those little animals that look like giant rats? they're kind of adorable and scary at the same time!
Posted by sarah j on April 21st, 2011 at 2:29 AM
I'm pretty sure they are groundhogs.

There was a group of guys selling dead ones on the roadside, but they had these two tied up with little pieces of string (it was really sad). When I took their picture they were hissing at each other like crazy. I agree, they are kind of scary!
Posted by Tyler on April 21st, 2011 at 3:37 AM
The pictures of the kids are just great! Such joy and exuberance!
Posted by Karina on April 23rd, 2011 at 1:47 PM
Thanks Karina! My favorite is the second photo, where you can see a little kid in the distance running towards me, who happens to be wearing a sweatshirt with a built-in animal hood. Looks like a little bear cub or something! I also love the third one with the little girl running up, all out of breath. So cute! :D
Posted by Tara on April 25th, 2011 at 1:54 AM