Friday, December 9, 2011

Off to Nong Khiaw

Luang Prabang (bottom of map) to Nong Khiaw (designated by letter B, top right of map).
Early this afternoon a minivan, which Steve Rutledge had previously arranged, pulled up to our residence to take him, Mike Yap, Art Quickenton (who arrived in Luang Prabang late that morning), Sean Holt (who is staying in Laos for several months), Khamdee (our translator), and myself deep into northern Laos. Once we loaded up the vehicle with our backpacks and ourselves, we began our trek to Nong Khiaw.

With Luang Prabang falling behind us, the highway began to snake its way through the countryside. As we drove, the full majesty and beauty of the Annamese Mountains became quickly and readily apparent. Shrouded in lush vegetation, these natural edifices began to surround us and tower over us, which were simply an awesome sight to behold.

Main street in Ban Nong Khiaw
A couple of hours later, we arrived in Nong Khiaw, a sleepy little village nestled on the west bank of the Nam Ou River. Across the bridge and on the opposite bank of the river is the little village of Sop Houn. A dramatic backdrop of high mountains, some with vertical faces of exposed rock, dominated and embraced this region. The economic life of these two villages primarily relied on tourists, as evidenced by several guesthouses and boats for hire.

View of Nong Khiaw from Sop Houn

Our first priority in Nong Khiaw was to visit the local school, where Steve Rutledge was to distribute five water purification filters that day. The second priority was to load two trucks with fifty water filters for the trip to the village of Phonsavan, which was the following day.

Steve Rutledge assembling one of the water filters.
The five water filters for the school were unboxed and assembled at the front of the classroom. The students, teacher, and several officials, including the education minister for the region, sat down for the hands-on water filter demonstration given by Steve Rutledge and translated into Lao by Khamdee.  Later, students, teacher, and officials all had an opportunity to ask questions.

After the demonstration the students, teacher, and officials went outside to have their photographs taken with the water filters.

Students, teacher and education minister pose with water filter.
As part of the photo op that day, Steve Rutledge posed with the education minister (on the left) and the Nong Khiaw school teacher (on the right) below.

Before we headed over to our guesthouses to check in, we had one brief stop to make. Steve had to drop off a water filter for Khamdee's brother, who is living in a dorm not too far from the school. When I saw the place in which he lived, I was absolutely shocked.

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