Languid Laos - 2007

RIVER CRUISE

We took a fascinating cruise on the reddish-brown river using a distinctive Laotian craft—a very slender and long canoe-like boat with a canopy over the passenger section. The boat is painted garishly and gaily with bright colors, belying the dour personalities displayed by its owners. The ride took us past mostly uninhabited shoreline where we did see many people fishing, children playing in the water along the banks, farmers digging in damp streamside soils, dogs patrolling, and some egrets eyeing the waters hopefully The jungle growth lining the waters was tropical in appearance and very dense. We were being taken to some “hidden caves” on the left side where the river’s erosive power had carved out large “rooms” in the rocks facing the shore. Over many centuries, people have climbed into the lower and upper chambers to place statues of the Buddha. Now there are thousands of small Buddha figures in every nook and cranny of the cave-like rooms. Concrete steps have been built to make it easier to access the chambers and many people come to pray there and many come just to see the incredible array of statues made of every conceivable material from stone to metal to wood and pottery. Even through wars, unrest, poverty and misery, the caves have not been disturbed. The Buddha looks serenely out from the darkness of the chambers in all his many shapes. The Mekong itself gave us a smooth

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