For a few years now we have been toying with the idea of buying a large plot of land with Jesse and Nick and building homes on it. We've had several late night conversations, sharing a few bottles of wine, sitting around a campfire discussing our “commune”. In all reality it really would be a four person commune of sorts. We talk of sharing a huge garden where, among the common veggies of tomatoes and lettuce, Nick would grow sorghum for making beer. I have recently added pepper and lemongrass to the list of crops I want to grow. Pete has been considering taking up bee keeping to make mead. There are talks of pigs to keep to slaughter, chickens for eggs, and Jesse wants a goat for milk and cheese. We would each build our own Eco-friendly homes and take ourselves completely off the grid. The emptier the wine bottles become, the more the conversations turn to stockpiling our freshly canned vegetables, underground shelters, preparing ourselves for the Mayan 2012 end of the world prediction, the upcoming solar flare that is going to knock out the worlds electrical grid, or the even more probable zombie apocalypse. This has all been put on the back burner for our travel plans which have consumed our thoughts and lives for several years, but the more we drive around and see how these people live the more we want to turn this idea into a reality
In the tiny villages we drive through in northern Lao the homes are made of wood with thatch roofs, in the south they change to bamboo structures. All things they have collected from the environment that surrounds them. As I mentioned before everyone carries a knife/machete holstered to their waist.
We see several villagers weaving baskets and making thatch to repair their roofs.
Almost every village has a family of pigs, chickens and water buffalo freely roaming around.
In one village we see a dead pig being pulled from a pot of scalding water and watch as a man skins it. A few feet away there are two more pigs awaiting this fate, their throats slit, but one still alive. It's hard to watch, but it makes me realize how out of touch I am with the food I eat, never giving thought to the process it goes through from the farm to the store. Here the the animals are raised, fed, nurtured and slaughtered by the same set of hands. It seems much more humane than the huge noxious, factory farms we have in the U.S.
The next day we see the remains of these skewered and barbecued pigs, hearing from someone that they were cooked for a party.
Photos by Goingslowly
In the north, covering almost every roadside we see something that looks like a light green tall grass. Tara asks a villager what it's for, bringing her hand to her mouth miming eating. The women gets a big kick out of this and laughs hysterically. She then makes a sweeping motion indicating they are making brooms. There was so much of this this stuff we start to wonder if this part of Laos supplies all of SE Asia
Nothing seems to be inedible or taboo here. We see people hunting rats and birds with sling shots and crossbows. With the lack of birds, we rarely hear any sweet avian melodies coming from the mountains of northern Laos.
In the rivers we see people gathering a kind of river weed they will later dry and eat covered with poppy-seed and tomatoes.
On a hike to a cave, Pete and Tyler see a man carrying a gun that is obviously handmade.
Photo by Goingslowly
We find a woman grinding corn (while carrying a baby on her back) with a home made mill. She lets us all have a try at it. She is so sweet and inviting....probably happy we are doing a small part of her work.
Many of the smaller villages aren't connected to the minimal electrical grid so they've devised their own means of gathering electricity. They take the shaft and propeller from one of their many long tail boats and attach it to an alternator. They rest the whole contraption on a bamboo tripod in the middle of the river and run a long wire to shore. It's simple and uses parts that they already have access to.
All this made us wonder if all our creature comforts were taken away..... electricity, city water, our microwave, our flat screen TV, could we survive? We do have a small set of skills from our backpacking trips, but could we make it if the “end of the world” ever came. To us, this rural way of life was inspirational. We were envious of the ingenuity of these people.
After the travel bug leaves our system we hope to find ourselves, along with Jesse and Nick, on a quiet plot of land beside a creek, in a house built by our own hands, with solar panels, a grey water system, a rain cistern, a small fleet of animals and possibly insects, a gigantic garden......the whole SHABANG. The only problem we may run into is where to get a water buffalo.