Do talk to strangers


We raise our children not to talk to strangers, wear seatbelts and take their mobile phones where-ever they go.
Packing our bags for our recent trip to Laos, we forgot to pack those rules. Lucky us.
We might have missed out on a most memorable day out.

Walking along the Mekong River near picturesque Luang Prabang, we were approached by a cheerful man with a toothless smile ‘Come on my boat! We see waterfall!’.
A refreshing water activity in this humid, landlocked country deserved a clear ‘Yes!’ from all of us.
A small payment was exchanged for a big smile - and off we went.

Cruising slowly downriver, the ’Mother of Waters’, the Mekong offered us its spectacular scenery of lush mountains and life on the river - but after an endless hour, doubts started to creep into my holiday-foggy brain: Where were we actually going?

Our captain finally moored at a small sand bank, and rushed us rather hastily (or was it just my impression?) up a hill. To a rusty pick-up truck. Without a comment, we were hived onto the truck - and zoomed off.
Across shallow river beds, through rice paddies, overtaking water buffalos - but where to?

Terribly worrying. I adjusted my sunglasses, hiding some tears, envisaging the BBC headline: Family vanishes in Lao jungle.
I shed one more tear and then appreciated that my last sight would be the vast green beauty of the Laos landscape - and my children's excited faces of taking part in a real adventure.

Soon enough we were shooed off the truck and herded up a thicket. There I saw - to my utter relief - the Kuang Xi waterfalls.

Our smiling chauffeur offered us lunch wrapped in banana leaves - true Lao hospitality.

We enjoyed hours of refreshing splashing in the turquoise pools underneath the 60m cascade. Several smaller falls collected in milky lagoons, and the thick jungle around us added to the feeling of paradise. The kids were swinging off a rope attached to a palm tree - left by previous explorers - and we relaxed.

Our new friend was snoozing in the shade - ready to take you back to the real world of rules whenever we were ready.

Lao Airways offers direct flights from Bangkok to Luang Prabang twice weekly for $154. The Kuang Xi Falls are located 30 km south of Luang Prabang, and can be reached by tuk tuk ($12 round trip) or longboat ($15 round trip). Refreshments on offer. Toilets on site. No bikinis please.

S.Bradford.

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