November 9, 2005
From Luang Prabang, we were shuttled across the mghty Mekong River to begin our ascent. I noticed that I had considerably more luggage than my companions, loaded down with a sleeping bag (which I was determined to use, since I had carried it all this way), changes of clothing, and toiletries, versus their lone camelback. It turns out that something in between would have worked out better. The company provided guides, transportation, food, and water. They also gave up sleep sheets that, while easy to carry, did not keep my companions particularly warm. My recommendation would be to bring layers, making it easy to bundle up at night and strip down during the day.
The first village we came to on the banks of the Mekong had a large river weed production going. River weed is like seaweed, except harvested from the river. They collect it, pound it, arrange it in sqares on bamboo mats, add tomatoes, garlic, and sesame seeds, then prop it up to dry in the sun. The women then sell it to locals and tourists. It's a delicious, portable, long-lasting, and chewy treat, if you don't mind garlic breath. This was one of many examples of how well the Hmong use the resources available to them. Our guide, sporting rubber flip-flops, squired us up the trail to a few more villages along the way to our destination. Most of these villages were accessible by road, and although they preserved much of their traditional life, the infrigement of the modern world was evident.
From journal Christmas in Laos