Thanks to the advice and help of TA'ers 'dobsonshow' I got in touch with Bouasy ('See' for short) who is a registered guide and driver here in Luang Prabang. I just spent two great days with him seeing the area sights. He is extremely knowledgeable, incredibly hospitable and helpful and speaks excellent English. After he picked me up at the airport he sorted me out with a Lao sim card, drove me around town for a good orientation and then we talked about what we could do for a couple of days of touring. He has a perfect van with all the amenities (water, Pepsi, refresh towels, even fresh-picked bananas one day).
Besides the usual things (Pak Ou, waterfalls, etc) we spent one half day visiting some villages in the surrounding mountains. One was a Khmu village and the other a Hmong village. These are places that you won't normally get to with the tuk tuk tourist services. And even though I saw one tuk tuk offering Khmu and Hmong villages, if they are the same ones See took me to, it is not a drive you want to make in the back of a tuk tuk.
In the Hmong village I had quite a surprising and memorable spontaneous interaction with a beautiful deaf-mute young woman who makes traditional Hmong clothing. With gestures I didnt understand she led me to her hut where she put on this incredible Hmong outfit that she embroidered. It was like all of a sudden being in the presence of a fairy tale princess. I suspect my encounter with her will become one of the most lasting memories of this trip. After this post I will be heading off to the photo store to get some prints made and See will make sure this woman and some other kids in the village get prints of the pictures I took.
I also got to visit and walk through See's own village and meet his family. With his translation I was able to ask questions to people we met along our walks.
Admittedly you can get to most of these places in a tuk tuk for less money but you won't be able to have the kind of extensive conversations we had about Laos and its history, society, politics, education system, Buddhism, village life, etc. The tuk tuk driver won't lead you through villages, introducing you to the local blacksmith, furniture maker, etc. Even if I would have seen almost as much in terms of the sights, but I wouldn't have learned a fraction of what I did with See.
This is an incredible city and beautiful and quite intriguing country. But the only way to get some deeper insight into what it's really all about is to spend time with a knowledgeable local who is eager to share his country with you one-on-one. See is the guy to do that with! And he can not only show you around LP and area but can also take over night and multi-day trips to places further away all over the country.
So if you are heading this way and want to get the most out of your stay, I urge you to see Laos with See. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or +856-20-5872149. He doesn't check his email every day since he lives out of town in a small village but he always replies within a couple of days.
Cool! I met him ten years ago when he was a novice monk at Wat That. Very friendly and outgoing guy. I kept in touch with him for a couple years by email and letters. Good to see he's now successful as a tour guide.
See picture taken May 1999 on http://www.flickr.com/photos/captain-bob/4052511035/in/set-72157621779779692/. That's "Si" on the right.
@ Walters: Yes, I was by myself and it cost me $60 a day. Si has a 13 person van so if you are with a group that's no problem and the cost is still the same. At first I thought it was a bit much but when I compared it to Angkor Wat for example, one pays $25 - $30 for a car plus $25 for a guide and we covered more km's than what one covers for a comparable day in Cambodia. And when I compare the cost to what I gained from each day than it was more than well worth it.
@ Captain Bob: Excellent that you read the post and added the picture! Very cool. And thank you for your subtle correction of my misspelling of his name. I never asked how he spells it.
@ Madmac: At first I thought to just let your comment pass but turning our heads when we see something wrong is one of the great failings of our behavior. I am not surprised you are under-employed but I am surprised you are at all employed with your mentality. How it is possible to think, let alone verbalize, such cruel and ignorant feelings is quite frankly beyond me. You need to do some deep soul searching my friend and take care of your karma.
You think that's cruel? I'll tell you what's cruel... that most deaf mutes have a hard time getting any job at all around here; that romance is equally difficult because no one wants to have a deaf mute for a partner; that somehow people don't see deaf mutes as normal people or worse that they must have done something evil in their previous life in order to deserve being a deaf mute - and are therefore worthy of scorn. That's cruel.
My joke was not directed at deaf mutes... it was directed at women who hen peck their husbands to death.
Well Madmac let's chalk it up to a joke in bad taste. But it is good on you mate to highlight the fact that most people with a physical, mental or emotional challenge get a very raw deal in life, in many cases more so from how they are treated then from the challenge they suffer to begin with. And now that you have cleared up the misunderstanding that your 'joke' was directed at women who hen peck their husbands, it remains somewhat sexist as there is no shortage of husbands who make life miserable for their wives in many ways. So let's all think, here in the forum and in life in general, before we put our tongues (or fingers) into gear. Best wishes.
I could be wrong, but I don't think there's any shortage of jokes (and some not even jokes) directed at the ignorant or belligerent husband.
Anyway, you going to go see this princess again? Seriously, I guarentee you this woman would appreciate someone showing real interest in her.
Unfortunately I wont be able to see her again as I moved on today to Vientiane. In one of the pictures I took of her in her full Hmong outfit she just looked so beautiful so I had that blown up and framed along with another picture of her and me together and my friend will take them to her in her village when he goes next time soon. I apologize if I over-reacted to the joke but I am very sensitive on the subject of how we treat others. Water under the bridge?
Well lennybruce, at least you should go back and ask her if she wants to play a game of catch.
pov pob third paragraph under new years here
"I apologize if I over-reacted to the joke but I am very sensitive on the subject of how we treat others. Water under the bridge?"
Lenny you don't need to apologize - I'm not the sensitive type. Hell, Somsai and Rufus insult me at regular intervals. I don't care. No worries comrade.
Depending on the person and circumstances it might just be a compliment! I mean there are many levels below ignorant, and then there is the question of willfull intent. When a bright person makes ignorant statements you just have to be glad they are no longer president.
Still think Lennybruce ought to have followed up, not many princesses in this life, best to grab that golden ring when you can.
"Generally speaking calling someone ignorant is considered an insult in most circles."
Not really. It may just mean that on some subjects I think you don't know enough to make the definitive comments you sometimes make. (Mind you, that is probably true of everyone at some stag or other).